So, with the welfare reform bill about to have it's second reading in the Lords, I've written this template letter to send and DarkestAngel32 blog have produced this brilliant list of email addresses to send it to.
Obviously feel free to send your own letter about the things that matter most to you, but if you'd like to send mine, you're very welcome. Email addresses are at the end and whether you send the letter to one peer or everyone on the list, it all makes a difference.
Please do join in. The more letters and emails they receive, the more chance we have of making a difference. The bill is already facing difficulties because of the brilliant work we did while it was in the commons. Now we need to build on that and make sure that as many peers as possible know about the issues.
Finally, please share this article, tweet, link and send to friends. Thanks.
Dear ..........[insert name of peer]
On the 13th September, the welfare reform bill will have it'second reading in the House of Lords.
Rather unusually, many aspects of the bill are yet to be finalised or fully detailed. This in itself, will, I'm sure, make your job rather difficult as you consider the many, many details and changes proposed.
However, I'm writing to you with some very specific concerns that sick and disabled people have and I've linked to some articles and research which I hope you will find helpful.
1) Removing Disability Living Allowance mobility payments from adults in residential care.
An adult who needs to live in residential care will have extensive needs and are often amongst the most severely disabled. The mobility component of DLA afforded them their only freedom, allowing them to choose to fund a power wheelchair otherwise unavailable on the NHS, or to pay for taxis or transport to get out now and then. Taking this away would leave the most vulnerable disabled people effectively housebound. There is no support for this change anywhere - charities, independent benefit reports and even the government's own advisers have called for this to be removed from the bill.
2) Scrapping DLA entirely and replacing it with Personal Independent Payments (PIPs).
DLA is a very effective benefit with fraud rates of less than 1% (DWP own figures) It is already incredibly hard to claim and the qualification criteria are very narrow. The government have announced that DLA claimants will also soon face assessment and that the overall number of claimants will be reduced by at least 20%. The government's own advisory committee concluded that they could find no justification for this reform and have asked for clarification from the government.
If a benefit is already very efficient, yet a government announce a 20% cull before a single assessment has even taken place, we conclude it can only be a cost cutting measure that will ignore genuine need.
3) Time limiting Employment Support Allowance (ESA, previously Incapacity Benefit) to 1 Year
Many people who need to claim ESA have "long term variable" or chronic illnesses such as MS, Parkinson's, Bowel Disease, Leukaemia or severe Mental Illness. These conditions often do not go away after a year and sadly, often get worse over time. A high percentage of those with these conditions are being found "fit for work" under ESA but after 1 year, if they have a working partner, they will receive no state assistance whatsoever. All of their benefit will be stopped, a loss of just under £5000 a year.
4) ATOS assessments are "unfit for purpose" and a better way of assessing need must be implemented.
ATOS are the private company charged with assessing over 1.5 million sick and disabled people during this parliament.
-Up to 40% of rejected claims are going to appeal with up to 70% of those decisions being overturned with representation.
-Assessments are humiliating and degrading causing great anxiety to those genuinely in need.
-Just 7% of previous claimants are being found unfit to work on a long term basis.
-Testimony from Consultants and GPs is often ignored entirely.
-People are dying before lengthy appeals can be heard.
-Even the professor who designed these assessments calls them a "complete mess"
There are other problems with the bill - capping housing benefit; re-classifying "mobility" so that those who use their wheelchairs too efficiently can be classed as "fully mobile"; removing an age related payment from ESA; scrapping the Independent Living Fund; cutting community care provision; cutting the Access to Work programme and many more - all of which will hurt sick and disabled people disproportionately, but the four points above MUST be addressed before the Welfare Reform Bill is passed.
They are causing or will cause real hardship.
They will not achieve savings as pressures will only be shifted to the NHS or social care provision.
They will increase homelessness, mental illness and poverty amongst this most vulnerable group of all
They will leave many in genuine need without support
They reduce the independence, standard of life and dignity of those we have a basic duty to protect.
I urge you to give these issues your time and consideration. Please, help us to make sure that amendments to the bill are passed ensuring that these 4 issues are addressed.
...............[add your name]
List of contact details :
Baroness Thomas of Winchester
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin
Baroness Stowell of Beeston
Lord Bishop of Hereford
Countess of Mar
Lord Feldman of Elstree
Lord Stoneham of Droxford
Lord Boswell of Aynho
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town
Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill
Baroness Hollis of Heigham
Baroness Howe of Idlicote
Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Baroness King of Bow
Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope
Lord Knight of Weymouth
Baroness Lister of Burtersett
Lord Low of Dalston
Lord Mackay of Clashfern
Lord Mckenzie of Luton
Lord Morris of Handsworth
Lord Newton of Braintree
Baroness Turner of Camden