Wednesday 15 June 2011

3rd Debate Welfare Reform Bill

Is being live tweeted using the hashtag #wrb

Today at 5pm - Clear your Diaries.... #AskEdM

Awww, that's nice, Ed Miliband wants to know what we thought of his speech!

He'll be hosting a web-chat 5.00pm today on Twitter! Using the hashtag #AskEdM

Wouldn't it be good if 1000's of people asked him why he chose to use a man on Incapacity Benefit to paint a picture of how society is irresponsible, going on to use this man as an example of "not showing responsibility" "shirking his duties" "abusing the system because he could work but didn't" "ripping off our society" he was not a "good citizen" he was "abusing the trust of his neighbours"......?

Why he supported a scrounger narrative that is already causing a rise in disability hate crime?
What he based his 2 minute Work Capability Assessment on?
Why he won't admit that ESA is a shambles

Remember, Mr Miliband has been consulting the country. Listening to the concerns of those who "work hard and do the right thing" He want's to know what Labour got wrong. He's heard from the Daily Mail loud and clear it seems. Today, we could make sure that he hears from us.

**It's nearly lunchtime now. For enough people to make an impact, we need to send this to every campaigner, supporter, friend and contact we can think of. OK. it won't change the world, but it might cause a stir. Pls RT, link and mail out.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

How Liam Byrne could help save his career through welfare reform

 By Don Paskini. Cross posted with permission from Liberal Conspiracy

Liam Byrne is currently one of Labour’s most important politicians. He combines his role in co-ordinating the party’s policy review with leading for Labour on Work and Pensions. His hobbies include “banging on” about immigration, deficit reduction and welfare reform.

But in fewer than eighteen months, his political career is almost certainly going to be over. Here’s why and how the principles of responsibility and reciprocity could help him save his job, while at the same time helping reform the welfare state for the better.

Every two years, Labour elects its Shadow Cabinet. Last time, Liam finished in 19th place, scraping into the Shadow Cabinet by just one vote. Next time, competition will be even fiercer, as some of Labour’s rising stars put their names forward, and David Miliband may return. It may be that even if he doesn’t get elected by fellow MPs, he will be offered some kind of role through the “Affirmative Action for special advisers and management consultants” programme which Labour has run in recent years.

We’ve heard from Liam and from Ed Miliband that Labour’s approach to welfare is going to be built around “responsibility”. This approach draws on research done by the Fabian Society.

Once you get past drivel such as Ed Miliband’s charming anecdote about how he met a disabled scrounger and carried out an impromptu assessment of his capability to work, there is plenty of merit in the idea that greater reciprocity in the welfare state could help to rebuild public support and make the system work better for everyone. But it will require a lot more work.

Ed Miliband’s idea of adjusting social housing allocations policies is
(a) something which is already happening and
(b) the housing policy equivalent of rearranging deckchairs as the ship sinks – given the huge shortage of affordable housing.

Or take Liam Byrne’s idea that people who aren’t making an effort to look for jobs should have weekly appointments ignores the fact that
(a) this can already happen,
(b) it doesn’t work very well, and
(c) the way welfare to work provision is funded on payment for sustainable job outcomes means that there is every incentive to see people who don’t want a job as infrequently as possible, and instead to focus on people who are work ready and want to do so.

No one should reasonably expect Labour to have a fully worked out set of proposals yet, but it will be Liam’s job to work out some of these details.
Now, he might well make a right Purnell of doing this, coming up with a set of unworkable, incompetent proposals which are designed to sound tough and nothing more. And no matter how “tough” the proposals, the Tories will come up with something “tougher” and more vindictive. We’d like to offer him an alternative.

Sue Marsh and the Broken of Britain have done some outstanding work on gathering ideas on how the current system isn’t working and what should be done instead to help sick and disabled people. Kate Green MP is an expert in what works in tackling poverty, and has called for the “moral imperative” of addressing the barriers to work rather than attacking the workless.

Plus, there’s a lot to be learned from Labour’s record in government in cutting child poverty, which researchers from America describe as almost miraculous.

So here’s our deal, based on the principles of responsibility and reciprocity. Liam Byrne could spend the next few months listening to the people who are hardest hit by the government’s cuts, working with groups like Broken of Britain, listening to Kate Green’s advice to stop demonising people who are out of work, and coming up with common sense policies such as reforming ESA and getting rid of Atos; policies which really help people into work and supporting them in work; and which help make sure that people who can’t work have an adequate income to live with dignity.

If he can show that he really really listened, we’ll encourage Labour MPs to vote for him in the next Shadow Cabinet elections.

As Liam says, we need “a bargain that rewards the people who do the right thing”. If he does the right thing and listens to people living in poverty, then his reward would be greater support from the Labour grassroots and greater job security.

The politics of "I met a man"

"I met a black man in his 40's who'd been in the Royal Navy for 30 years"  was a (paraphrased) refrain from David Cameron during the Leader's Debates last year. Now, it seems Ed Miliband has met a man too. Unlike David's man, Ed's wasn't a hard working member of a minority group who'd been serving in the armed forces longer than he'd been an adult. Oh no. Ed's man was a 'scrounger' A good man, a man who wanted to do his best by his family, but still a scrounger whom Ed, without any medical qualifications, training or experience feels able to inform the nation could work if he felt like it.

Maybe he could work, maybe he can't. In this sense it doesn't really matter - using an IT company to administer so called 'fit to work medicals' which are nothing more than government decided descriptors is no more accurate than using Ed's lack of medical expertise to decide upon people's fitness to work. Something that Liverpool MP Steven Timms could have told Ed had he bothered to ask. There are already over 1000 genuinely sick and/or disabled people in Merseyside who've been refused sickness benefits despite being too ill to work. Despite poor mathematical skills and the lack of Ed's research team, even I can work out that will extrapolate to 10's if not 100's of thousands of sick and disabled people being refused the benefits which they have paid for via national insurance across Britain.

Issues of benefit fraud and welfare dependancy are important to tackle, none hate benefit fraud more than those forced into a position of genuine reliance upon the benefits system. The increasing scrounger rhetoric is terrifying to those of us knowing that no matter how much we wish to work, how much we try, not only is the system stacked against us, but that the health issues we face are inescapable. Whilst some small steps have been made by Labour MP's such as Liam Byrne to separate out the sick and/or disabled from the unemployed, it's such a quiet statement against the torrent of abuse heaped upon sick and/or disabled people by the wider media and political climate it leaves room for the one message Labour sent to the electorate via Ed Miliband yesterday.

Incapacity benefit claimants are irresponsible scroungers. Even when they're actually decent, honest, have worked, become genuinely incapacitated and are now trying to bring up their families as best they can, they're still scroungers who should just try harder.

The detail of the rest of the speech didn't matter. The message was hammered home in the first paragraph. The Labour party, the party of the people, the party of social justice, led by Ed Miliband are more than happy to be seen as the party demonising disabled people.

As the 'reformed' Work Capability Assessment originally introduced by New Labour continues to deny benefits to genuinely sick and/or disabled people, and the press slowly move away from sensationalist scrounger stories to reporting more and more genuinely ill people being denied benefits, Ed's slam a scrounger policy will undoubtedly return to incapacitate him.

Message Board

Since the announced closure of the BBC's Ouch messageboards there has been alot of anxiety about a new safe space for sick and/or disabled people to discuss the issues relevant to us. There have been problems with the existing Broken of Britain forum for some time now and as we also had concerns about the full accessibility of the forum platform we were using we've decided to start a new forum from scratch to iron out these issues. As soon as we're set up and running you'll be the first to know!