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7 August 2006

As the government pushes ahead with its Welfare Reform Bill, which will force disabled people to undertake work related activities in return for receiving benefits, many people have been wondering at Disability Alliance's position on the subject.

As well providing for compulsory work related activities, the Welfare Reform Bill also gives power to private sector companies to cut claimants benefits if they fail to do such things as fully participate in interviews to the private sector's satisfaction.

Disability Alliance claims to be a campaigning organisation committed to 'breaking the link between poverty and disability.' Their main publication, with a print run of 30,000 copies, is the excellent guide to benefits, the Disability Rights Handbook. Issues such as benefits sanctions are ones on which Disability Alliance would be expected to take a lead campaigning role, briefing their members about the dangers in the new system and ensuring MPs are lobbied effectively. And yet, when the Welfare Reform Bill was finally published on July 4th, all that appeared on the Disability Alliance website was a summary of the Bill's main provisions, with not a hint of concern or commentary. It was a summary that could quite easily have been written by the DWP themselves.

Other organisations, such as CPAG, Age Concern and MIND published responses to the Bill within a day, voicing at least some disapproval about the element of compulsion in the new system.

On this site we published a lengthy article on the Bill on 5th July: Private sector to punish sick and disabled claimants

So we waited with interest to see what would appear on the Disability Alliance website, particularly as the date for the second reading of the Bill approached.

And we waited.

On 11 July something new finally appeared on Disability Alliance's site . . . a request for feedback on the introduction of footnotes in the Disability Rights Handbook!

We waited some more.

In vain.

On 24th July the Bill received its second reading. Disability Alliance's website had given no clues to members about what they might lobby their MPs about. The Bill received its second reading with virtually universal support and very few words of reservation from MPs of any party.

On 27 July a new item related to the Welfare Reform Bill was finally published on the Disability Alliance website. It was a notice advertising the fact that Jobcentre Plus is now inviting bids from agencies who wish to run the Pathways to Work schemes in 30 areas around the country. The successful bidders will become the private and voluntary sector agencies with the power to cut claimants benefits, once the Welfare Reform Bill becomes law.

So, far from condemning the fact that private sector companies, at least one run by a multimillionaire, will soon be able to sanction claimants benefits, Disability Alliance is providing free advertising to recruit organisations to do the job.

Disability Alliance: Breaking the link between poverty and . . .?

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