Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Meeting #TBofBTT

This post is a bit late in coming, as I am sure that you are all dying to know how the meeting went. I can confirm that it was interesting. Whether or not it was productive is harder to judge - and that will only become clear in the coming weeks and months.

The meeting itself was late yesterday afternoon, and I took the opportunity beforehand to meet and brief a number of MPs, including my own constituency MP, Hywel Williams. This was probably more immediately productive as the Welfare Reform Bill Committee begins line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill today, and briefing members is important. I am very lucky to have worked as a parliamentary researcher for Hywel, and thus have some inkling of how to get things done in Westminster.

I know now that many MPs are trying to find out what has happened to the DLA reform consultation, which seems to be in limbo at the moment. I have also got people digging into the Personal Independence Payment Objective Assessment Development Group. This group keep popping up, but nobody seems to know who they are. Very cloak-and-dagger!

Work and Pensions Question Time was quite interesting, in the sense that Chris Grayling and Maria Miller managed to find some empty answers to all questions on ESA and DLA. One exchange had me laughing as a Conservative MP asked and obviously planted question on DLA reform, conveniently allowing Maria Miller to give a spirited account of her rhetoric on PIP. My visit to Westminster was recorded in the Commons Hansard records for posterity by this question:

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What account does the Secretary of State take of arguments by disability campaigners such as my constituent, Mr Rhydian James, who points out that much of the increased cost of the system is due to demographic matters and to reduced under-claiming?

Unfortunately, Iain Duncan Smith responded with unintelligible babble about the universal credit, desperate to avoid the question.

The big meeting itself took place in on of the Committee Rooms in Westminster - quite an impressive setting! Kaliya was the hero of the meeting, making argument after considered argument. We had agreed beforehand that she would do the talking, as she is far more articulate and measured than I could ever be. She certainly impressed those we were meeting.

I was disappointed that some of the others present insisted on making their arguments personal and emotional, which did not strengthen our case. That said, I am a person who deals best with policy arguments and this may just be about my choices in making an argument. The end result of the meeting was as one would have expected - no firm commitments either way, although it did seem that our arguments were listened to.

Either way, it is out of our hands now. Overall, we did what we had intended to do - made our arguments without compromise. I am glad we went, though I have that nagging doubt that the lobbying and briefing I did beforehand was the more productive part of my day. We shall see.

- this is a personal account, and not a reflection of The Broken of Britain's views


Anonymous said...


Thank you both for going there and doing all you can to get the BoB side over to them

I pray that they listen and DO something.

Thank YOu to you - Rhydian and also to the amazing Kaliya who is a great speaker and an utterly wonderful human.

I am so glad you both went and I hope they it up and listen!

Sue Marsh said...

Thank you from me too. I'm so very proud - even to GET to the stage of meeting ministers face to face is an achievement.

onmybiketoo said...

Thank you for putting across the views of the ordinary folk out there leading extraordinary lives just because they have to. All we want is a bit of help.

Chris said...

A very heartfelt thank-you to both of you from me as well. As I understand it the committee stage of a Bill is where a lot of the 'horse trading' takes place! We can at least be sure that the committee are now in possession of an objective deconstruction of the fabricated arguments presented by the DWP.

ManicSleepTeacher said...

Thanks to you and the others representing us spoonies. Lots of love and grateful thanks

Oya's Daughter said...

Thank you for taking part in such a spoons-intensive day.

I just received a letter from the National Centre for Social Research. Apparently an independent research institute is gathering "quality of life" information for the Department of Work and Pensions. No idea what this means but it seems something is in the works. I will be telling them EXACTLY what is going on if I can. But surveys are by their very nature very narrow and I don't doubt it isn't going to be used to get stats that the DWP actually like, rather than the truth. Still spread this news around!

RockHorse said...

Thank you, Rhydian and Kaliya, for going to the meeting yesterday to speak on our behalf and for lobbying MPs beforehand. And congratulations on your 'mention in dispatches', as it were.

I've been very impressed by Kaliya's clarity and thoroughness in her radio interviews and all her video-blogs so am sure that she was brilliant in the meeting. I suppose that some people present could only speak emotionally and personally but I'd imagine that the organizers wanted to hear a cross-section of people and views. And, while it would be lovely if the Coalition just rolled over and cancelled their plans in the face of reasoned (and reasonable) argument, we have to remember that in a long campaign every chink in the armour and every bit of mortar chipped away makes some difference in the long term.

Interesting to hear of the Personal Independence Payment Objective Assessment Development Group which I imagine will include the potential assessment provider - almost no prizes for guessing just who that might be...

Anyway, yesterday counts as a success: you went and put your arguments, on behalf of all of us, face to face with persons-with-authority at The Houses of Parliament at Westminster. Good days!


Rhydian said...

Thank you to all above - we really could not have done it without your support. The arguments made were your arguments - we've looked at everything you have written on the blog an forum, and tried to put that together as a general case, focusing on ESA and the WCA.

Clivegsd: you posted on this thread, but i have had to remove it. You persist in making litigious remarks - please understand, it is me and Kaliya who will be sued if the organisations you mention take offence.

You also claim that CarerWatch and Carers Poverty Alliance are linked - they are not and never have been.

I have never received the emails you claim to have sent either - pleas do resend to rhydian@thebrokenofbritain.org and I will answer.

You also say that Hywel Williams' involvement is a sick joke due to his involvement with CarersUK and their line on work. Their line is that all carers who want to work should be able to do so.I fail to see the problem - my own belief is that anyone, including a disabled person, wanting to work should be enabled to do so.

Overall, I remain confused as to what it is you are angry about. Please explain.

Anonymous said...

Did you say anything about DLA reforms? (The PIP stuff)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for being our voice. I, like so many others are so grateful for everything you've done.

Rhydian said...

Anon 17:40 - I assume this was jollylips - apologies for any confusion. We did get to state the position that DLA reform should not proceed in its current form, and that DLA worked well at present.

As I've said, I was disappointed that some of those present insisted on making lengthy personal and emotional arguments which weakened the overall general arguments that Kaliya was making and meant that we did not get to discuss the Welfare Reform Bill and PIP as fully as I would have liked.

That said, I've briefed a lot of people on those subjects - here's to hoping it helps!

Mason Dixon, Autistic said...

Heya, I just watched the work and pensions question time on the iplayer and I was meaning to write a blog post myself about it but I don't think I'll get round to it now. Basically yesterday the Sun, Express and Mail printed an anti-DLA report which FullFact responded to here: http://fullfact.org/factchecks/disability_living_allowance_mobility_sun_mail_express_DWP_alcohol_drugs-2602

Now they all quote an unnamed 'source close to the reforms' which I believe to have been Maria Miller because the quote that is used is word-for-word something she said at the National Autistic Society lobby session on the 16th. A lot of people heard her say this. Having just watched what happened in the house of commons yesterday, almost 41 minutes in she is asked a question by Conservative MP Peter Bone:

"In my constituency, people were worried that the DLA was going to go and not be replaced by anything and I do wonder where this false information is coming from. Does the minister have any idea?"

I have never heard something so ridiculous but making this characterisation of people worried about DLA changes seems typical of the Coalition parties. Miller responded with:

"I thank my honourable friend for his intervention and I share his concern about the level of, or lack of understanding sometimes of peoples as to what we're trying to do here. I can re-assure him that the reforms that the government are putting forward are all about putting the integrity back into the support available for disabled people, moving away from a discredited system of DLA where more money goes to people who are in receipt- are drug and alcohol addicts than people who are blind in terms in terms of the higher rate of the DLA mobility."

FullFact.org only looked at the way the newspapers presented the figures she's talking about, I'm trying to find answers on how they were compiled because they make little sense, but Miller thought to rely on them anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised to hear Kaliya was brilliant, I've always been incredibly impressed with the strength of her unique voice both in the videos I've seen and in her writing. Because she does use the personal and the emotional but carefully and deliberately as examples to get things across as part of a wider, reasoned argument. To be able to combine those two aspects so brilliantly, always in a simple, straightforward, easy to follow way, yet with a striking style that makes things very memorable too, is truly a rare gift. I feel so immensely grateful that she is out there speaking both for us and with us.