Writing in The Guardian, Declan Gaffney, former policy advisor to the previous Mayor of London and to the previous government, has written in a personal capacity about what is at stake in the continuing struggle over disabled rights and the Welfare Reform Bill.
Yesterday I went to meet the "Amendment Lords" ahead of today's crucial votes in the second chamber, where the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) debate moves from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the income replacement benefit for people with work-limiting conditions, to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is intended to help with the extra costs people incur as a result of severe disability.
The government claims that its determined attempts to cut the living standards of the poor are necessary to cut public spending. Many have pointed out that the Welfare Reform Bill and other changes have immediate and long-term costs attached, so will not save nearly as much as is claimed. The rationale for harsh new measures looks even flimsier since it has emerged that the government is shelling out public money to take paid work away from the poor.
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.
With the government still apparently willing to make sick, disabled and vulnerable people pay for a financial slump brought about by greed, de-regulation and speculation, the press-mediated propaganda assault has begun ahead of the next House of Lords debate on welfare reform (17 January).
This week the Welfare Reform Bill returns to the House of Lords, following three damaging defeats for the government last week. Disability Living Allowance, the subject of the #spartacusreport, will come into the spotlight. But so will assessment - not least the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which is being used in relation to Employment Support Allowance (ESA). It is the process by which people in receipt of the allowance are formally tested to see if they are "fit for work".
"One of the most fascinating things about the government's wobble on welfare this week has been the critical role of a new breed of disability campaigner in successfully marshalling public and political opposition to the reforms." writes Patrick Butler, Head of Society, Health and Education at the Guardian, today.
The UK government will press ahead with controversial welfare reforms, according to employment minister Chris Grayling. As a result of powerful evidence from disabled people and their supporters, including the ‘Responsible Reform’ report, several aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill were defeated in the House of Lords on 11 January 2012.