The most important thing to do is to sign Pat's Petition to get the Welfare Reform Bill paused for reflection. Activists manage to get the NHS bill paused to buy themselves more time to present evidence of the harm it would do: We need to do the same for the WRB. The petition needs 100,000 signatures and so far it's only had 7,935. We're a long way off but it can be done if people sign and share; in the summer petitions around punishing rioters reached the 100,000 mark in a day or 2. But it requires people putting in the effort and giving a crap. Please, please, sign and share this.
Other government e-petitions that need signing while you're on the e-petitions page:
- Someone has started a petition to make it a criminal offence to maliciously report someone for benefit fraud. With 96% of calls to the benefit fraud hotline being malicious in nature, falsely accusing someone of benefit fraud is a major form of hate.
- The other relevant e-petition is to save the Independent Living Fund. In a guest post for us last year, Martyn Sibley explained the importance of ILF funding. On a related note; DPAC are collecting signatures opposed to the ILF closure on a campaigning letter to be circulated next year.
The Welfare Reform Bill is currently at the report stage in the Lords. Votes on amendments like DLA and contributory ESA will be held in January. So far the votes have been really close with the amendment on the frequency of Universal Credit payments being defeated by only 3 votes and the amendment to not halve disabled children's benefits losing by only 2 votes. The government has suffered one defeat so far in the under-occupancy amendment. In that vote there was even one Tory peer who voted against.
This all shows that we can make a difference at this stage if we put pressure on the peers. We mainly need to target the Lib Dem and crossbench peers, but Lord Newton of Braintree has proved that even Tories can be persuaded to vote against these barbaric cuts which will have devastating outcomes for disabled people.
Some of the info in this template letter is now outdated as it was drafted back in September. But the list of contacts for Lords is useful for getting in touch and sharing your concerns. Tell them that you're worried about the effect arbitrarily slashing 20% from the DLA budget will have, tell them that limiting contributory ESA to one year is ludicrous as many - possibly even most - serious ongoing illnesses don't clear up within 365 days.
There's also a list of the peers that use Twitter. Tweet at them with your concerns, send them links to articles and blog posts that you feel express your worries best. As with writing EMails or letters; it's best to target your energies at Lib Dem and crossbench peers, but it can't hurt to send your concerns to all peers; Lord Newton of Braintree having proved Tories can be persuaded to vote against these brutal cuts.
Some members of the House are either depressingly ill-informed or simply liars. Lord Wolfson claimed on Question Time 2 weeks ago that disability benefits have the highest fraud rates. This is desperately untrue. One of our readers, Joss, has written to Wolfson pointing out his statement lacking in factual basis. I would urge you to do the same; not just to Wolfson, but to any Peer you happen to catch spouting inaccuracies. It's possible they are simply ill-informed rather than malicious so it's important we make sure they are informed before they go to vote.
Other petitions apart from ones on the government's own page:
- The Lords have already voted to allow disabled children's benefits to be cut as part of the bill, despite the fact that 4 in ten disabled children already live in poverty before that cut comes in. Every Disabled Child Matters have set up this e-action to Email David Cameron (who once had a disabled child himself, of course...)
- Scope have set up this action to try and save legal aid for benefits appeals. 14,000 people every year are vindicated when their DLA rejection is overturned; Legal Aid is a lifeline.
There are many campaign groups out there that have had tremendous success this year but have done little (if anything) to engage with these welfare issues. We need to get their support.
38 Degrees have had so many successes this year like getting the forestry sell-off cancelled and getting the NHS bill paused. We really need their help but they're reluctant. They say they only carry out campaigns their members ask for so tell them loudly and clearly that you want them to campaign against welfare reform! Blogger Chrissy sent them this excellent Email and I'd suggest you do the same. It also occurs to me as someone with a bit of a background in the voluntary sector that if an organisation receives a restricted donation earmarked for a specific cause they have to either spend it as the donor requests, or return the money. With bodies like 38 Degrees funding their campaigns through asking for member donations, I don't see why one can't send them a restricted donation earmarked to only be spent on fighting the welfare reform bill. Not as underhand and manipulative as it might sound; charities get restricted funding every day, and returning unspent restricted donations is not uncommon either. They need to know people are willing to pay for an anti-WRB campaign, so give them the message loud and clear!
If you are, or you know people who are, in the UK Uncut inner circle then please beg them to do something. Occupations ditto. OccupyLSX were asked by WtB to support Hardest Hit rally in London in October. They didn't. Please, please try to change this.
And finally, get this to-do list out there. Tweet it, post it on Facebook and Google+, link to it from your blog, and Email it to all your friends. Ask left-leaning slebs or those who've shown interest in disability issues to retweet it. And not just celebs, of course: Ask anyone who can get the list of actions shared on to a greater audience. But most importantly: Do the actions too! So many people these days will retweet or share a link to a petition without actually signing.
We've only got until January to stop this list from exploding exponentially in 2 years when the proposed WRB would come into effect. Don't let this happen. Please do something to stop it.