Calls for Eastbourne charity to sever MP links

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Online critics are calling for an Eastbourne charity to sever ties with Caroline Ansell after the MP voted in favour of cutting Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

The critics, who are associated with a national campaign led by a disability activist group, are calling on Families for Autism to ask Mrs Ansell to step down as its patron.

The calls come after Mrs Ansell voted in favour of a cut to the weekly ESA for people in the in the work-related activity group (WRAG).

Following the vote several charities with ties to Conservative MPs, including Families for Autism, came under fire from online groups.

The pressure come as part of a national campaign by the anti-austerity group Disabled People Against Cuts.

As a result of the campaign the West Sussex branch of the mental health charity Mind said it would be discussing the positions of Peter Bottomley MP, Nick Gibb MP and Tim Loughton MP at its next board meeting.

Elsewhere in the country, the MS Society asked Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse to resign as patron of its Andover Branch due to his support of the ESA cuts.

A spokesman for the group said, “It is not acceptable that MPs can use disabled people to further their political careers, while at the same time stabbing us in the back by voting for this harmful cut to ESA.

“It is also unacceptable that charities, that purport to work in the interest of disabled people, have links with any MP who has voted to bring harm to disabled people.”

Families for Autism declined to comment on the campaign.

Opponents of the cuts say it will see the weekly income of thousands of disabled people drop from £103 to £73.

But Mrs Ansell disputes this figure. She said, “I wanted to clarify some of the misinformation that has been circulating about a recent vote on disability benefit.

“For clarification NOBODY currently receiving the benefit in question (ESA – WRAG) will lose £30-a-week. The change will only apply to new claimants, and doesn’t come into force until April 2017. Existing claimants will not be affected.

“The aim from April 2017 is to offer additional support to help those that are able to work, find that work. Sixty-one per cent of people on this benefit want to work, but at the moment only 1 per cent per month manage to achieve that work. The aim of this change is to increase that opportunity. This is something that should be welcomed by everyone.

“Furthermore, shortly there will be plans set out to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities. Be in no doubt that when we see these plans, I will not hesitate to speak against, and if necessary vote against any proposals that I do not consider to be in the best interests of people with a disability.

“I hope this provides some clarification on my position.”

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