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In preparation for the House of Lords debate on the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) tomorrow, where Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will be in the spotlight, the #spartacusreport campaign (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport) has launched a fresh initiative - #spartacusstories, which gives people the opportunity through Twitter, blogs and other social media to tell their own stories of why DLA is important to them and the realities of living and surviving as a sick or disabled person.
The experiences and insights of disabled and sick people themselves ought to be at the heart of decision-making on welfare reform. As the Poverty Truth Commission in Scotland puts it (http://www.povertytruthcommission.blogspot.com/), drawing on a South African saying, "Nothing about us, without us, is for us." The sad fact, however, is that politicians and policy-makers try to solve problems (and, more often than not, save money) without putting those whose needs and experience should come first at the front of their queue of priorities.
That is certainly the case over WRB and DLA, and Work Capability Assessment (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16079) too. Thus the dossier of first-hand stories and experiences sent on behalf of sick and disabled activists to Crossbench peers and other parliamentary supporters in a briefing from Ekklesia yeaterday.
You can see what people are sharing and saying by going to the new Spartacus Stories website (http://spartacus-stories.blogspot.com/) and following the #spartacusstories hashtag on Twitter.
The viral social media campaign produced three million hits on its first day alst week alone, reported Sonia Poulton in the Daily Mail. It is vital that the impetus is kept up as the Welfare Reform Bill continues to be debated.
The government is on the run on these issues. It has made some concessions already. The weight of opposition is getting through. Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has said he believes there is a gap in the armoury. Ekklesia has had supportive messages from a number of peers this morning, including Lord Alton and Baroness Richardson. A letter from charities and backers of the campaign for a legislative pause and rethink will appear in the media tomorrow. It's going to be difficult, but it's not too late to keep on keeping on... "Alone we whisper, together we shout."
© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He has been leading our collaboration with the authors of the Spartacus Report. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport Read the full report, 'Responsible Reform: Changes to Disability Living Allowance' here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLATweet