Pressure intensifies as government stays deaf to welfare pleas

By staff writers
26 Jan 2012

The government has suffered its sixth defeat on its controversial Welfare Reform Bill, over plans to introduce charges for people using the Child Support Agency to organise child maintenance payments.

An amendment put down by former Conservative minister Lord Mackay would exempt people from the new charges if they could demonstrate they had taken "reasonable steps" to come to an agreement and had not succeeded.

The defeat for the government was the heaviest House of Lords defeat since the general election, at 270 to 128. Thirty-four Tories and 16 Liberal Democrats rebelled against the coalition government.

Earlier in the day, an attempt to salvage something from the Social Fund, a source of emergency payments and loans for people in desperate need failed, to the disgust of anti-poverty campaigners. The Anglican Bishop of Exeter was among those backing the government in taking the money away from poor and vulnerable people, while the Bishop of Manchester - who also backed Lord Mackay on the CSA payments issue - voted against.

Now disability campaigners - including many involved with the Spartacus Report on the sham Disability Living Allowance (DLA) consultation - are vowing to step up the pressure ahead of the bill going back to the House of Commons. There are public protests and direct actions planned for Saturday 28 January. The campaigning network 38 Degrees is involved in petitioning, and MPs are to be lobbied intensively.

"We are going to create an almighty noise," one disabled campaigner told Ekklesia. "If the government, its supporters and those colluding in taking money from the sick, the poor and the disabled think they can simply vote our lives away and go back to their dinner parties comfy homes and palaces, they have got another think coming."

UK Uncut, working with disabled people and groups, has promised a "daring and disruptive" day of civil disobedience this weekend.

Sarah Evans of UK Uncut said the bill was hurting the disabled and there were alternatives: "This Bill will remove vital lifelines and force people into deeper poverty, making many prisoners in their own homes," she declared.

Christianity Uncut and other church and faith groups will join the protests and lobbying.

* 38 Degrees: Support Disabled People - http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2012/01/25/support-disabled-people-email-yo...

* Petition to stop and review welfare benefit cuts - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968

* UK Uncut: message from the invisable - http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/

* Disabled People Against Cuts - http://www.dpac.uk.net/

* Spartacus Report campaign - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport

More to follow

[Ekk/3]

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