Labour’s new shadow minister for disabilities has hit the ground running by today securing an opposition debate on the universal credit rollout.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appointed Battersea MP Marsha De Cordova to the role last week, replacing Marie Rimmer.
In today’s debate, Labour are calling for the roll out of the new benefit system to be paused, having last month stated that it is in “total disarray.”
Speaking in Parliament, Ms De Cordova will challenge the nature of universal credit calculations – the premiums that exist for out of work benefits that exclude disabled people – which results in a real terms cut for disabled people.
On the well-documented issues with universal credit, she said: “We know that within the benefit system there have been a number of issues that have disproportionately affected disabled people, not least the work capability assessment which is the assessment that everybody has to go through to apply for employment and support allowance or ESA as it is known.
“The assessment itself is currently not working and Labour’s position would be to scrap this assessment and also the assessment for the personal independence payment.
“So I suppose for us it is really making sure, working on what that assessment framework should look like.”
Ms De Cordova was only elected as an MP in June, winning Battersea from the Conservatives with 45.9% of the vote.
The Bristol-born politician, who is registered blind, aims to focus on systematic frameworks catering to disabled people, including social security benefits and equality for disabled people.
Speaking of her appointment, she said: “I was incredibly honoured to be asked to step into this role. It is a great opportunity for me and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in.”
The disability employment gap is another area of focus for Ms De Cordova.
She said: “As it stands, we know that the employment gap between non-disabled and disabled people hasn’t closed and we need to close that.
“Disabled people need to be given the same employment rights and opportunities as any non-disabled person.
“I always have been an advocate for this and it’s interesting because my career outside of parliament has always been being a good advocate and voice for disabled people, so to be able to do it in my capacity as shadow minister is a privilege and it is something that I am really grateful to be doing.”
Additionally, Ms De Cordova is prepared to tackle the “poor decision-making on personal independence payment” and ensuring the rights and freedoms of disabled people are protected in any Brexit deal that is negotiated.
MP Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Marsha came to Parliament with a strong record of campaigning for the rights of blind and partially sighted people, and quickly established herself here as a passionate and committed defender of our social security system.”
Mr Corbyn added: “I am delighted to welcome Marsha to our work and pensions team. She brings a wealth of experience to the role and will help us continue to expose the failings of this Conservative government that has even been found wanting by the UN over its treatment of disabled people.”
Ms De Cordova is confident that Labour can continue their progress and move into government at the next election.
She said: “We are constantly formulating our own policies so that if there is another general election, that we do have strong costed policies that will actually work for all disabled people.
“We want to ensure we understand the social security benefits, and that assessment frameworks that are currently in place are looked at, because they are not working and they are causing a lot of distress for people. So we want to see that greatly improved.”