Anger grows at McVey's appointment - as petition calls for her to go
Disability and poverty groups have reacted with outrage at the appointment of Esther McVey as the UK’s new Work and Pensions Secretary.
Hard-right Tory MP McVey landed the top job at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), replacing David Gauke, during this week’s cabinet reshuffle.
She is a hate figure among disabled activists for her “callous” approach to welfare when she served as minister for disabled people in the last government.
The former TV presenter – who is being touted as a possible successor to politically ailing Prime Minister Theresa May – famously claimed that the use of foodbanks was right because “we are all” having to pay back the national debt.
She also said that benefits sanctions teach job seekers to look for work seriously.
Bill Scott, policy director at Inclusion Scotland, told TFN: “We are very disappointed to see Esther McVey returning to the DWP.
“Throughout her time as a minister at that department she demonstrated a callous disregard for the impact of sanctions and the Work Capability Assessment on disabled people – including cases where claimants had committed suicide.
“Esther McVey was also instrumental in introducing and then defending the bedroom tax which had a hugely disproportionate impact on disabled people and their families.
“McVey is also notorious for being an apologist for the growth in foodbank use, when of course it was the banks that were responsible for the debt and not benefit claimants.
“We believe, given all of this, that Esther McVey’s lack of empathy and concern for benefit claimants makes her unsuited for the post of Secretary of State at the DWP."
Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, added: "The Work and Pensions Secretary faces some significant challenges in her new role – not least amongst them is how her department can help play a role in halting the increase in poverty that is expected over the coming years.
“Fixing the problems with Universal Credit will no doubt be high on her to do list, but she also needs to reconsider the freeze on benefit levels.
“This will be one of the major drivers of poverty in the coming years – she needs to use her new role to ensure that thousands more people do not fall into poverty because of the freeze.
"McVey has been rightly castigated for her views on foodbanks, sanctions and benefit cuts. We need to see a change in those views as she takes up her new role, and a change of direction in the DWP."
A“Sack Esther McVey” petitionhas been posted on 38 Degrees and had attracted almost 18,000 signatures at time of publication.
Posted by campaigner Jennifer Jones, the petition’s preamble states: “As employment minister Esther McVey seemed to take great delight when introducing new guidelines which lead to benefit sanctions such as when a claimant does not accept zero hour contracts the DWP has the right to impose benefit sanctions.
“Desperately needed benefits have being axed because a claimant is minutes late for an appointment or other spurious reasons such as receiving Job centre appointment letters on or after the day of appointment.”
Such has been the anger at the appointment that 38 Degrees has had to close the comments on the petition.
However, before they were closed, one person wrote: “This sort of callousness and disregard for the less fortunate makes her unfit for this role.”
And another: “Here’s yet another Tory who hates disabled people or anyone who might have an illness.”