Spending an hour in DWP questions was a surreal experience given the extent of ministers’ cluelessness about the problems facing my constituents.
First I tackled ministers on the impact of the total benefit cap on my constituents, giving the example of a single mum who has to look after her three children on £500 a week, of which £400 goes to her private landlord. And she’s been forced by the cap to live in completely unsuitable housing. She had polio as a child and can’t manage stairs, but has to climb 28 steps just to get to the front door, and has broken her leg twice.
I raised this case with Iain Duncan Smith, who bizarrely claimed that only Labour MPs cared about the benefit cap.
I then raised my concerns about the handling of the PIP scheme by the hated contractor Atos. Now that the contract has been taken over by Maximus, I felt it was important to raise my concerns about the fact that Maximus itself doesn’t exactly have a great track record in handling ESA claims. I’ve heard from constituents who have been waiting more than a year for a decision on their claims, and some have become terminally ill during that time. The minister completely failed to answer my question.
And on top of all this we had bizarre claims from Esther McVey, who claimed that older women were the most difficult group of people to employ.
It’s good to be back on planet earth after my hour on planet Duncan-Smith!