Asking the bare minimum: a cumulative impact assessment

By Bernadette Meaden
July 9, 2013

When the Welfare reform Bill passed into law in March 2012, Iain Duncan Smith proclaimed, ‘These are the biggest reforms for 60 years. Michael McMahon MSP recently described it as “a tsunami of change engulfing the world of welfare,” and warned that “the biggest waves are yet to come.”

One would have imagined that given the scale and scope of these changes, the government would have taken care to understand the cumulative impact on a section of the population that could be particularly vulnerable: those who are sick and disabled. Many individuals will be affected by multiple changes, so one would have hoped that this would have been taken into consideration.

However, it became increasingly clear that the government had not properly calculated how they would be affected, and even worse, appeared unconcerned. Pat Onions set up a petition on the government’s e-petition website, calling for a Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA). By the time it closed in December 2012 it had gathered 62,000 signatures, officially not enough to secure a debate in Parliament but enough to gain a meeting with Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne MP and get the promise of an Opposition debate. Inspired by Pat, others took up the baton and set up the WOW petition to keep up the pressure on the politicians. So far around 49,000 people have signed.

When an e-petition gets over 10,000 signatures, the government department responsible is obliged to respond. Rather belatedly, the DWP responded to the WOW petition, http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18171 in effect saying that it hadn’t done a CIA because it was too difficult.

Disappointed but undeterred, campaigners have continued to call for a CIA. Mr Duncan Smith and his colleagues at the DWP appear impervious to their pleas, but on Wednesday 10 July the long-awaited Opposition debate will take place, on the motion:“That this House believes that the Government should publish a cumulative impact assessment of the changes made by this Government that affect disabled people (to be published by October 2013).”

Campaigners are asking people to tweet their support on Wednesday using #CiaDisability and #MakeRightsReality

You can watch the debate live via this link
http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13471 There should be a vote around 4pm.

It would seem the bare minimum to ask of a government, that when they make radical changes to systems that are integral to people’s lives, which can without exaggeration be a matter of life and death to some people, they at least have considered what the total impact will be. Ministers should be ashamed that they have not done so, and take this opportunity to remedy their carelessness.

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© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

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