Ed Miliband didn’t mention disability and incapacity benefits at all in his speech to the Labour party conference and Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, had little more to say about them in hers. The overall impression is that this is a subject that they wish would just go away altogether.{jcomments on}

Abolishing the bedroom tax – which, it is true, overwhelmingly affects disabled people - featured heavily in Reeves’ address to conference, as it is a subject that plays well not only with Labour supporters, but also more widely in the country.

“Just think conference, it could be less than a year left for the Bedroom Tax.

“Because the very first thing I will do if I am Secretary of State for Work and Pensions next May is repeal it.

“It’s unfair, it’s unworkable, and it’s on its way out - across the whole of the United Kingdom. Scrapped, binned, axed, abolished, put out of its misery, consigned to the history books.

“And that day can’t come soon enough.”

Reeves was also scathing about Iain Duncan Smith, another easy target:

“Five years in which David Cameron has left the Department for Work and Pensions in the hands of Iain Duncan Smith. A man with his own special Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a complete and utter shambles.

“Universal Credit – stuck in first gear.

“Work Capability Assessments – in meltdown.

“Personal Independence Payments – mired in delays.

“The Work Programme – failing the people who need help the most.

“The Youth Contract – an embarrassing flop.”

But there was no mention of the vicious unfairness of sanctions, no agreeing that it is time for a cumulative impact assessment of all the cuts to disabled claimants benefits, no outrage at the abolition of legal aid for benefits issues, no suggestion that PIP should be halted.

The closest we got to an undertaking about benefits for people unable to work was:

“And as for the Work Capability Assessment, we need real reform, with disabled people given clear rights and a real say. And I give you this commitment: as Secretary of State I will come down hard on any contractor that gets these critical assessments wrong, or fails to treat disabled people with the decency and respect they deserve.”

But even here there were no firm proposals or clear details, just mood music.

Claimants may be relieved that at least Labour haven’t yet chosen to go further down the road of demonising those unable to work as part of their strategy for winning votes, but that’s probably as much comfort as could be gleaned from this final party conference before the election.

You can read the full text of Rachel reeves speech here.


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