Welfare petition aims for ten thousand backers by New Year's Day

By staff writers
31 Dec 2012

The e-democracy petition calling for an independent impact assessment of the government's welfare changes hopes to hit 10,000 signatories by New Year's Day.

The 'war on welfare' (WOW) petition initiative was launched earlier this month, and needs 100,000 people to sign up in order to push for a Westminster debate on the issue.

In reaching the 10,000 sub-target so quickly, campaigners will require the Department of Work and Pensions to post a response to the petition's demands on the epetitions.direct.gov.uk website first thing in the New Year.

The DWP has itself been criticised for acting as a PR agency for coalition policies which independent researchers have analysed and dismantled critically in recent months.

The WOWpetition is calling, among other things, for an investigation of its media links, following allegations that officials may have been feeding tabloid newspapers misleading information for their vitriolic campaigns against disabled and sick people.

It also wishes to see the lid lifted on "disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS [the heavily-criticised private company that has carried out work assessments designed to remove more people from benefits], DWP and the Tribunal Service.

The petition text was produced by lengthy, democratic decision-making on line, led by disabled and sick people, people with learning and mental health difficulties, their families and carers.

It was launched at 8pm on Tuesday 18 December 2012 by actor, comedian and activist Francesca Martinez, who pointed out that while DLA / ESA benefits cost £25 billion a year, by contrast tax evasion costs the UK over £100 billion annually.

Using social media, particular Twitter (#WOWpetition) and Facebook, the petition had attracted 5,000 backers in around 48 hours. Since then the holiday season has lessened the pace somewhat, but campaigners are determined that they will hit the 100,000 target that unfortunately eluded a predecessor piloted by Pat Onions.

Supporters of the initiative also want a 'new deal' for disabled and sick people, and an end to anti-welfare rhetoric and policies - including a halt to the flawed Work Capability Assessment (WCA), consultation between the Departments of Health and Education to improve support into work for sick and disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

The WOWpetition, which has been supported by charities, church groups, unions, civic organisations and community networks, has been largely ignored in the mainstream media, but has flourished online.

It follows an intense year of work by sick and disabled people, including the Spartacus Report on the government's distorted Disability Living Allowance (DLA) consultation, which contributed to defeats for the government in multiple votes on the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords, and was quoted and used widely by MPs - including, recently, John McDonnell.

Disability activists and researchers gathered under the 'We Are Spartacus' banner have also published a detailed, critical evaluation of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) system.

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* View and sign the WOW petition here - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

* War on Welfare (WOW) website - www.WOWpetition.com

* WOW on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WoWpetition

* WOW petition latest on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/WOWpetition

* Call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154

* The petition mirrored on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17653

* Welfare reform petition campaign elicits huge online response - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17660

* Disabled and sick people should shape policies that impact them - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17655

* People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment (#realWCA) published - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17366

* Responsible Reform: Changes to Disability Living Allowance - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/responsiblereformDLA

* Disability issues on Ekklesia - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/spartacusreport

* On Twitter: #WOWpetition

[Ekk/3]

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