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Not ‘Welfare Reform’; give us political reform!

Liam Byrne has started Labour’s new year with a barely veiled attack on the welfare system.

“Beveridge wanted a responsible government taking determined action to create work, but a responsible workforce too. He would have wanted reform that was tough-minded, and asked everyone to work hard to find a job. He would have worried about the ways that his system had skewed social behaviour because he intended benefits to help people who had their earning power interrupted because of illness, industrial injury or the capriciousness of the trade cycle. He never foresaw unearned support as desirable”

“Would he” indeed?

Sue Marsh responds

“And what do you propose Liam? When you disappear off into your think tanks and focus groups?

For over a year, you have avoided meeting with me. You promised, but you haven’t discussed your plans with sick and disabled people.

You talk of “unearned support” Liam, but this is the Guardian! Here, on these comment threads, we all know the details of ESA, DLA, contributory time limiting and independent living funds very well – almost certainly much, much better than you do Liam. We know about the hundreds of thousands terrified about what happens to those who CANNOT earn support. Until recently, we believed you gave it freely.

You have the audacity to attack an erosion of ESA?(time limiting) When it was your government who introduced this terrible failure? Your government who wrote the descriptors making it simply impossible for many conditions to qualify?  “like employment and support allowance that working people have actually paid in for.”

Then, you dare to criticise the appeals system for the failure of ESA? When you have ignored me and Kaliya Franklin and all others who have been trying to warn you for years? When we warned you repeatedly? when we tried everything, some risking their lives to engage with you?   “current chaos in the assessment of those on disability benefits, with spiralling appeal times and poor back-to-work support, deeply troubling.”

You let Ed loose in the Daily Mail then think you can throw us a bone with a few tag on lines about ESA and disability? We already know this is a pattern! Give the scroungers a good kicking then say something nice and fluffy about sick and disabled people in the Guardian.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

I strongly recommend you stop dreaming up ways in which the welfare state can be auctioned off to the highest private bidder – even planning the very systems in partnership with those very same businesses and insurers.

I suggest you :

Listen to the suggestions and alternatives of disabled people.
Look at our ideas and policy suggestions
Stop designing policy based on a complete disregard for the evidence
IMMEDIATELY stop reinforcing the scrounger narrative – it makes a Labour Party look utterly ridiculous and confirms dangerous stereotypes.

We will win the public Liam. I promise you. By 2015, we will have made this the “NHS 1997″ issue.

So stop casting around for spurious, tough-talk soundbites, that conveniently stuff a few billion more in private pockets and get a real strategy on disability.

I suggest you do it very quickly indeed. Those prepared to apologise for these failures may retain some credibility.

The arrogant will simply be exposed as those who oversaw the biggest abuse of sickness and disability rights and protections since the welfare state was introduced.”

—-

This article is reproduced from Sue’s blog, Diary of a Benefit Scrounger

And see

Guardian front page story

An insult to the memory of Beveridge

Guardian’s panel responses

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