The three welfare amendments the Lords must fight for

Alex Hern gives their noble lordships pointers on how to avoid completely wrecking life for disabled people in Britain


The ‘ping-pong’ has started over the welfare (reform) bill, with the House of Lords debating amendments now. Six Lords amendments were rejected by the Commons, and the Lords now have to decide whether, essentially, to accept or contest each of these rejections.

In a perfect world, the Lords would fight for all of these amendments to be kept (actually, in a perfect world, the commons would see sense and drop the whole bill); but at the very least, these are the three which should be fought for tooth and nail.

Clause 51 – To time limit contributory ESA to a period “not less than 730 days” rather than a period “not exceeding 365 days”.

Dan Elton explains:

Employment and support allowance (ESA) is mainly intended for those who are disabled or ill but can work. It provides extra financial and personal support, such as training, to enable the disabled to get back into work.

Under the bill, if an ESA claimant has

• Worked in the past and previously paid national insurance

• Can perform some kind of work and

• They either have a partner earning at least £7,500 per year or limited savings

they will lose the benefit completely after one year of claiming.

Let us put aside the rather conservative point that this reform will be a disincentive to saving or to the partner  of the claimant working. At a time when many are predicting a recession, and therefore today’s high unemployment to hold or increase, ministers estimate that at the end of the year 94 per cent of claimants will become ineligable.

In the absence of jobs or benefits, we are throwing hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people, including those with MS, cancer, Parkinson’s, bowel disease, kidney failure, heart disease, lung disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and their families to the wolves.

Clause 52 – To protect the entitlement of profoundly disabled children to qualify for NI credits on becoming adult.

Declan Gaffney argues:

The provision that clause 52 abolishes allowed people under 20 with work-limiting conditions to be treated as if they met the national insurance contributions for ESA.

The rationale was that people with conditions that begin in childhood may never be able to accumulate sufficient contributions to entitle them to the non-means tested benefit.

This arrangement prevented a situation where people with lifetime or early-onset conditions would generally have less favourable entitlements than people who became disabled in adulthood.

Clause 93 – To exclude child benefit from the benefit cap.

As Dr Sam Royston wrote for Left Foot Forward in January:

The government plans to include a number of key benefits in the calculation of benefit receipt calculated against the benefit cap. These include payments paid for the support of children in the household, including child benefit and child tax credits (or the child additions within universal credit).

There are clear reasons to remove child benefit from household income for the purposes of the cap:

• Child benefit is a non means tested benefit paid to all households with children.

• Child benefit is paid to assist with the costs of children.

• This amendment represents a compromise position between children in larger families receiving full current levels of state support, and receiving none at all.

Just three votes – albeit three more rebellions – that would prevent untold suffering. Do it, your lordships.

See also:

It’s time to take mental ill health seriouslyEd Jacobs, February 11th 2012

Why child benefit must be removed from the benefit capDr Sam Royston, January 23rd 2012

As Lords debates DLA reforms, charities call for pause to welfare reform billHelen Sampson, January 17th 2012

Welfare reform bill in tatters after Lords defeatsShamik Das, January 12th 2012

Five reasons to oppose the welfare billDaniel Elton, December 12th 2011

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