Sunday 6 October 2013

Advice for Labour on Welfare

God, I'm not sure I ever felt as demoralised or as close to giving up. It seems we will lose both Anne McGuire AND Liam Byrne in the reshuffle and whilst I realise most of you will dance happily on Liam's grave, if nothing else, he'd got to a stage where he really understood the issues. Now we have to start from scratch with a whole new team. No continuity and absolutely no guarantee that they will give a monkey's about disability OR will take forward any of the VERY promising Making Rights a Reality proposals I'd found so encouraging.

I gave a speech for the Labour List rally at Labour conference. I didn't really write it for the audience, but for the Labour rising stars who would be present, urging them to get passionate and take the fight over welfare to the Tories with passion and confidence.

I thought I'd publish it here in the hope that whoever might get the jobs next read it and take note.

*Withers in corner and whimpers*

"We’ve all heard this government of Tories say that they plan to make the next election about Welfare.

They want to paint Labour as “soft on scroungers”

Well it’s time we fought back!!

This government have failed in every last strand of their so called “welfare reforms”. They haven’t just failed, they’ve failed spectacularly.

Universal credit is a total mess. IT systems are not up to the job, the national rollout has been put back time and time again and staff say there is a total lack of strategic management. It’s terrifying!

The Work Programme has failed too. In half of the places it’s operating, people are more likely to find a job on their own!! For people with an illness or disability it’s failed even more completely, with just a handful of people helped into work.

Personal Independence Payments, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance has been rolled out against the wishes and advice of the entire disabled community. It will strip half a million people with real barriers to society of the help they need to live and work.

The so called Youth Contract has helped just 4,600 young people to get jobs against a target of 160,000

Half a million people now rely on foodbanks to feed their families!! Half a million! In the UK, in 2013. And what do Lord Freud and Michael Gove have to say? That people only take free food because it’s available, that they don’t know how to budget. Disgusting, out of touch nonsense as offensive as it is misguided.

The Bedroom Tax – costing a billion more than it might have saved, pushing people out of their homes, their communities. Forcing them into poverty and despair.

And Employment Support Allowance. ESA. The greatest failure of all. Over 200,000 rejected claims found to be wrong and overturned in law. 10s of Thousands dying just months after being found fit for work. Half a million people in limbo because their claims are lost somewhere in the Atos chaos.

Newspapers fed lies unchallenged, about “scroungers” and “skivers” to prop up a system that can only hate, sanction and judge. Hate crime soaring, Sick and Disabled people trapped in their own homes, care packages slashed, independent living under threat.

And all the while the benefit bill soars.

So for all this pain, all this failure, for all the fear and misery Ian Duncan Smith’s botched reforms have caused, for all the cuts, how much have this government managed to cut the benefit bill by?

They haven’t!!! They haven’t succeeded at all!! Far from it!! In fact this government will have seen the welfare bill RISE by 20 billion pounds!!! 20 Billion!!! Why? Because George Osborne has failed just as dramatically at the treasury!! All that pain, all those ruined lives for nothing, just to balance out the incompetence of a failed chancellor!!! Growth has failed to hit any of the targets Osborne set, inflation has remained high, eating into our wages and savings and jobs have not materialised. All of this failure has to be paid for! People with no jobs can’t pay tax! Parents pushed out of the jobs market need support.

Oh the cuts are real. The pain is real. But Osborne’s failures have been so great, none of this has made a scrap of difference to the economy. These cuts have been sucked into the black hole of his economic failures and still they’re not enough. Still the balance sheet is 20 billion short! Are you SURE you want to gloat about your welfare track record Mr Cameron? Are you SURE you want the public to focus on how completely you’ve failed?

When Labour were in power, the jobseekers bill fell EVERY YEAR. Out of work sickness benefits fell EVERY YEAR. Lone parent benefits and Youth unemployment fell EVERY YEAR. Why are we so afraid to tell people? Why have we allowed the public to believe this Tory nonsense?

Do the coalition really want to ask how Labour can possible care about the welfare of our people? ALL of our people? We should make no apology for it!! Does that make us “the party of benefits” Everything I’ve just said shows exactly the opposite. The EVIDENCE shows the opposite.

We MUST take up their challenge. We must be prepared to talk about social security with fire and passion. We must remind people how they slashed tax credits for disabled children, how they removed child benefit from hard working families. We MUST shout from the rooftops that this government set about dismantling every last service and support our sick and disabled people rely on to live with dignity. Most of all we must remind the country how they promised a welfare revolution but provided nothing more than total chaos, a lot of hot air and a huge bill.

We must remind the country how this government of fools watched their wages fall and did nothing. How they watched their rents soar and did nothing. How they watched them struggle to find homes they could afford and did nothing. How they allowed the welfare bill to spiral out of control and did NOTHING.

Friends, welfare isn’t a dirty word. It means to “fare well” and we in this Labour Party I love, want every last person in this country to fare well. Not just a rich elite. Social Security means the security to live IN society, not on its fringes.

The ONLY way to reduce the benefits bill is to make sure that people have work that pays. To make sure the economy grows and that the right support is in place to help people on their way. This government have failed at every attempt. There is no doubt left, it’s not up for debate. Their so called “reforms” are a mess and because of it, people up and down the country don’t know how they will pay their rent next week. They have no idea where the next meal will come from.

We should make no apology for defending them. For speaking out for them. We should make no apology for promising that we will do everything we can to make sure that those abandoned by this government are treated once again as human beings.

By 2015, the media will be full of these stories of suffering and pain. As more and more are abandoned, more Mums, Grans, Brothers and Daughters, the public will turn, as they are turning already towards a party that offers compassion, justice and hope. We can make sure that welfare WINS us votes, we don’t need to hide away behind the Daily Mail.

And most of all, we should NEVER apologise for caring about the people who’s votes we hope to win.


  1. I would send it to my MP (Michael Meacher) but it would be like preaching to the converted but there are many others who need a sharp reminder.

  2. If Liam is replaced then sooth yourself with the knowledge that he helped IDS break the rule of law by using retrospective legislation to defeat #workfare victims and stop them from recieving compensation after a court of law found in their favour over the Tory illegal measures. If Ed replaces him then I will be a very proud individual as Ed Milliband stands up against strong on behalf of the weak.

  3. Dear Sue,

    A very good speech which I hope labour will take on board.

    Unfortunately I doubt they will. They seem more interested in wooing the middle ground and not in those at the bottom of the heap, as we truly are! Politics in the last few decades seems to be more about money than people. Sadly!

  4. Liam Byrne's 'as tough as the Tories' attitude on Welfare made it possible for this evil regime to carry on killing people. If Labour had protested sooner, when all the facts about the ATOS/DWP deaths, and all the other disasters, started coming in, as soon as they had the Spartacus report, as soon as blogs by those affected with knowledge of the issues affecting sick and disabled started talking about the changes, they could have saved lives. They didn't.
    I hope and pray that whoever replaces Byrne finally gets it. Complicity in evil is as bad as the evil itself. Sorry but whenever someone says Labour are 'getting it' I wonder how many people will die this week as a result of welfare 'reforms'. This is not to say that the Tories aren't much, much worse, and I know you Sue, and so many other individuals and groups are doing more than is humanly possible...but Labour, trying to win the middle class vote while poor people die...I have no respect for them at all any more. You shouldn't be having to make the case for sick and disabled people. THEY SHOULD.

    1. All true and it shiuldn't be forgotten, austerity is an invention, a fiction the Coalition are proagating in order to strip the country of its assets, assets we've paid for. Labour should be scoring again and again into ths wide open goal but instead they pussyfoot around the edges. Labour, where the Hell are you?

    2. Well said Bill.
      I can't believe how Labour doesn't even understand the situation. "It's the economy, stupid".

  5. Whoever takes over will surely be better then Liam Byrne
    he knew the issues as we all do but played the fool and stayed quite when it was very simple he allowed many sick and disabled to die so it's only right he should bow out

  6. Hi all. Just wanted to show you this, from chelsea fc website, it brought a big smile to my face, hope it makes you feel nice too. "CHELSEA'S DISABILITY MANAGER TO BE HONOURED FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO FOOTBALL".

    Posted on: Sun 06 Oct 2013
    Chelsea disability manager Rob Seale is to be honoured at a special Buckingham Palace ceremony hosted by HRH The Duke of Cambridge to recognise his services to football.

    Seale will be among 150 grassroots heroes to be celebrated on Monday (7 October) at an event that forms part of The Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations. The heroes have all been chosen for their outstanding contribution and service to football and it was Seale's hard work and dedication in developing opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport that led to his successful selection.

    He will receive a medal from The FA president, HRH The Duke of Cambridge as one of those 150 people from across the national and professional game who regularly go above and beyond the call of duty.

    Through Seale's dedication, players of any age and ability are welcomed into Chelsea Community FC and given the opportunity to represent the club in competitive disability leagues and cups both at home and abroad. He has put his heart and soul into providing disabled players with new and exciting opportunities to play football. Every player is a valued individual and every player is encouraged to be the best they can be.

    A focal point of the day will see the Buckingham Palace garden host its first ever football match, featuring two of the oldest amateur clubs in England. The game, which will be an official Southern Amateur League fixture, will be played between Civil Service FC, the sole surviving club from the 11 that met to create The FA in 1863, and Polytechnic FC.

    Seale was delighted to be selected. 'It's a huge honour to be recognised in this way,' he said. 'I'm passionate about providing opportunities to get disabled people enjoying sport. I've always believed that sport can play a really important part in enriching people's lives and bringing them together.'

    HRH The Duke of Cambridge, president of The Football Association, said: 'In our 150th year, it is hugely important for The FA to honour the efforts of the many thousands of volunteers who week in, week out, help to provide the opportunity for millions more people to enjoy football at grassroots level. Inviting 150 of these volunteers to Buckingham Palace provides a fitting way for The FA to pay tribute and give thanks.'

    Greg Dyke, chairman of The Football Association, said: 'These volunteers are the heartbeat of football. Without them, the game simply wouldn't function at a grassroots level and it is only right that The FA honours their tireless and selfless work. We are delighted that, in his role as President of The FA, HRH The Duke of Cambridge has given his support to this initiative - even going as far as arranging for the first-ever game of football to be played at Buckingham Palace in honour of our grassroots heroes.'

  7. Thanks for posting Sue, really inspiring. Who knows, the new people could be better - they might even 'get it' on their own, anything is possible... Can you tell us what the reaction was like to your speech?

    1. Well, I had to follow Owen Jones, just before Yvette Cooper! No pressure. There was free booze so it was a lively, chatty crowd. You really had to give it the full oration bit!

      But I flatter myself to say they stopped and listened to my speech, and it got a huge cheer. Owen liked it so much he knocked me over with a Tigger hug. The grassroots Labour people (remember they ARE the party) have given me absolute unswerving, generous support. If it wasn't for Left Foot Forward, Labour List, Liberal Conspiracy, Michael Meacher and so many others, none of you would know who I was. It inspires me greatly that MY party support me so strongly and try to create chances for me to be heard. It gives me great hope.

  8. I Totally agree with every single word you have written Sue. If Labour came out and stood behind the disabled & the poorest in our society & said it would overturn the reforms, if they did this instead of pandering to the middle classes, they would win the next election by a landslide. I hope & pray they will see the light before 2015.. or god help us all.. I dread to think what will happen!!

  9. Labour have failed miserably to address any issues. It is like watching a group, infiltrated with spies, taking over the agenda. It would be comical, if it weren't real life.

  10. The main problem with welfare reform is that the DWP staff when you phone them up don't know the correct procedure in taking things further within the DWP system. All they do is read from a script as if the person phoning up was enquiring about their broadband service
    If someone is telling them that, an error has been made by an assessment and that they have had many years of illness or disability that call should then be taken over by someone in senior management of the DWP and not left like now to someone on a help line desk well out of their depth

    If the call was taken over by senior management they would then be able to track it in a manner that would make sure that all the paperwork was in order from ATOS and any details missing they would then get those from the claimants doctor. This is the correct procedure and anyone of the staff who is making errors could then be reprimanded and any death that was to happen could then be handed to the police as to why someone has died so that they could determine the cause to rule out rouge staff
    The senior management could then liaise with the claimant’s mp so that the claimant was not so stressed by what was going on as is not in their control

    Your doctor manages the health of a patient and he or she is responsible for your medical records and their upkeep it is not the patient’s responsibility to involve themselves with the medical phrases and interpretations from their medical records to put down on to paper as getting it wrong can cost your life as we have seen all to often
    The whole welfare system overall lacks staff with the right type of not only qualifications but also personality and if would could get that right we might make some headway in cutting the overall death toll

  11. When I read about everything that is going on I worry more and more. yes there are people who take advantage of the system, but there are millions more in need who I worry will be the easy targets.

    In a society where people are better off living off the state, something is very wrong. I have worked hard all my life, and am now in a position where I have had to look at buying and financing my own house, alone. Having met with a building society who were amazing, explained so much and offered to loan me a decent amount of money. I left and then looked at my wage, versus the cost of bills, mortgage repayments, cost of living, petrol costs to get to and from work... there is no way I can afford to love alone.

    It's a joke!!!

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