Peers lobbied before crucial votes on disability and welfare cuts

By staff writers
11 Jan 2012

Thousands of individuals and organisations have been lobbying members of the House of Lords as crucial votes loom on the Welfare Reform Bill - the third day of its report stage in the chamber.

The key issues being debated in the second chamber this afternoon include the time-limit to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 700,000 people with serious illnesses and impairments will be affected by this policy. This overwhelmingly affects the poorest most.

Crossbencher Lord Patel is putting an amendment to the WRB increasing the eligibility period for contributory ESA from one year to two. Labour is supporting the amendment.

There is particular concern for cancer patients who would lose up to £94 a week in sickness benefit as a result of this proposed change. The Macmillan Cancer charity estimates 7,000 patients could be affected.

A further amendment put down by crossbencher Lord Listowel would ensure that those who are disabled at a young age (and therefore have been unable to build up national insurance contributions) will still be able to claim ESA. Labour peers are also supporting this.

Peers will also discuss proposals to scrap the Social Fund, which supplies crisis grants to vulnerable people who need emergency help.

The government remains determined to push through swingeing cuts in welfare payments to the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable in society despite massive opposition from charities, medical professionals, politicians of all parties, church and faith groups, community organisations, public figures - and, crucially, disabled people themselves, who have been largely ignored in the process.

On Monday a group of disabled people published the #spartacusreport ('Responsible Reform') which shows that the government has been misleading and misinforming about its consultation and proposals on Disability Living Allowance.

Other aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill have also been described as "disastrous" for sick and disabled people. Major charities, the Trades Union Congress, disability groups and the thinktank Ekklesia are among those backing calls for a six-month pause on welfare reform so that overlooked evidence and better proposals can be considered.

Over the past few days, thousands of people have written to peers and MPs over ESA, DLA and WRB issues. In terms of this afternoon's debates and votes in the House of Lords, particular attention has been paid to Liberal Democrat, Crossbench and some sympathetic Conservative peers, who "could make all the difference", Ekklesia was told this morning.

* The case against time-limiting Employment and Support Allowance - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16023

* The 'Responsible Reform' report on DLA: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA

[Ekk/3]

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