Month: July 2019
In the run-up to the general election, civil servants sketched out plans to charge claimants a fee if they tried to appeal to a tribunal after being found ineligible for benefits, Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.The policy proposal was drawn up earlier this year, in case it could be used by the new government.An extract from a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) document, which emerged through a DNS freedom of information request, suggests Tory ministers have not abandoned the idea of charging for benefit appeals, despite the proposal causing controversy when a DWP document was leaked to the Guardian in February 2014, with benefits experts and campaigners labelling the idea a “disgrace”.The latest memo summarises the advantages and risks of introducing the policy, but civil servants insist it is not government policy.A DWP spokesman said the extract was “drafted by staff before the last election in case this issue was raised by a new government”.He said the issue “was not raised by the new government and does not represent government policy”, while the document has not been “shown to, sent to, or seen by ministers” since the new government was elected.But there will still be alarm among disabled campaigners and benefit claimants that such a policy was being discussed within the department just a few months ago, particularly with next week’s spending review set to reveal swingeing new spending cuts across government, including within DWP and the Ministry of Justice, which runs the tribunals service.Anita Bellows, a researcher with Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Most people going to appeal have already gone through the hoops of mandatory reconsideration, and because of this the number of claimants appealing to tribunals has dropped considerably, and in some cases, such as with ESA appeals, almost disappeared.”She said: “Most if not all claimants going to appeal do so because they lost their benefits, whether through the work capability assessment, being found ineligible for personal independence payment, or being sanctioned.“The notion that people deprived of income could afford tribunal fees is ludicrous and if tribunal fees are introduced they are very likely to be successfully challenged in court.”The extract from the document emerged in response to a request by DNS for any written information relating to discussions about charging for benefit appeals.The heavily-redacted document revealed – under the title “feasibility” – that fees for taking cases to employment tribunals had already been introduced, so charging for social security appeals was “possible”.And it warned that such a policy would incur start-up and running costs, but “could contribute a proportion of the cost of running the tribunal system”.The three other sections of the response – under the headings “legal”, “handling” and “political issues” – were redacted by DWP under section 35 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which exempts departments from releasing information relating to the formulation of government policy.
Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.Apparently striving to undermine trust in her word further still, Theresa May has decided not to request a long Article 50 extension from the EU but merely a short one. We don’t yet know the exact wording of her letter to Donald Tusk, but it is expected that she’ll be asking for a few months’ delay at most, allowing the UK to avoid European parliamentary elections – and, more importantly, allowing the Prime Minister to cling on to office just a little longer.“In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless and completely at odds with the position this House adopted only last night, making a no-deal scenario far more rather than less likely.” Not the words of Jeremy Corbyn, or any backbencher – this is what de facto deputy PM David Lidington said last week.Keir Starmer has also summed up the situation well: May is “desperate to impose a binary choice between her deal and no deal – despite parliament clearly ruling out both of those options last week”. This is the PM, as usual, prioritising Tory party unity and her staying in post over making actual progress with Brexit.Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, is looking to compromise. Over many months, Labour consistently briefed that ‘Norway Plus’ or any model based on single market membership would be pointless and turn the UK into a vassal state. (The key point being freedom of movement – a serious bone of contention between the Labour leadership and the membership that has not been given much attention.) But, as explored in one of these emails a few weeks ago, it looks like the Common Market 2.0 plan developed by Stephen Kinnock and Lucy Powell along with Nick Boles and other Tories is gaining traction.Yesterday, the Labour leader met with the CM2.0 campaigners and had a discussion described as “very positive and constructive” (Powell) and “positive and detailed” (Labour spokesperson). This morning, Kinnock told a press conference that the group hopes “to secure the Labour whip for a backbench-driven” piece of legislation, while Powell estimated – based on talks with MPs across the House – that the arrangement could win a “sizeable parliamentary majority”.Conservative backbenchers who favour a no deal outcome are more positive today: they reckon asking for a short extension makes it easier to force the UK into leaving without an agreement. But it seems as if Corbyn is doing what May refuses to do, by opening up the party to alternatives from the Kyle/Wilson confirmatory ballot idea to Common Market 2.0. Critics might doubt the sincerity of claims that Labour is listening to all options, but only one of the main party leaders is making an effort to actually find a Commons majority amid the Brexit chaos. It may well be thanks to the Labour leader’s moves that ‘no deal’-ers are left sorely disappointed.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.Tags:Labour /Lucy Powell /Stephen Kinnock /Brexit /Common Market 2.0 /Kyle Wilson /
SAINTS will be proudly sporting Bone Cancer Research Trust’s logo ahead of its final two games of the season.They will be wearing the charity’s t-shirts on Friday and next week in memory of Harrison Ledsham, who was a huge supporter of the club.The T-shirts will bear Harrison’s motto “Never Give Up” to inspire others and raise awareness about primary bone cancer in the run-up to the charity’s Awareness Week in October.Harrison was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2014 and died in May this year, aged just 12.His parents Karen and Paul, from Haydock, said it will be a proud moment to see the Saints players wear warm-up tops with Harrison’s name on them.“It’s vital to raise more awareness of primary bone cancer so a cure may one day be found to stop it taking precious children,” said Karen.“Harrison would have been delighted that his name would have been on the tops of his favourite team – he would see it as a good luck charm and hope they win for him.”Although primary bone cancer affects anyone at any age, osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma are more common in people aged 10-24. The main symptoms of swelling or bone pain can often be mistaken for sporting injuries or growing pains, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.Julie Harrington, BCRT Chief Executive, said: “Working with Saints and Harrison’s family is a fantastic opportunity to educate rugby players, fans and their families about healthy bones and to champion awareness of this disease, which affects 600 people in the UK and Ireland every year.”“Patients know their own bodies better than anyone. If you have any unexplained lumps or pain, don’t hesitate to discuss the possibility of primary bone cancer with your doctor – at least to rule it out.To find out more about the Bone Cancer Research Trust, visit www.bcrt.org.uk