Protesters have attempted to enter the House of Commons chamber during Prime Minister’s Questions.
The group, campaigning against the end of the Independent Living Fund, were prevented from getting in by police.
BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said there had been a “concerted rush” by a group of protesters towards member’s lobby, the room outside the Commons chamber.
The Green Party in government would double Child Benefit to £40 and reverse the closure of the Independent Living Fund.
Speaking at an event in Bristol, deputy leader Amelia Womack said it’s “scandalous” that families are forced to turn to food banks in the worlds sixth richest country.
“There are now 117 billionaires in the very same Britain where one in five workers earn less than a Living Wage”, she said.
“Austerity hurts the most vulnerable people in society – punishing the poor and the vulnerable for the mistakes and fraud of the bankers.”
Amelia Womack said the Green Party would reverse the closure of the Independent Living Fund, which enables disabled people to live as independently as possible in their own homes – rather than residential care homes.
“Nearly 18,000 disabled people with high-support needs rely on the fund to live their lives with choice and control, rather than going into residential care or being trapped at home”, said Womack.
“On 30th June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities. There is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.
“This cut in central Government funding puts at risk some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“Keeping the Independent Living Fund would cost around £300 million – and I’m proud to say the Green Party is committing to doing just that. We won’t stand by while this lifeline is cut away.”
She added: “But the Green Party isn’t just opposed to cuts – we believe in doing more, much more, to redistribute income within our society.
“That’s why we’re being honest about the fact that we’d increase tax for the richest in society – and it’s why we’re able to pledge that we’d double child benefit to £40 a week. For the 29% of children here in Bristol West who live in poverty, this increase will be life changing.
“It’s bold policies like these that set the Green Party apart from others. We don’t offer half-measures, or minor changes.
“In the midst of such struggle in this country, the Green Party are offering something unique: hope. We make this one very clear promise to voters: we will always stand for an economy, a society, that works for the many, not just the few.
“That means our MPs will never blame the most vulnerable for the mistakes of those at the top.
“It means that our MPs won’t go into any sort of deal with the Tories. And it means we’ll give a Labour Government a backbone – but we won’t hesitate to vote against them to ensure we’re true to our principles.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 28 Apr 2015
David Cameron was challenged over the death of diabetic benefits claimant James Clapson and over the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show. Cameron’s unapologetic response was that there are hardship funds available for ‘difficult cases’.
On his programme yesterday Marr asked Cameron if he accepted that the £22 billion of welfare cuts so far ‘has hurt a lot of poor and vulnerable people?’
Cameron replied that it had involved ‘difficult decisions’ but:
“ . . . we have protected for instance the pension, we’ve protected benefits for the lowest paid, we’ve always made sure that we’ve increased spending on disability benefits rather than reduced it.”
On the subject of why one million people now depend on food banks, Cameron argued that:
“One of the things we did was that Labour, because they didn’t like the PR of this, they didn’t advertise or promote the existence of food banks through job centres. We changed that because we thought that was, that was basically sort of selfish and shortminded…”
And when it came to the subject of James Clapson, a former soldier who failed to turn up for a Jobcentre interview, had his benefits sanctioned and died after being unable to refrigerate his insulin, Cameron was entirely unapologetic. His response was:
“Well we have hardship funds and councils have hardship funds for exactly those sorts of tragic cases but if you’re asking me is it right that people who are asked to turn up for interviews or asked to fill in a CV or asked to apply for a job should have to do those things before getting benefits then yes it’s right that we do have that system in place . . .”
When asked about another case involving a claimant with learning difficulties who had his benefits sanctioned for not using a computer, Cameron again relied on hardship funds and entirely ignored Marr’s suggestion that there should be a review of the system:
“I look at all of those individual cases and all of those cases can be addressed by the hardship funds and by the flexibilities that are there in the system . . . People watching this programme who pay their taxes, who work very hard, they don’t pay their taxes so people can sign on and show no effort at getting a job, as I put it on the steps of Downing Street those who can should; those who can’t we always help”
Cameron was equally dismissive of the abolition of the ILF, due to take place in June:
“Well what we’ve done is we’ve given that responsibility to local councils as the last resort and local councils have that funding available to help.”
When Marr pointed out that the funding is only for one year, Cameron replied simply “they have it for difficult cases” before once again reminding listeners how many more people have moved into work under the Coalition.
Cameron’s lack of compassion, apology or understanding combined with a total refusal to actually look into what is going wrong with the benefits system are a powerful reminder of what another five years of Conservative led government will mean to sick and disabled claimants.
Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Apr 2015
As expected, the Labour party manifesto holds little comfort for sick and disabled claimants. There are commitments to abolish the bedroom tax, ‘reform’ the work capability assessment and pause and review universal credit. However, the household benefit cap will stay and there was no mention of ending the current sanctions regime, pausing the roll out of personal independence payment or saving the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Labour say they will:
- Reform the WCA, focusing it on the support disabled people need to get into work
- Abolish the bedroom tax
- Set up an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to monitor the WCA
- Set up a specialist support programme to provide tailored help to disabled people who can work.
- Pause and review the universal credit programme
- Keep the household benefit cap and investigate whether it should actually be lower in some regions
- Not cut tax credits
- Introduce Maths, English and IT skills tests within six weeks of claiming JSA and make training compulsory where it would improve employability
- Introduce a guaranteed paid job for young people out of work for a year and over 25s out of work for two years
- Introduce a higher rate of JSA for those who have paid NI contributions for longer, paid for by extending the period you need to have paid contributions before you qualify
Whilst abolishing the bedroom tax remains very welcome, ‘reform’ of the WCA is a virtually meaningless commitment as is the setting up of a ‘scrutiny group’. The lack of any mention of the sanctions regime or the ILF will also disappoint many disabled activists.
A Labour led government still appears to be a considerably better bet for claimants than a Conservative one. But it’s clear that Labour remain only a less awful option, rather than a positively good one.
Source – Benefits & Work, 13 Apr 2015
Delusional David Cameron has insisted the Tory-led coalition government “protected the poorest” in society, in an interview with the Independent newspaper.
“I haven’t changed. I am a compassionate Conservative”, he told the journalist, whilst travelling from Belfast to Cardiff during a four-nations tour to promote his support for the union.
“We had to make difficult decisions”, he says. “I would argue that this has been done in a compassionate way. We protected the poorest, the pensioners, the NHS. We had a balanced plan.”
When pushed to explain why a “compassionate Conservative” would push for a further £12bn in welfare cuts after May’s general election, he replied: “There is nothing compassionate about leaving people to live on welfare when they could have the dignity and security of work”.
He claims that the coalitions welfare reforms have led to 900,000 fewer people claiming working-age benefits.
> I wonder how that figure would look once you’d deducted those sanctioned…and those who have died.
“That is a deeply compassionate thing. That is very much the impetus of our welfare reform”, he said.
“It is not just about saving money. It is about trying to save lives and change people’s lives. Can we save about half of what we saved in the last parliament through a process of reform? Yes, we can.”
David Cameron’s comments will undoubtedly infuriate thousands of families who have been forced to turn to food banks, in the wake of some of the most callous and vicious cuts to welfare and social security in living memory.
More than 900,000 jobseekers were subjected to benefit sanctions in one year alone (April 2013 to March 2014), often for unfair or spurious reasons. This has resulted in a call from the Work and Pensions Committee for an independent review into the punitive system.
> Sometime in the next few years. Maybe.
Disabled people have been targeted with cuts to vital disability benefits and other forms of support, such as the abolition of the Independent Living Fund.
Low-income working families have seen their employment rights reduced and tax credits cut.
The hated bedroom tax has pushed some of the poorest and most vulnerable people into poverty and others out of their family home.
Abolition of Council Tax Benefit has resulted in a more than *25% increase in the number of households summoned to court over unpaid Council Tax bills.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on how David Cameron’s government inflicted pain and misery on Britain’s poorest.
If this is what David Cameron calls being a “compassionate Conservative”, I hope we never get to see the real Tories. Some may argue we already have.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 07 Apr 2015
Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.
She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.
Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”
The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.
As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.
Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.
It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.
However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.
And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.
Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.
She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.
She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”
Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.
“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”
In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.
She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.
Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”
She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.
“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.
“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”
A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.
“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015
This article was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st January 2015
George Osborne says the coverage of looming new spending cuts has been “hyperbolic”, but away from Downing Street there is a strong consensus that the cumulative effect of five years of austerity will make the next wave of cuts, in 2015, very painful.
Four more years of austerity is “a price that works for our country”, Osborne said as he outlined his strategy. The Institute for Fiscal Studies responded by warning that “colossal” cuts to the state would take total government spending to its lowest level as a proportion of national income since before the second world war. By the end of the process, “the role and shape of the state will have changed beyond recognition”, the think tank said. So far, £35bn has been cut; the plan is to cut a further £55bn by 2019.
If the chancellor remains in post after the general election, Britain will find itself halfway through a nine-year stretch of spending cuts, with the Conservatives determined to shrink and redefine the role of the state. The Liberal Democrats say the Conservative policy is aimed at creating “a smaller state, with many more cuts to come”, giving Britain “austerity for ever”; 2015 will be a pivotal year in the race to reshape the nature of the state.
> Would that be the same Liberal Democrats who are part of the coalition that is making these changes to society ? Sorry, Lib Dems, don’t start wringing your hands now – you won’t get rid of the blood on them that way.
Even if they lose, difficult spending cuts look inevitable. Labour is also committed to ending the deficit, in 2017-18, provided the state of the economy allows it.
For many publicly funded services and organisations, 2015 will be the year when their chances of survival become clear. There is an enormous range in the size and the function of services under threat, which makes tracking the scale of the cuts challenging.
Here are just four examples – from the large scale to the tiny, of services that are set to go this year.
In June, the Independent Living Fund, which provides funding for around 18,000 disabled people to work and live in the community, will be wound down. In Liverpool, there will be a decision in early 2015 over whether the council will close a possible 23 out of the city’s 26 Sure Start centres. On a smaller scale, organisations including the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants, in north London, which supports around 150 refugees and asylum seekers, providing English classes, faces closure because of cuts to education budgets.
“These are people who come to us on a daily basis who desperately need some kind of support,” project manager Andy Ruiz Palma says. “I would lose my job, but I am more worried about the clients. There is nowhere else for them to go.”
In Ealing, west London, parents are campaigning to save the lollipop crossing role, done for the past 20 years by Eileen Rowles, and now at risk of being discontinued because of council spending cuts.
The Office for Budget Responsibility said in December that the chancellor’s plans would mean one million further government job losses by 2020 (a total fall from early 2011 of 1.3 million), representing a 20% fall in headcount.
Over the past five years, there has been surprise and relief from politicians that public anger about spending cuts has been relatively muted. Aside from a few annual anti-cuts marches in big cities, Britain has not experienced the waves of protest seen in countries such as Spain. Given that those most affected by the cuts are the most vulnerable and disempowered people in society, it’s perhaps not surprising that the response has been muted.
But that could change in 2015. The next stage of cutbacks is likely to be harder to ignore. The easy decisions have already been made; once the low-hanging fruit has been removed, finding new things to cut gets harder, which means the second half of the austerity era is likely to be much tougher than the first.
By next May, government funding for councils will be 40% lower than it was in 2010; and a further 13% will need to be cut in 2015.
“It is individuals who have paid the price of funding reductions, whether it is through seeing their local library close, roads deteriorate or support for young people or families scaled back. Further reductions without radical reform will have a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life,” the Local Government Association chair, Tony Sparks, says.
The National Audit Office has warned that more than half of councils currently risk falling into serious financial crisis before the end of the decade. Some may struggle to provide services that they are legally obliged to offer, and this may become apparent in 2015 with more legal action by service users.
Nicola Smith, head of economic affairs at the TUC, says:
“The scale of the spending cuts that the chancellor set out in his autumn statement briefing is truly severe. The public sector has already experienced five years of austerity. The consequences for key services that people rely on are severe.”
Osborne has said that if the Conservatives win the election he will want to cut a further £12bn a year from the welfare bill – on top of the £20m-£25m that has already been cut. He proposes freezing working-age benefits for two years, reducing the overall benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000, and limiting access to housing benefit for people under 21.
Professor John Hills, director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, says that the impact of further cuts in this area would be very painful.
“Both the political and public belief is that spending on out-of-work benefits is a large share of overall public spending; it is not. Trying to make large savings from what is really a small share of public spending will require increasingly harsh cuts. We have seen this already through things like the bedroom tax, the imposition of council tax on people with very low incomes, and the greatly increased use of sanctioning. To continue to get more savings from that group will require harsher measures.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 01 Jan 2015