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Welfare Reform Bill is blot on social care landscape

Peter-Beresford-60.jpg

by Peter Beresford

Only a matter of weeks to go now for the consultation on the social care green paper: Care, Support, Independence: Shaping the future of care together.  But I won’t be the first service user or carer to say that we can’t consider the green paper without also taking into account the Welfare Reform Bill.

Recently our attention has been focused particularly on the links between benefits and social care because of the disturbing proposal contained in the green paper to end greatly valued universal benefits like Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance and instead put the cash into the discretionary budgets local authorities have for means and needs tested social care. Currently the number of signatures opposing this on the Prime Minister’s website totals nearly 17,000.  

Vicious and dishonest campaigns

The Welfare Reform Bill is a very different matter to the social care green paper. It was rushed into existence by a government determined to reduce the number of people on benefits because of the political stick it felt it was getting for being ‘soft on scroungers’. I wonder now that the Sun has switched sides whether the government will regain the courage to ignore the vicious and dishonest campaigns that tabloid has against powerless groups like people on benefits, refugees and asylum seekers, since there’s nothing to be gained now by brown-nosing its proprietor.

But the government committed itself to ‘getting one million people off incapacity benefits’ and as the party conferences have highlighted, benefit reform which makes life more difficult for people who are poor and marginalised or debarred from the labour market, is still seen by politicians of many colours as an easy vote winner.

The Welfare Reform Bill has been a mess. A major job as it has gone through parliamentary process has simply been to try and make it workable. But its ethical stance continues to be highly problematic. The essential problem that the Department for Work and Pensions still seems to have is that it frames people as intentionally dependent. Its model of human nature must be close to that of Machiavelli. People are, as best we can judge, in its eyes, inherently dishonest, lazy and on the scrounge.

Green paper undermined

All the positive rhetoric of the social care green paper, with its emphasis on inclusion, involvement and support are undermined by the DWP and its Welfare Reform Bill which are framed in terms of people’s deficits and pathology. Having a job is not seen as a right which the DWP and JobCentre Plus have conspicuously failed adequately to support people to secure. Instead it has been seen as a responsibility which it is assumed people want to shirk. You have to prove you need any help and then face the most negative stereotyping. Instead there should be an awareness that by ensuring people the support they need, they are likely to be able to live more independently and make the kind of contribution to their community most of us want to make.

You can’t have a social care green paper based on the philosophy of independent living successfully co-existing with a Welfare Reform Bill that still seems to suspect people who are poor, older, disabled or chronically ill of being the internal enemy. Something has to give – and my real fear is that it will end up being people at the mercy of such policy.

But there’s a real alternative. As Conservative plans to attack poor and powerless people become clearer, government might do well to remember that its positive history and the historic value people have attached to it have been as the creator of the welfare state and advocate of the disadvantaged.


About Simeon Brody

Community Care managing web editor

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3 Responses to Welfare Reform Bill is blot on social care landscape

  1. frances 12 April , 2013 at 12:18 am #

    Couldn’t agree more about the Welfare Reform Bill.

    Because NewLabour and the Tories have been colluding in this massive attack on the Welfare State there has been no informed public debate. Get the scroungers has been the level of the comment. The government seem to forget that the purpose of the new ESA is actually to protect and support all sick and disabled people – not to hound fraudsters. Yet the legislation is framed in threats and takes all security and peace of mind away from sick people. The effect on people with severe and enduring mental health issues could be disastrous.

    Apparently we will have to wait for tragedies before the commentators and public wake up to the reality of ESA. Imagine conducting a social experiment on sick people and causing untold fear and distress to them for the sake of weeding out fraudsters (real or mythical). You couldn’t make it up.

    The Carerwatch campaign blog against ‘conditionality’ being applied to people with severe mental ilness is at

    http://carerwatch.com/mhealth/

    We’ll be campaigning against this bill up to the wire with the last sessions for debate in the Lords beginning on the 22.10.09

  2. I am one of those Peter refers to as having pointed out how the Welfare Reform Green Paper trumps the Adult Care Green Paper. You can read my ‘Fair is Just a Four Letter Word’ piece at the Carer Watch website. For those involved in standing up against attacks on disability benefits, the
    Welfare Watch
    forum is also well worth visiting, as is the Carer Watch website in general.

    Peter concludes this piece by proposing that Labour turns back to its welfare state roots. I strongly suspect that for that to happen, they would need a complete cabinet reshuffle, as well as a new leader.

    Meanwhile, Peter does not mention — and neither does my Carer Watch piece — EU dimensions to issues of welfare reform. London MEP Jean Lambert does, however. 20/10/2009 MEPs call for protection of social rights in EU’s response to economic crisis.

    EU Employment & Social Affairs Committee member Jean Lambert writes:

    “Over the last 18 months the EU has seen many growing pressures on its social provision with Estonia, Spain, Ireland, Lithuania and Latvia particularly suffering from rising unemployment.

    “As Member States struggle to reduce national debts, there is a real danger that social budgets will be cut and the advances made on social well-being will be rolled back. In the UK, the Government is already deciding where to cut public expenditure to make up the deficit in the national finances, caused by the massive bailout package for the banking sector.

    “Many Governments across the EU are requiring recovery assistance to help stabilise their economies. Hungary, Latvia and Romania have requested help from the European Community and others may soon follow. However, the rules attached to this financial assistance demand that those countries reduce their pensions and benefits provision, abolish subsidy schemes and increase their retirement age. Such demands appear at odds with a number of the EU’s objectives, not least its aim to achieve a decisive and measurable reduction in poverty and social exclusion by 2010.

    “It is therefore important that the Commission and Member States evaluate the social impact of all anti-crisis measures on a regular basis. I want to see such monitoring reported back to the European Parliament so that we can try to avoid any adverse outcomes in the long-term.”

    Yet who does the evaluating is vitally important, and we are due a General Election by about June 2010.

  3. Dave Clark 12 April , 2013 at 12:18 am #

    As a life-long labour supporter (until now) I would have to disagree that Labour and Tories are united on this – Lord Freud (Tory) has stressed that scrapping AA would go against the personalisation of care and no Tory Minister has suggested scrapping AA. Only Labour want to do this. Assumedly Brown wants to be the last Labour PM, hence a vicious assault on the disabled to ensure that Labour can never gain power again.