OLDHAM East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams has slammed the Chancellor of the Exchequer for refusing to accept delivery of a sack of letters from disabled people detailing the financial impact the pandemic has had on them.

Nearly 200 envelopes containing testimonies and concerns about the Government's failure to extend the £20 Universal Credit uplift to those on legacy benefits were rejected - alongside a wheelchair donated by the campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts [DPAC] - designed to help him understand the extra unavoidable costs that disabled people and carers have been hit with since March last year.

Ms Abrahams, who has long been a campaigner for disabled people’s rights, said: “Unable to leave their homes, campaigners organised the deliveries ahead of the Budget to communicate the desperate financial situation facing many of the 2.2 million claimants still on legacy benefits.

“Three quarters of these are disabled people. Items attached to the wheelchair referenced essentials that disabled people are having to go without, including a blanket, for heat; an incontinence pad; a face mask (PPE); an empty packet of cuppa soup, for nutritious food; and an empty purse, representing enough money to live on.”

Similar deliveries were also rejected by 10 Downing Street and the Department for Work and Pensions, although the DWP did accept a letter addressed to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey, with a copy of a document published by DPAC collating testimonies from benefit claimants and key findings from recent reports evidencing the need to retain and extend the uplift.

Debbie added: “Given the disproportionate mortality rates for disabled people from COVID, many have been shielding for close to a full year now. This has driven their costs up considerably.

“The Chancellor may have already leaked his intention to keep the £20 Universal Credit uplift but blanking disabled people’s efforts to communicate with him is just a continuation of this government’s disdain for them.

A survey of disabled people on legacy benefits conducted by the Disability Benefits Consortium found that two thirds (66%) have had to go without essentials like food, heating or medication as a result of increased costs since the pandemic started and nearly half (44%) said they had fallen behind on financial commitments like rent, mortgage payments, or household bills.

A spokesperson for Disabled People Against Cuts, who organised the delivery to the Treasury, said: “The government often claims to protect what it calls ‘the most vulnerable’ but once again it is precisely those who are ‘most vulnerable’ whose needs are being ignored.

“This has created a two tier social security system, giving the distinct impression that disabled people’s suffering is of no concern to this government. We’ve heard denials that the pandemic has led to extra costs for disabled people so we thought we'd explain it in a very clear way.

“The response we got demonstrates that the Government has absolutely no interest in even knowing what the right thing to do for disabled people is.”

The deliveries were organised as part of a day of action called by Disabled People Against Cuts with support from People Before Profit, Homes 4 All, the People’s Assembly, Unite Community and the NEU Disabled Members’ Committee.