Legal Aid For Welfare RightsThe Welfare Reform Act 2012 received royal assent on March 8th 2012 and is now law. Most changes will come into force between 2013 and 2017. Welfare rights cases were taken out of the scope of Legal Aid but in December 2012 peers voted not to approve the regulations and the matter will be discussed in the House of Lords on January 8th 2013 Universal Credit and PIP Regulations Published December 2012: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-reform/legislation-and-key-documents/welfare-reform-act-2012/welfare-reform-regulations/
Procedure for the Remainder of the Welfare Reform Bill February 2012
On February 1st 2012 the Coalition majority resulted in the Government winning the votes in the Commons to overturn the Lords amendments. The Government invoked financial privilege. The Secretary of State offered minimal concessions. The vote was whipped so MPs were not voting according to their conscience.
The Bill will return to the House of Lords on Tuesday February 14th. There will be a process of ping-pong between both Houses of Parliament before the Bill passes into law.
Read more about the Welfare Reform Bill here
Letter to MP Welfare Reform Lords Amendments Vote February 1st 2012
Open Letter to my Labour MP
January 28th 2012
Hi again Paul
Thank you very much for this and also of course for voting against the Welfare Reform Bill at Third Reading last time it was in the Commons.
I have problems with much of the Bill, but I realised that one group was always going to be hit very hard, namely people with disabilities. When I was campaigning for the retention of Income Support for lone parents in 2006-8 I vividly remember Labour (particularly John Hutton and Peter Hain) talking about the unacceptable rise in the number of people on "inactive benefits."
For a while, the media was full of stories about how people "on the sick" had an easy life, never got re-assessed, and were basically being written off and not expected to work again. It was obvious that the Government wanted to take GPs out of the equation because they thought GPs wrote sick notes on the basis of feeling sorry for patients who had lost their jobs.
As far as I am concerned, since 2007 huge changes have already been made to the benefits system. I'm not saying I supported Labour's changes at the time, nor that I endorse them in retrospect, but the point is that changes have already been made.
What I find unbearable now is the relentless Myth Machine still cranking out propaganda about "inactive benefits". It is simply not true that huge numbers of people in this country have a guaranteed income for life if they just fill in a few forms. I don't know whether it was true in the past, but the authors of the Spartacus Report have proved conclusively that it is not true now.
I joined forced with disabled people lobbying on Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. Sadly the DLA/PIP amendments were not passed.
However, as you will know, a number of Labour/Crossbench ESA amendments were carried in the Lords which will mitigate some of the most harsh and most arbitrary of the Government's proposed measures.
- Disabled Young People Treated as Being Eligible for Contributory ESA
- Cancer patient exemption from time limit for Contributory ESA
- Extending the one-year arbitrary time-limit to two years for contributory ESA for people in the WRAG
Disabled Young People Treated as Being Eligible for Contributory ESA
Families will be stretched beyond breaking point and a much greater financial burden will fall on the local authority and on the Health Service.
Under the Government’s proposals, disabled young people whose parents are able to provide a home for them will only be able to claim means-tested benefits based on the household income, in other words on their parents' income. Parents will have to provide full financial support as well as care.
The Government consistently shied away from considering real-life situations by dropping in bizarre examples such as large inheritances as the main reason why young people would fail the means-test.
Contributory ESA is already being cut to the bone anyway, so the Lords' amendment would just give a small breathing space.
Cancer patient exemption from time limit for Contributory ESA
The Government wants terminally ill cancer patients to go through the ESA assessment process and to lose their automatic entitlement to contributory ESA after 12 months. The amendment would give basic protection to people with cancer. Arguments at this stage about whether it is fair to single out cancer are irrelevant. Cancer has already been singled out.
And as I said earlier, contributory ESA is already being cut to the bone anyway so this is scarcely going to drive up Work and Pensions spending, though if the amendment falls, the Government measures will certainly place an added burden on local authorities and on the Health Service.
Extending the one-year arbitrary time-limit to two years for contributory ESA for people in the WRAG
This amendment does not ask for an open-ended commitment, it simply asks for a minimal extension to the arbitrary time-limit. People who will not be eligible for means-tested benefits if they live with someone earning over £7,500 need time to adjust. Sudden removal of an independent income will push some claimants - many already suffering additionally from depression and anxiety - into taking desperate actions in order not to be a further burden on their families.
And of course, once again there will be a financial impact as spending is shifted from Work and Pensions onto local authorities and on the Health Service.
I will be watching the Commons debates on TV this Wednesday.
Thank you for reading this and for your continued support
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