Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Unfair and wrong

This government, like its’ predecessor coalition government, has pursued a determined course in cutting financial support and benefits to those on the lowest incomes and those with disabilities.
It’s bad enough that Mrs May is hitting hardest those who can least afford it. It’s even worse when the government tries to achieves its objectively by acting unlawfully, makes and announces decisions in ways designed to avoid scrutiny and then plays fast and loose when the courts say the government is wrong.
The latest example of the government’s degrading and unfair treatment concerns Personal Independence Payments (PIPs). It’s a replacement for Disability Living Allowance for people aged 16-64 with long-term chronic health problems or disabilities. A full roll-out of PIP was originally planned for October 2013; it has now been revised to by mid-2019.
In February 2017 the government changed the PIPs law through the back-door – it couldn’t be voted on by Parliament – to change the PIP regulations to strip entitlements from what it said was over 160,000 disabled people – a £3.7bn cut. The Government even failed to consult its own Advisory Committee about the changes. Labour MPs spoke out strongly against the changes.
The government then spent £181,000 trying to defend the indefensible in court. On 21 December 2017 the High Court ruled that the Government’s changes to PIP were both unlawful – because of the failure to consult and “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions. Despite questions, the government remained silent about its response.
Then, a month later, late on Friday 19 January, to avoid scrutiny, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced that the Government would not challenge the ruling. He said “(we)
accept the High Court’s judgment; we do not agree with some of the detail.” Subsequently, he admitted that up to 220,000 people could be affected, 30% higher than we’d been told.
It is clear that the PIP assessment process is simply not fit for purpose. It’s time for the government to listen to those with serious health and disability issues, their families and the doctors, charities and experts who are calling for urgent reform to the plans.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Grief and debt

Every year, about 5000 children die in the UK.
Some are stillborn and some die shortly after birth from complications. Some are born with, or develop, life-limiting illnesses. Some die from tragic accidents.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that some 10,000 parents each year have to face the unimaginable grief of losing a child.
Nobody expects to bury their own child. No-one plans or sets money aside for this. Therefore, when having to cope with the worst possible experience they will ever have to face, bereaved parents have the added worry of finding funds for a funeral they never wanted nor expected.
Some 14 months ago, Carolyn Harris, the MP for Swansea West, spoke eloquently in Parliament about the loss of her young son Martin. It was from this that the idea of a Children’s Bereavement Fund, to help parents in those tragic circumstances, was first conceived.
I am embarrassed, but pleased, that the Welsh Government listened and acted. It realised that, for a modest amount of money, it could make a real difference to bereaved families in their hour of need. It established a Children’s Funeral Fund meaning that, across Wales, with the support of funeral directors and many local authorities and others, parents could bury their children without the added worry about how they could afford it.
Many times, over the last year, MPs from all parties have pressed the government to show compassion  and to work with others to follow the Welsh model. There have been many discussions with Ministers and hopes have been raised.
Unfortunately, the government has failed to act and two budgets have passed without any positive announcement about the relatively small sum of money required to bring this scheme into being.
Today, I – together with MPs from all parties – have written to the Prime Minister to ask her, once again, to take the initiative to help bereaved parents across the country. We want to ensure that parents, already struggling to cope with the cruellest fate life has dealt them, do not have to face the added burden of indebtedness.
If you support us, please write to the Prime Minister and tell her so.