A zero-sum game

I spent part of yesterday evening relaxing in front of the BBC Parliamentary Channel, listening to evidence given by DWP ministers to the Select Committee on 17th September. (This is, I know, a sad admission about my domestic life. I will try to get out more.) I was struck by the following statement by Lord Freud:

Glenda Jackson MP: We also had evidence that specific groups of disabled people will have a significantly lower income on Universal Credit than under the current system, even when they are not fit for work. What is the policy rationale behind this?

Lord Freud: It is just not true.

Glenda Jackson: Oh, good. Fill us in then.

Chair: When the severe disability premium goes, it is.

Lord Freud: We have maintained the amount of spending within the disabled community. We have adjusted how it is distributed.

Back to first principles. If overall spending stays at the same level, and there is any reallocation of resources at all, someone must be worse off. It is mathematically unavoidable. In this case, what I understand the government to have done is to prioritise disabled people who have prospects of work – that was the basis of Lord Freud’s spirited defence of the new system. That must mean that those who are not part of the labour market – and so, those with the most severe disabilities – get less.

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