Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Left Out In The Cold - The Second Reading And The Next Steps

The Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill at the House of Commons is tomorrow. It is a big day for welfare campaigners, and the Welfare Reform Bill deals with many issues besides disability. Interpretation of these reforms depend very much on one's political leanings, although most people would agree that 'benefits traps' are a real phenomenon and that the debate is on the difference of approaches to ending this circular deprivation. However, The Broken of Britain is keen to remove the 'anti-disability' provisions of the Bill. How will we go about that?

A Public Bill passes through the House of Commons in five stages, before being passed on to the House of Lords. The First Reading of a Bill, which happened two weeks ago in this case, is a simple reading out of the Bill, with no questions or debate afterward. The Second Reading is the first opportunity for MPs to debate the Bill, and leads into the Committee and Report stages. These stages are where it is easiest to amend the Bill - in this case, removing the anti-disability provisions.

That is why The Broken of Britain decided to launch the campaign ahead of the Second Reading, as we must ensure that MPs are fully aware of all the issues that concern us ahead of the Committee and Report stages. An outright rejection of the Bil at voting after the Second Reading is not a campaign aim, but we are hoping to encourage debate on the hardship these welfare reform will cause for people with disabilities. This will create pressure for changes during the next stages of the Bill. At the Third Reading in the Commons, the hope is that amendments will have been tabled and will be accepted. If not, The Broken of Britain will maintain the pressure as the Bill goes through the same five stages in the House of Lords. Each time one of you speaks out, you add to this pressure.

2 comments:

fourbanks said...

There is still a slim chance that the harsh new work capability assessment, due to come into force on 28 March, will be struck down. The House of Lords’ Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has raised the alarm about the new WCA, warning that ‘there are serious concerns about the effect on already vulnerable people’ if the new test is introduced.

The role of the committee is to ‘draw the special attention of the house’ to any statutory instrument which it considers to be flawed or inadequate. In this case the committee has said that they that the new regulations “give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House and may imperfectly achieve the policy objective.”

The committee’s concerns may lead to a debate in the House and, should a prayer be raised against the statutory instrument, it is possible that it could be thrown out in its entirety.

Amongst the concerns that the committee say they have been warned of are:

“the current Regulations are premature and that piecemeal change will cause more harm than good”;

“there is insufficient data from the initial trial of the migration of Invalidity Benefit [sic] claimants to ESA to be clear whether the changes proposed will be an improvement”;

“the WCA system has not bedded in fully and the operation of the system needs to achieve greater consistency before further changes are added”;

“the current changes may not maintain the distinctions set out in the Act between the two levels of capability and may over-estimate many individuals' actual ability to work”;

“there are serious concerns about the effect on already vulnerable people from repeatedly changing the WCA eligibility descriptors”.

Much of the report by the committee is based on hard-hitting submissions made to it by a range of voluntary sector organisations, including:

Disability Benefits Consortium
MIND
MS Society
RNIB and Action for Blind People

We are grateful to Alban Hawksworth of RNIB for drawing our attention to this report.

fourbanks said...

There is still a slim chance that the harsh new work capability assessment, due to come into force on 28 March, will be struck down. The House of Lords’ Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee has raised the alarm about the new WCA, warning that ‘there are serious concerns about the effect on already vulnerable people’ if the new test is introduced.

The role of the committee is to ‘draw the special attention of the house’ to any statutory instrument which it considers to be flawed or inadequate. In this case the committee has said that they that the new regulations “give rise to issues of public policy likely to be of interest to the House and may imperfectly achieve the policy objective.”

The committee’s concerns may lead to a debate in the House and, should a prayer be raised against the statutory instrument, it is possible that it could be thrown out in its entirety.

Amongst the concerns that the committee say they have been warned of are:

“the current Regulations are premature and that piecemeal change will cause more harm than good”;

“there is insufficient data from the initial trial of the migration of Invalidity Benefit [sic] claimants to ESA to be clear whether the changes proposed will be an improvement”;

“the WCA system has not bedded in fully and the operation of the system needs to achieve greater consistency before further changes are added”;

“the current changes may not maintain the distinctions set out in the Act between the two levels of capability and may over-estimate many individuals' actual ability to work”;

“there are serious concerns about the effect on already vulnerable people from repeatedly changing the WCA eligibility descriptors”.

Much of the report by the committee is based on hard-hitting submissions made to it by a range of voluntary sector organisations, including:

Disability Benefits Consortium
MIND
MS Society
RNIB and Action for Blind People

We are grateful to Alban Hawksworth of RNIB for drawing our attention to this report.