I don't often blog about politics, but some things are too important for me to ignore.
The Welfare Reform Bill is currently making it's way through the UK Parliament. There are very many things wrong with this Bill, but I'll concentrate here on some of those affecting people with disabilities.
If you're unable to work due to sickness or disability, you get Employment or Support Allowance. (People on the previous benefit, Incapacity Benefit, are gradually being migrated over.) There are two types of ESA - one depending on your National Insurance contributions, and one depending on your income.
The Welfare Reform Bill will bring in a change so that if you're on the contributory version, and you have a partner who's earning any more than a pittance, your benefit will stop after a year.Yes, just like that. No matter how much poverty that plunges your family into.
Then there's Disability Living Allowance. The WRB proposes that this should change to a new benefit, tentatively renamed Personal Independence Payment. The Government made proposals about this, and put them out for consultation. All very good, I hear you say. What am I moaning about?
A new report, Responsible Reform, has been entirely drawn up by severely sick and disabled people. Using Freedom of Information requests, they have discovered that the Government misled MPs and peers about the level of hostility to disability benefit reform. Nearly all respondents to the consultation were opposed to the changes - up to 100% to some specific changes. This is the absolutely opposite to the Government's claims.
The consultation period was a sham anyway: it was two weeks shorter than the time-scale in the Government's own Code of Practice, this time was over Christmas anyway, and the period ended 2 days after the Bill was presented to Parliament.
So who's being responsible here? The Government, rushing ahead before consultation is complete, ignoring the results of the consultation, banishing couples and families to extreme poverty? Or the report authors, using the information from FOI requests thoughtfully to point up the flaws in the Government's actions and arguments?
I know which side my (benefit) money's on!