Saturday, 11 June 2011

Some actual Opposition would be useful right now

The Welfare Reform Bill is currently working its way through Parliament, and unlike some of the other controversial Bills of the coalition, it hasn't got much attention. The various protests against it by disabled people have largely been ignored by the press, and Labour appear to have chosen it as an issue to be "reasonable" and "pragmatic" on.

If you have time, and are in the UK, please write to your own MPs to ask them to vote against it. Where's the Benefit? has a huge amount of background information on this Bill and the reasons why it's so bad.

Here's the letter I sent to my (Labour) MP.

Dear [MP]

The Welfare Reform Bill will be reaching its third reading in the Commons soon, and I ask you to vote against it when it does so.

Taking away benefits that people rely upon is a bad idea at the best of times, but while the economy remains stagnant and unemployment high, it is even worse. The idea that cutting someone's benefits will encourage them to find work - when hardly anyone is able to find work - is absurd, but the basis of this Bill.

In Durham, Wilkinson advertised 59 jobs when they opened. There were over 1,000 applicants - inevitably, hundreds of qualified applicants would have been turned away. Now, the government, through this Bill, wants to increase the pressure even more - by cutting benefits that people need to survive. People cannot get jobs that don't exist.

The changes to Disability Living Allowance, converting it to the misnamed Personal Independence Payment, will be particularly harsh. The government has already decided that too many people claim DLA, and aim to have a significant reduction in claims under the new PIP, on the grounds that some of the people currently claiming are "not disabled enough" to need benefits.

Their rhetoric against disabled people has been particularly vicious, with the implication from the government being that most people on disability benefits are "scroungers" and undeserving of government assistance - when in fact the disability benefits have the lowest fraud rate of any benefit, and also the highest successful appeals rate as people are impersonally assessed as fit to work against the recommendations of their own doctor.

Meanwhile, support and encouragement for employers to help them employ people with disabilities and pay for any reasonable adjustments required remains non-existent, and hate crimes and abuse towards people with disabilities has increased significantly since the coalition came to power.

Passing the Welfare Reform Bill will, quite literally, cost lives, and I hope you will vote against it and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

Yours sincerely