Green Party Policy on Welfare Reform
The Green Party of England & Wales broadly welcomes the response below by Anne Gray. Indeed we passed an emergency motion at our Autumn Conference toward the setting up of a Benefits Working Group that is in the process of forming. An earlier draft of Anne Gray’s response below formed the basis of the passing of the resolution.
“Emergency resolution on welfare reform
“A. The GPEW [Green Party of England & Wales] is strongly opposed to the government’s proposals for reform of the unwaged benefits and tax credit system, expressed in the consultation paper ‘21st Century Welfare’. Whilst noting and welcoming the proposals to simplify the benefits system, unify in-work with out-of-work benefits and permit a higher level of ‘disregarded’ earnings to benefit claimants, we believe the consultation paper is very far from suggesting a ‘Citizens’ Income’ of the kind advocated by the Green Party. We oppose the reform for the following reasons:-
“1) the government plans tougher conditions for claiming benefit in terms of the obligation to seek and accept jobs, especially for disabled people, and tougher sanctions for those who do not follow case workers’ instructions
“2) the reform is coupled with workfare for the long-term unemployed, forcing them into work placements which pay effectively £1.60 per hour
“3) assessments of ‘capability for work’ by disabled people, as well as much of the job placement services, will be carried out by private contractors for large profits, milking public funds and working to maximise their income rather than help claimants
“4) the reform prioritises ‘incentives to work’ over relief of poverty, thus overturning the basic purpose of a social security system
“5) young children and disabled or elderly dependents are likely to suffer as carers are forced to seek work
“6) the proposals assume that unemployment is due to a failure of the benefits system to provide adequate incentives to move into work, when in reality the problem lies with the recession, with job cuts in the public sector, with the failure of government to promote job creation and with the inadequate wages offered by many employers in entry-grade jobs.
“B. Conference encourages Green Party members to work with trade unions, claimants’ groups, lone parents’ and disabled people’s groups to struggle against these proposals, against privatisation of employment and unemployed placement or training services, and for a fairer benefits system based on a reasonable level of guaranteed income with the right to work.
I emphasise as Green Party Spokesperson on Disability & Social Care Services at this point that the 30 July to 1 October time parameters of the consultation are extremely limiting with regard to full inclusion of economically vulnerable disabled people and carers, as well as democratically run ‘grass roots’ organisations . The shorter consultation period tends to favour the dominance of potential ‘leaders of global public service delivery reform’ with vast lobbying machines of highly paid employees, over the economically most vulnerable.
A vast amount of data that emphasises system failure operating against the economically vulnerable is ignored, and there appears to be considerable ‘buck passing’ between government departments as emphasised in a recent blogpost from the carers’ self-help network CarerWatch. Meanwhile, the urgency of supporting carers who save the NHS an estimated £87bn a year is largely ignored by the authors of ’21st Century Welfare’. That £87bn a year in NHS savings should be regarded as a basis for ‘looking again [favourably] at the entitlements [as a grouping]’ of disabled people and carers in 21st Century Britain. Yet the Welfare Reform Act 2009 removes capacities for self-management from claimants in the name of ‘conditionality’ wielded by private, for profit, democratically unaccountable ‘medical examiners’ and ‘scheme providers’ who are led by bonuses and arbitrary government targets.
The Green Party of England & Wales said in the 2010 General Election, “Fair is worth fighting for.” As the first ever Green Party of England & Wales MP, Caroline Lucas co-sponsored the Carers Bill. We are not merely ‘aniti-cuts’, we are pro-enablement. I for one intend to emphasise this point in the run-up to the Comprehensive Spending Review. We believe that power acquired at the ballot box is for sharing with the most vulnerable, not for using against them.
Green Party of England & Wales Spokesperson on Disability & Social Care Services
1A Waterlow Road
London N19 5NJ