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Reform Watch

6 January 2007
CPAG fails to criticise welfare reform.

In an article entitled 'ESA and incapacity reform - a change for the better?' Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has succeeded in maintaining the almost unblemished record of national advice sector organisations when it comes to not criticising the 'reforms' they have helped to create.

The detailed and well informed article in the December 2006 edition of CPAG's Welfare Rights Bulletin listed many of the changes under ESA, such as: the harder to pass physical PCA; the universal 13 week waiting period on JSA levels of benefit; the enforced work-related activities, etc. It also pointed out many of the uncertainties still surrounding this whole area, such as when and whether existing claimants will be subject to the new PCA and the levels at which ESA will be paid.

Yet at no stage did the article actually attempt to answer the question posed in its title: CPAG offers no clue as to whether it considered ESA and incapacity reform to be a change for the better. Instead, it keeps to what is beginning to appear to be a joint decision by national advice sector bodies not to offer any opposition to the welfare reform programme.

Disability Alliance publishes information from meetings with DWP
Stung, perhaps, by our criticism of their lack of action over the issue of welfare reform, (Disability Alliance defensive and on the fence 06.12.06) Disability Alliance have published a series of Frequently Asked Questions about Employment and Support Allowance which share information given about ESA during DWP Policy and Strategy forum meetings.

This new spirit of openness is to be applauded. Unfortunately, amongst the many frequently asked questions not dealt with is whether existing claimants will be subject to the new PCA. Attempts by Benefits and Work members to get an answer to this question from MPs and ministers have so far failed. Perhaps a campaigning group with the ear of the minister could get a straight answer?

You and yours covers Welfare Reform Bill protest
BBC Radio four had an 11 minute piece on the Welfare Reform Bill on 02.01.07. The item included interviews with protestors from Welfare Reform UK, which represents the views of Open University students concerned about welfare reform and Winvisible, which represents women with visible and invisible disabilities. Both groups took part in a lobby of parliament in protest at the Welfare Reform Bill. Comedienne Liz carr and a representative from the Leonard Cheshire Foundation also voiced concerns.

Notably absent from the programme were any representatives of the national advice sector organisations.

You can listen to the Yours and Yours item on the BBC website.