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14 August 2009

Scissors cutting DLA and AA labels17,000 sick and disabled campaigners have managed in just a few days to send shock waves throughout the voluntary sector.  Charities have been left reeling by the flood of emails they have been deluged with and the Disability Benefits Consortium have now issued a statement in the hope of stemming it.

Many hundreds of you have sent us copies of replies you have received from a huge range of charities. We have also heard from charities who say they cannot cope with the number of emails they are receiving. 

Whilst some had already begun working on a reply to the green paper, it’s clear that many other organisations were hardly aware of it or its potential implications and are now hurriedly formulating responses.  Some have begun canvassing their members. Others are seeking clarification from government over the exact meaning of the phrase ‘disability benefits, for example attendance allowance’

CPAG claim that they have had an assurance from the DWP that DLA will not be involved in any reforms.  However, few disabled campaigners are likely to be satisfied with a private assurance from unnamed officials rather than a government minister.  And that still leaves the issue of AA unresolved.

Meanwhile we received this communication from the Disability Benefits Consortium today which they asked us to communicate to campaigners:

“The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) comprises more than 25 national organisations that represent the needs of people who rely on disability benefits. As a consortium, we strongly oppose any proposals for using existing benefits to fund social care, and we will be making our opposition clear in our forthcoming response to the Green Paper on social care in England."

It is a very important step forward – there will now be organised opposition from a consortium of agencies that the government would have very much hoped to keep onside – or at least reasonably quiet, at this very early stage in the legislative process. 

It’s certainly a very different response from the one we were getting from some charities at the beginning of the week, which dismissed any possibility of DLA being at risk and seemed to lack any sense of urgency in relation to the threat to disability benefits generally.  Your success in getting the disability benefits consortium onside may make them think again.

There may be little purpose in continuing to bombard members of the consortium with emails which are now unlikely to be read and are generally being replied to with a standard response email.  There is no doubt that the message has got home that enough is enough and there should be no more attacks on sick and disabled people’s income.

In another sign that campaigners are causing a stir we have discovered that home office officials are apparently attempting to discredit the campaign.  Emails appear to be being forwarded from the Performance and Finance Directorate of the Home Office which, bizarrely, claim that the campaign is part of an identity  theft scam. We are currently making further enquiries of the named home office staff.  We have also been made aware of claims being circulated that we have inserted a virus in copies of the green paper!

Your efforts have achieved a startling amount in just a few days -  more than we had expected would be achieved in many weeks. Dealing with the green paper has now leapt to the top of the agenda and it would be a foolhardy disability charity which dismissed the issue as a minor one, or at too early a stage to be concerned about.

Charities have until 13 November to make their representations to government.  They now know that they will be watched and judged on the content of those representations– all of which should be obtainable under the Freedom of information Act - by many thousands of their own members.  What we hope to see now is that those charities which are not already doing so will involve their members in creating the content of those responses. Where they approach you for input and support, we have no doubt that you will be happy to help them.  Hopefully, that way we can avoid a repeat of the failure to prevent the disastrous impact of employment and support allowance.

We’ll be sending out another email on Tuesday suggesting further action.  Meanwhile, well done!

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