Many people across Europe have recoiled from harsh austerity policies, which are badly affecting the poorest in society as well as ordinary families. But the UK government is determined to take the cuts even further. Half a million people will lose disability living allowance, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has proudly announced.
Why is the UK government so determined to slash benefits and public services for sick and disabled people and carers? Many people have pointed out the flaws in a harsh Welfare Reform Bill targeting those who are already badly-off.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One, ahead of the House of Lords Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) debate today, Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Maria Miller sought to sound reassuring and reasonable. But the key points she made were either highly debatable or plain wrong. And the stakes are high. The government is attempting to move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to an untried Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and to cut around £2.7 billion from the benefits system for the most vulnerable people.
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.
"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.
The extraordinary triple victory on specific benefit issues in the House of Lords on 11 January 2012 has raised questions for a number of people about the larger situation regarding the Welfare Reform Bill. Some of the bill might be helpful, but I want to be very clear today about which parts sick and disabled campaigners know to be unacceptable - and why.