Tag Archives: welfare reform

Latest Social Liberal Forum publication: Universal Basic Income as a tool for tax and benefit reform

At the recent SLF Annual Conference in July, a well-attended fringe session discussed the benefits and drawbacks of Basic Income.

My contention, as Chair of this session, was that we now need to be looking more closely at Basic Income, given increasing robotisation and technological change that will massively shake up conventional work, and given that our welfare system is creaking and needs modernisation. Basic Income is a policy that seems fundamentally socially liberal, and so it seems to naturally deserve attention from the SLF and all who are socially liberal.

Therefore the SLF is very pleased …

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Baroness Celia Thomas writes…Like a WRAG to a bull

What was the issue which caused the House of Lords to defeat the Government so spectacularly on Wednesday? It was George Osborne’s latest attempt to save on the Welfare Bill by cutting sick benefits.

At the moment, if you aren’t well enough to work, having had the Work Capability Assessment, you are either put into the support group or the work-related activity group. In the support group you don’t have to look for work, but if you are in the work related activity group, you are expected to be able to get back into some kind of work eventually. Under the Bill, those in the work-related activity group (the WRAG) will have their benefit cut to align it with Jobseekers’ Allowance.

The Government say that not enough of those in the WRAG are getting into work, so they want to ‘encourage’ them by cutting their benefits, putting some of the money saved into giving this group more specialised support to get into work. However, there are no details about how this will work.

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Petition asking Labour to oppose benefit cuts sweeps the internet

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 08.23.03Lib Dems will be familiar with the many petitions launched by 38 degrees attacking us during the Coalition years in which the iniquities of the changes to benefits was a constant theme. Given that 38 degrees have frequently said that they do not support the Labour Party, it might have been expected that they would have something to say about Labour’s extraordinary decision to abstain in the vote on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on Monday evening- but they have been silent. The nice balance – 184 Labour MPs abstaining with a Govt majority of the same number is just the sort of thing that might have been expected to get their attention!

They can’t be ignoring it can’t be because there is any doubt about the effects of the cuts, independent organisations like the Child Poverty Action Group and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have made clear the damage that will be done to the poorest families, particularly by the £6 bn cuts in tax credits.

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Opinion: Tory plans to curb benefits for obese people and addicts is the opposite of enabling people to get on in life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through charity work, in two different countries, it’s that imposing your moral code on other people simply does not work. Sometimes, people are going to do things that seem wrong, or misguided, or utterly reckless, to us. When they do, it’s our role not to judge them for it, but to give them the information they need to make their own informed choices.

That’s why I was so annoyed this week just past. In Spain, a colleague of mine told me that the media had whipped up frenzy around our organisation teaching young people to use condoms correctly. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, we have the Conservative party trying to push its own moral code through the benefits system. Both examples neatly explain what the problem is with moralising narratives in society.

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Sarah Teather shows how to do an exit interview with dignity, empathy and thoughtfulness

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather’s announcement that she was standing down as a Liberal Democrat MP on the eve of our conference in 2013 did create some waves at the time. She was very critical of some of the things that the party had done in government, most notably welfare reform. Since then, she has done what she’s always done – been a strong voice speaking up for poorly treated asylum seekers and was a strong voice in the campaign against cuts to criminal legal aid.

She’s now done an interview with the Telegraph in which she talks about her time in Parliament. She’s thoughtful, reflective and does not show one trace of bitterness. In fact, she shows sympathy for Nick Clegg, despite the fact that he sacked her in the 2012 reshuffle.

Her appointment as Minister for Children meant that she could address special needs education, something which meant a huge amount to her personally:

Back in 2010, however, she found the new job a positive challenge, and felt a particular, personal, satisfaction in bringing forward legislation to transform the teaching of children with special educational needs.

“I have rather an odd educational background, I was very ill as a teenager, I missed four years of school so I suppose I have a particular affinity for children who, for one reason or another, had not found education an easy process.

“I spent a lot of that time wheelchair bound. For me it was a bit of a passion, that reform on special educational needs and disability.

She talked about her struggles over welfare reform, how she fought and won concessions and how she thought she was going to have to resign over the issue. I can understand her dilemma. I remember writing to one minister who might have gone over tuition fees to ask them to stay because of the good things they would be able to achieve for other people in their government role. For Sarah, she didn’t want to leave without making a difference for kids facing the same problems as she had.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must stand up for the Welfare State

Welfare reform is an incredibly important discussion and one that we, as Liberal Democrats, must keep re-visiting to ensure we’re upholding those core principles we hold closest to our hearts. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that offered a home to champion the values of promoting a level playing field and protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring they fulfil their potential through equality of opportunities. After all, these are central tenets of a civilised society fit for the 21st Century.

I am proud that our party has largely blunted the blade with which the Tories had brandished to slice our safety net, the treasured welfare state, right in half. But we  must go further. We must ensure that our manifesto comprehensively deals with the issue of welfare. We must be certain the most vulnerable in society are not enslaved by poverty.

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Welfare reform: enough of the stick, time for the carrot

This coalition has bravely attempted to tackle welfare reform. It’s been controversial, unpopular, but essential – the fact that unemployment has remained surprisingly low throughout this parliament is partly due to the welfare and labour market reforms this government has introduced.

However, there have been far too many losers in the last round of austerity. With the next parliament approaching we must change tact on welfare reform. As Liberal Democrats we believe that politics doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, where one group benefits at the expense of others. That’s why with any future reforms, like a surgeon we …

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