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Charities lobby against Bill to change welfare provision

11 January 2012

by a staff reporter

PLANS for changes in welfare pro­vision were due to face strong challenge when the House of Lords debated amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill on Wednesday.

The plans include cuts to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the abolition of Social Fund crisis loans, which help those in poverty to cope with emergencies, and cuts to assistance for cancer patients. Charities have been lobbying against the proposals and holding a vigil throughout the day outside the Palace of Westminster.

A new report researched and published by disabled people, Responsible Reform, said this week that Parliament had been misled by the Government about the huge public opposition to some of its plans, particularly cuts to the DLA. Researchers also discovered that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, a Conservative, was opposed to the changes. Only seven per cent of those who took part in the con­sultation were in favour of the Bill.

The authors of the report have been backed by charities in calling on the Government to “pause” for six months.

In an open letter this week, Church Action on Poverty, the Children’s Society, and more than a dozen other anti-poverty charities condemned the Government’s plans to abolish, in effect, the Social Fund.

They warned: “As charities responding to the needs of vulnerable children and adults in already desperate circumstances, we fear these changes could be catastrophic for some, such as those who resort to illegal moneylenders or high-cost credit, or women who return to live with a violent partner because they have no money to furnish another home for their children.”

Bishops in the Lords have long been critical of aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill. In November, 18 bishops had the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury when they wrote an open letter critical of plans for a benefits cap for families (News, 25 November).

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Revd Peter Smith, lent his voice to those concerned about the effects on families of the cuts. In a letter to The Times this week, he wrote that he feared for the “thousands of families” affected by the changes, and called for child benefit to be exempt from the proposed cap.

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