Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Welfare Reform Bill

I HATE the sound of this bill. Anyway, this has just come in from Global Womens' Strike.

Welfare Reform Bill:

Mothers, carers, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence … win important changes in the Lords.
But some may be overturned on Tuesday when the Bill returns to the Commons. Join us to press MPs to keep them.

Many important concessions have been won. Testimonies from those affected, among a wealth of letters and evidence from organisations, including ours, were taken up by Peers and journalists, forcing the government to shift. The government has publicly agreed to some of the changes, but some remain under threat.

The Bill is coming back to the Commons on Tuesday 10 November.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE: Phone and/or email your MP to urge them to keep the concessions and to condemn the worst measures in the Bill.
House of Commons tel: 020 7219 3000 Find your MP

Most under threat:

· Single parents of children under five are entitled to care for our children full-time without losing benefit for not doing “work-related activity”. We need to press MPs not to overturn this. No mother should be forced to go out to work if she feels her pre-school age children need her.

Changes likely to be approved:

· Single mothers/parents of children aged three to six. Single parents on Income Support will be able to keep £50 earnings, up from £20. No “work-related activity” will be compulsory outside school hours, childcare or term-time. Mothers won’t have their benefit cut for missing “job seekers” appointments due to family responsibilities. Parents of children under 12 claiming Job Seekers Allowance will not have to work full-time and can reject jobs that do not fit within school hours.

· Parents. Jobcentre advisers and “back to work” staff must have regard for the welfare of the child in what they tell parents to do.

· Carers. Single parents will be exempt from job seeking if their disabled child under 16 receives any rate of Disability Living Allowance for care. Previously, the government said the parent must work if a child is on the low rate for care.

· Women fleeing domestic violence. A three-month exemption from job seeking. Though not enough for recovery and settling distressed children, it is an improvement over the previous discretionary decision by Jobcentre staff.

· It is illegal for anyone to be pressured into medical treatment. Jobcentre or “back to work” staff will not be able to tell disabled people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (including people with mental health problems) that they have to take their prescription or undergo surgery. The government previously claimed that some people are “wilfully keeping themselves unfit for work”. People with drug and alcohol problems can be required to attend assessments and “motivation” sessions, but cannot lose benefit for refusing rehabilitation or treatment.

Despite these changes, the Bill takes away many of our rights:

It abolishes Income Support. This is the main benefit which acknowledges unwaged caring work by single mothers and other carers.

It wipes out entitlement based on need and brings in US-style workfare. Couples with young children must both seek work. Almost all claimants of working age must look for a job or engage in a “work-related activity”. Those who cannot find a job will have to “work for their benefits”, i.e. for £1.60 an hour. Forcing more people to chase scarce jobs, while allowing employers to bypass the minimum wage, lowers everyone’s wages. Councils looking to cut costs are already preparing for workfare staff. Those of us who do not or cannot comply are threatened with destitution. Asylum seekers were the first to be made destitute, and this inhuman standard is being extended to others.

It introduces compulsory joint birth registration even where the father is violent. If the mother has no official proof of his violence (a common situation) she will be forced to give his name. Mothers of newborns should not have to worry about going to court to stop the father abusing his parental rights to persecute her and the child.

It expands charging for disability services which local authorities are allowed to deduct at source from disabled people’s personal budgets. While many disability groups welcome “the right to control” in the Welfare Reform Bill, the new percentage charging system discriminates against those with severe disabilities, who pay more from bigger budgets.

We are determined to defend our entitlement to benefits and free high-quality services. Many people have signed up to a letter condemning the abolition of Income Support. Add your name. LINK

Contact us for more info:

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)
Global Women’s Strike
Legal Action for Women

Tel: 020 7482 2496


Anonymous HarpyMarx said...

Horrible, horrible bit of legislation

And it received royal assent last week, same wk MPs overturned the Lords amendment on benefit sanctions and lone parents.

This Act is about benefit sanctions, harsh conditionality and workfare. Welcome to the workhouse.

11/17/2009 2:12 AM  
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11/20/2009 12:26 AM  
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11/30/2009 11:50 PM  
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