Why the government is wrong to claim charity support on welfare

By Simon Barrow
February 2, 2012

The government's minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, yesterday reiterated in the House of Commons her oft-made claim that charities back the coalition's welfare reform policies.

As with her statements about 'overpayment' of Disability Living Allowance (see: Why Maria Miller's DLA-PIP claims are misleading) and much else said on behalf of government over the past three weeks of the WRB debate, this is an assertion that, upon research, proves to be at variance with most of the discernible facts as well as what policy wonks like to call 'the reality on the ground'.

Department of Work and Pensions officials met with around 60 user-led and representative disability organisations in order to hear their comments about DLA and PIP over the summer. Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) helpfully lists them.

What is striking about the list is that it contains many organisations who have publicly come out against the government on WRB (as a matter of fact, rather than assertion or opinion). As for others, the DWP has yet to reveal in what ways they have agreed with government proposals - as distinct from stated intentions - and what government funding those explicitly backing the coalition have received.

Meanwhile, here are two further 'open letters' to the government from a raft of charities and voluntary organisations indicating the high level of concern the Bill passed by the Commons yesterday is causing. There are many more, including the one Ekklesia signed with charities and disability campaigners urging a legislative pause to re-instate evidence-based policy making in this area.

1. 70+ organisations urge MPs to protect poor families

Under government plans, 670,000 households – two-thirds containing a disabled family member – would lose an average of £670 a year because they are deemed to have one or more additional bedrooms.

Separated parents or grandparents who use their extra bedroom to share the care of their children or grandchildren; families in which two same-sex teenage children have their own bedroom for privacy and study; foster parents with rooms occupied by foster children – many, despite having nowhere else to move to, will see their incomes cut if the bill passes unamended.

There is an alternative. In December members of the House of Lords backed a cross-party amendment to exempt those families with just one additional bedroom where there are no alternative properties for them to downsize to. For hundreds of thousands of families across the country this amendment could mean the difference between making ends meet and living in hardship. That's why we are calling on MPs to ensure the government listens to the clear message sent by peers by allowing this compromise to stand.

David Orr
Chief executive, National Housing Federation
Stephen Remington
Chief executive, Action for Blind People
Michelle Mitchell
Charity director, Age UK
Mark Atkinson
Director of campaigns, policy and research, Ambitious about Autism
John Bibby
Director of housing and community services, Association of Retained Council Housing
Douglas Edwardson
Chair, Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers
Victoria Winkler
Director, Bevan Foundation
Keith Smith
Chief executive, British Institute for Learning Disabilities
Dana O'Dwyer
Chief executive, Capability Scotland
Chris Jones
Managing director, Care and Repair Cymru
Emily Holzhausen
Director of policy and public affairs, Carers UK
Dave Adamson
Chief executive, Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales
Grainia Long
Interim chief executive, Chartered Institute of Housing
Keith Edwards
Director, Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru
Alan Ferguson
Director, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland
Alison Garnham
Chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group
John Dickie
Head, Child Poverty Action Group Scotland
Anne Houston
Chief executive, Children 1st
Gillian Guy
Chief executive, Citizens Advice
Susan McPhee
Acting chief executive, Citizens Advice Scotland
Nick Bennett
Chief executive, Community Housing Cymru
Srabani Sen
Chief executive, Contact a Family
Paul Smee
Director general, Council of Mortgage Lenders
Kennedy Foster
Policy consultant, Council of Mortgage Lenders Scotland
Leslie Morphy
Chief executive, Crisis
Joy Kent
Director, Cymorth Cymru
Jeff Skipp
Chief executive, Deafblind UK
Neil Coyle
Director of policy, Disability Alliance
Rhian David
Chief executive, Disability Wales
Julie Jennings
Board member, Every Disabled Child Matters
Helen Dent
Chief executive, Family Action
Cathy Ashley
Chief executive, Family Rights Group
Fiona Weir
Chief executive, Gingerbread
Jim Harvey
Director, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations
Denise Murphy
Interim chief executive, Grandparents Plus
Paul Gamble
Chief executive, Habinteg
Chris James
Chief executive, The Haemophilia Society
Matt Harrison
Interim chief executive, Homeless Link
Bill Scott
Manager, Inclusion Scotland
Terence Stokes
Chief executive, Lasa
Anthea Sully
Director, Learning Disability Coalition
Michael Smith
Chief executive, Livability
Ian Welsh
Chief executive, Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland
Mark Goldring
Chief executive, Mencap
Robert Meadowcroft
Chief executive, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
Deborah Jack
Chief executive, National AIDS Trust
Mark Lever
Chief executive, National Autistic Society
Ailsa Bosworth
Chief executive, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
Christopher Williamson
Chief executive, Northern Ireland Housing Associations
Satwat Rehman
Chief executive, One Parent Families Scotland
Paul McCay
Director of operations, Papworth Trust
Rebecca Gill
Director of policy, campaigns and communications, Platform 51
Paul Jenkins
Chief executive, Rethink Mental Illness
Rights Advice Scotland directors
Rights Advice Scotland
Joy Baggaley
Acting chief executive, Riverside
Lesley-Anne Alexander
Chief executive, RNIB
Richard Hawkes
Chief executive, Scope
Maggie Kelly
Co-ordinator, Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform
Robert Aldridge
Chief executive, Scottish Council for the Single Homeless
Martin Sime
Chief executive, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Mary Taylor
Chief executive, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
Cllr Matt Kerr
Chair, Scottish Local Government Forum Against Poverty
Sue Brown
Head of public policy, Sense
Campbell Robb
Chief executive, Shelter
Ceri Dunstan
Public relations officer, Shelter Cymru
Graeme Brown
Director, Shelter Scotland
Michael Gelling
Chair, Tenants and Residents Organisations of England
Michelle Reid
Chief executive, Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS)
Graham Fisher
Chief executive, Toynbee Hall
John Drysdale
Director, TPAS Cymru
Lesley Baird
Chief executive, TPAS Scotland
Brendan Barber
General secretary, Trades Union Congress
Victor Adebowale
Chief executive, Turning Point
Martin Cawley
Chief executive, Turning Point Scotland
Keith Reed
Chief executive, Twins and Multiple Births Association
Paul Nicolson
Chair, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

Six organisations challenge the benefit time limit

We urge the government to extend the time limit proposed for some ill and disabled people receiving employment and support allowance. We are extremely concerned that, if the welfare reform bill goes ahead in its current form, many thousands of people who are genuinely unable to work will be forced into unsuitable jobs or face poverty.

The new rules mean that after a year, many disabled people will have their support cut off if they have a partner who is working, even though they may have a very low wage. This will place further distress and financial burden on people who are already facing multiple difficulties. Worryingly, it also creates an incentive for partners to reduce their hours or drop out of the workplace entirely.

In any civilised society, it's crucial the welfare system supports people who, because of illness or disability, are unable to work. This arbitrary time limit has no clear evidence base. It punishes some of society's most vulnerable people in our society and penalises people for having a partner in employment. We urge MPs to support the Lords amendment to extend the time limit to at least two years and put an end to a short-sighted policy, which will cost us all in the long term.

Paul Jenkins
CEO, Rethink Mental Illness
Dr Mark Baker
Head of social research and policy, Action on Hearing Loss
Gillian Guy
CEO, Citizens Advice Bureau
Paul Farmer
CEO, Mind
Simon Gillespie
CEO, Multiple Sclerosis Society
Mark Lever
CEO, National Autistic Society
Lesley-Anne Alexander


(c) Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He has been commenting, reporting, analysing, advocating and briefing on the Welfare Reform Bill debate for the past three weeks. His initial response to the WRB debate and vote in the House of Commons on 1 February is outlined in the article Welfare politics: A 'morally disabled' government - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16221

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.