A man who suffers from multiple sclerosis says he won’t vote for the Conservatives again after the Government announced a radical overhaul of the disability benefits scheme.
Dave Johnston, 55, who suffers from secondary progressive MS, previously told i he was terrified about the reforms, which will see the work capability assessment (WCA) replaced by the existing personal independence payment (PIP) system.
Mr Johnston claims both universal credit and the PIP. He previously described how the PIP assessment he needed to do in 2019 was “exhausting”, and “demeaning”, triggering a relapse in his condition.
The Government is scrapping WCAs for determining benefits and replacing that with the PIP system, which is used to decide what day-to-day help a disabled person might need.
There are concerns that the threshold for receiving PIP is more rigid than for the existing benefits, meaning people out of work due to short-term or fluctuating conditions may not qualify for support.
While Mr Johnston said he was a lifetime Tory voter, he would not vote for the party again at the next election due to these disability changes.
“I voted for Boris Johnson, but I won’t be voting for Rishi Sunak now, I think these changes are deplorable.
“They are going to punish the poorest and weakest in this world.”
He did not say he would switch to Labour or Liberal Democrats either, saying there was not a lot out there in terms of choice for him.
Mr Johnston said “it wouldn’t work” to combine the benefits, because PIP is a payment used to help with extra living costs, while the WCA is used to find out how much seomone’s health condition or disability affects their ability to work.
On Wednesday, Nigel Mills, Conservative MP for Amber Valley, challenged Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride about the changes – arguing there was a risk that people who are unable to work consistently will face a tougher threshold to be entitled to government support.
The Government has denied this. Mr Stride said that the “changes were not being rushed, far from it”, and there would be “a lot of time to consult and work around these issues in the coming years”.
However, Mr Johnston, from Newmarket in Suffolk, said he believed he would be forced to work if the changes went through, which he could not do due to his current mental state.
“This other benefit is going to forcing me back to work, or forcing me to find a job and making it more of a mandatory thing. That’s the bit I find the most concerning part of it,” he told i.
Mr Johnston was working as a bakery production manager but was forced to stop due to his condition, which also caused him depression and stress. He originally had a relapsing and remittent form of the condition, which became more aggressive and now affects the whole right side of his body.
“I am concerned, because the PIP in itself was a bad thing, but now they are going to wipe out the easiest part of my benefit application.”
i revealed on Tuesday that ministers were not able to say how many people could be affected by the changes, because the Government did not have the data available.
At a hearing of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Katie Farrington, director-general for disability, health and pensions at DWP, rejected claims the Government was “trying to raise the bar” to getting benefits.
“Many of the people who don’t currently claim PIP could come and do so,” she said. “There is then a group of people who have a short-term condition – for example they’re undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy – that group of people will be protected,” she said.