Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor | March 9, 2011

  • The Guardian, Tuesday 8 March 2011
  • Article history
  • The welfare reform bill, to be given its second reading in the Commons tomorrow, disguises cuts and changes to a number of benefits that will punish disabled people. In particular, the bill will time-limit contribution-related employment support allowance to 365 days, so that a claimant becomes ineligible after a year if their spouse or partner works.

    The bill confirms that disability living allowance (DLA) will be replaced by the personal independence payment, which will use unfair assessment and conditions to disqualify 20% of the current DLA caseload. The inclusion of this change in the bill took place before the consultation on DLA reform was completed. The reasons for this reform are unclear, as reported by the social security advisory committee, with ministers denying that cuts are the motivation for change. Objectivity and independence of assessment are some of the reasons offered by the minister for disabled people; while there may be a case for objective assessment, we believe that evidence from GPs and specialists should be sufficient in many cases as it is at present. We are concerned that the reasons given by the minister suggest GPs and specialists cannot be trusted to provide medical evidence.

    Available evidence, including DWP research, suggests DLA is an efficient and well-regarded benefit, with the lowest rate of fraud in the benefits system. As such, any reforms should be undertaken with caution, and it is important that any evidence-gathering is relevant, truly independent and conducted by appropriately qualified professionals, and that proper weight is given to other evidence, for example from the claimant’s GP.

    For these reasons, we call for the reform of DLA, and other “anti-disability” provisions that will place extra pressure on social care and social services, to be removed from the welfare reform bill.

    Hywel Williams MP

    Jon Cruddas MP

    John McDonnell MP

    Jonathan Edwards MP

    Kate Green MP

    Glenda Jackson MP

    Martin Caton MP

    Elfyn Llwyd MP

    Linda Fabiani MSP

    Kenneth Gibson MSP

    Jamie Hepburn MSP

    Anne McLaughlin MSP

    Bill Kidd MSP

    Leanne Wood AM

    Bethan Jenkins AM

    Helen-Mary Jones AM

    Nerys Evans AM

    Dai Lloyd AM

    Lord Dafydd Wigley of Caernarfon

    Baroness Anna Healy of Primrose Hill

    Gavin Hayes, Compass (Director)

    Hilton Dawson, BASW, the College of Social Work (Chief Executive)

    Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group (Chief Executive)

    Prof. Julie Allan (University of Stirling), Education

    Prof. Colin Barnes (University of Leeds), Disability Studies

    Prof. Peter Beresford (Brunel University), Social Policy

    Prof. Anne Borsay (Swansea University), Medical Humanities

    Prof. Roger Burrows (University of York), Sociology of Health and Illness

    Prof. John Carpenter (University of Bristol), Social Work

    Prof. Luke Clements (Cardiff University), Disability Rights Law

    Prof. Viviene Cree (University of Edinburgh), Social Work

    Prof. Graham Crow (University of Southampton), Sociology

    Dr. Graham Day (Bangor University), Social Science

    Prof. Ann Davis (University of Birmingham), Social Work

    Prof. Hartley Dean (LSE), Social Policy

    Prof. Mark Drakeford (Cardiff University), Social Policy

    Prof. Nick Ellison (University of Leeds, Sociology and Social Policy

    Dr Iain Ferguson (University of Stirling), Social Work

    Dr. Joanna Ferrie (University of Glasgow), Disability Research

    Dr. Margaret Flynn, Journal of Adult Protection (Editor)

    Prof. Barry Goldson (University of Liverpool), Charles Booth Chair of Social Science

    Prof. Nick Gould (University of Bath), Social Work

    Prof. Gordon Grant (Sheffield Hallam University), Health and Social Care

    Prof. Jennifer Harris (University of Dundee), Disability Research

    Dr, Laura Hemingway (University of Leeds), Disability and Housing

    Prof. Paul Higgs (UCL), Sociology of Ageing

    Prof. Kelley Johnson (University of Bristol), Disability Policy and Practice

    Prof. Michael Lavalette (Liverpool Hope University), Head of Social Work

    Professor the Baroness Ruth Lister of Burtersett, Social Policy

    Prof. Jane Millar (University of Bath), Social Policy

    Prof. Patrick McGuiness (University of Oxford), Modern Languages

    Dr. Janice McLaughlin (Newcastle University), Policy and Ethics

    Prof. Stuart Murray (University of Leeds), Contemporary Literature and Film

    Prof. Andrew Oswald (University of Warwick), Economics and Behavioural Sciences

    Dr. Kevin Paterson (University of Glasgow), Disability Research

    Prof. Chris Phillipson (Keele University), Applied Social Studies

    Dr. Susan Pickard (University of Liverpool), Sociology of Chronic Illness

    Prof. Mark Priestly (University of Leeds), Disability Policy

    Prof. Diane Richardson (Newcastle University), Social Policy

    Dr. Gwyneth Roberts (Bangor University), Social Policy

    Prof. Alan Roulstone (Northumbria University), Applied Social Sciences

    Prof. Karen Rowlingson (University of Birmingham), Social Policy

    Prof. Jonathan Rutherford (Middlesex University), Cultural Studies

    Dr. Sonali Shah (University of Leeds), Disability Studies

    Dr. Alison Sheldon (University of Leeds), Disability Studies

    Prof. Nick Spencer (University of Warwick), Child Health

    Prof. Paul Spicker (Robert Gordon University), Public Policy

    Prof. Bruce Stafford (University of Nottingham), Disability and Social Policy

    Prof. Kirsten Stalker (University of Strathclyde), Social Work

    Prof. Guy Standing (University of Bath), Economic Security

    Prof. John Swain (Northumbria University), Disability and Inclusion

    Prof. Allan Walker (University of Sheffield), Social Policy and Social Gerontology

    Prof. Nick Watson (University of Glasgow), Disability Research

    Dr. Rose Wiles (University of Southampton), Sociology of Chronic Illness

    Prof. Charlotte Williams (Keele University), Social Policy

    Prof. Fiona Williams OBE (University of Leeds), Social Policy

    Prof. John Williams (Aberystwyth University), Welfare Law

    Prof. Sue Wise (Lancaster University), Social Justice

    Prof. Alys Young (University of Manchester), Social Work Education and Research

    Peter Ede MA (Cantab), Solicitor

    Alan Woodall GP

    Shannon Murray, model and actress

    Liz Crow, Roaring Girl Productions

    Dave Lupton, cartoonist

    Anne Novis MBE, disability rights campaigner

    James Hourihan, Timian Training and Development (Director)

    Naomi Jacobs, campaigner and PhD student in disability studies

    Fiona Laird, theatre director and writer

    Mat Fraser, actor and comedian

    Claire Litt, freelance interior and exhibition designer

    Sue Marsh, campaigner on chronic illness

    Lisa Egan, Philippa Willitts, founders of theWhere’s the Benefit? blog

    Frances Kelly, Rosemary O’Neill, founders of CarerWatch

    Kaliya Franklin, Rhydian Fôn James, Lisa Ellwood, Melissa Smith, on behalf of The Broken of Britain

    •  The welfare reform bill has carried the application of the economic theory of moral hazard to such extremes in its exaggerated claims of welfare dependency that unemployment benefits could be reduced to an amount incapable of keeping body and soul together.

    The new universal credit will be made up of a standard allowance (SA), an amount for children, another for housing and one more for particular needs or circumstances. The bill does not attempt to explain how the level of the SA will be decided. There is no link to the escalating prices of food and other essential needs. The Centre for Research in Social Policy has calculated that some time in the next 10 years the weekly cost of a healthy diet will overtake the weekly amount paid in adult unemployment benefits.

    The caps on housing benefit and the local housing allowance will create debts that will have to be paid out of the money needed for a healthy diet.

    Rev Paul Nicolson

    Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

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