Yesterday, Lords voted to overturn the one-year time limit to contributory Employment and Support Allowance proposed by the government. They were defeated by a staggering 224 votes to 186. We had lobbied on this issue more than any other. Yesterday, we posted a full briefing on why. You can read it here :
When we started campaigning, we had four very, very clear objectives. There are other things that urgently need to be changed in the Lords, and we thank them for their forensic attention to detail that means these other issues are not being ignored.
Today, the DWP and the very highest ministers in government will be everywhere trying to mitigate the damage of yesterday's defeat. You will hear their misrepresentation of us on every TV show, in every paper. You will cringe at every inaccuracy, burn at every line of spin.
Mostly, I know that you will burn at the injustice of not being heard. You will wonder - as we have always wondered - why the mainstream media persist in ignoring truth and reason and evidence. Journalists will not be queueing to ask how the defeat came about, to ask the campaigners who almost certainly made it happen.
You might burn too, when you hear Labour claim this as their victory.
None of that matters. The public were never ours to lose. We have come this far without them, by making reasonable, calm, evidence based arguments to the people who really matter, the people with all the power. We have come to this point by engaging with politicians of all colours, by owning social media and using it to make our own news.
Today, you have truth and justice on your side. The Government do not. No Government is defeated on the scale we saw last night, with the very strong majorities we saw, by accident. It was the undeniable injustice of the Government's plans that convinced the Lords.
Do what we do best and make our case honestly. Re-post articles, write short statements, blog, contact friendly journalists and see if they will drop a little of the DWP spin angles. Contact supporters and let them know we won and what it means. Own the internet. It's all we have.
Perhaps a short note to some of the peers you lobbied thanking them? We have been insistent and a thank you is always nice.
Trust in our case, trust in the evidence we have presented, but most of all trust yourselves. Governments are not defeated often in the way ours was yesterday and you did it. Without the TV news, without much of the printed news, without an opposition, whatever Labour MPs claim today. The Labour Lords worked tirelessly for us however and they deserve a huge thank you.
The following briefing is one we posted months ago, that outlines our key concerns with the welfare reform bill and the measures affecting sick and disabled people today. Feel free to use it, share it in any way you like.
The Government - and media - might like to notice that we have already won the first one, The Spartacus Report directly addresses the 2nd one, and last night's vote casts huge doubt on the third.
We are not an aimless campaign group with no real goals, we are not unreasonable or aggressive.
We are the sick and disabled of the UK. We are Spartacus.
Briefing of our 4 main objectives :
Whilst some of the bill might be helpful, I want to be very clear today about which parts sick and disabled campaigners feel are unacceptable :
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 contributory Employment Support Allowance (cESA, 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 "capable of limited work" under ESA, and not qualifying for unconditional support (known as the Support group who are not affected by the time limit) but after 1 year, if they have a working partner, they will receive no ESA whatsoever. All of their benefit will simply 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.
-The assessments are not necessarily carried out by a doctor.
-40% of rejected claims are going to appeal with up to 70% of those decisions being overturned.
-Assessments are humiliating and degrading causing great anxiety to those genuinely in need.
-Just 7% of claimants are being found unfit to work.
-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"
-The descriptors exclude many serious, long term conditions or disabilities. This means that many serious conditions are simply unlikely to qualify.
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.
Remember to tweet using #spartacusreport and when sharing links or emailing. Thanks, Sue My Facebook page is currently blocked, but you will find all the same articles at http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/ Please use this slink to post to Facebook
Please also sign Pat's Petition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20968 calling for a pause to the reforms until they are safe.