Monday, 10 October 2011

Liberal Youth ESA campaign update

Following the passing of my motion on the Employment Support Allowance at Lib Dem autumn conference, Liberal Youth (who sponsored the motion) have been working with the DPC (Disabled People's Council) and Macmillan to campaign to get peers to amend the welfare reform bill to stop it having drastic and devastating effects on the lives of the long term sick and disabled. The most pernicious of these changes is the introduction of an arbitrary time limit, where sick and disabled people (including cancer patients) will only receive benefits for a maximum of 12 months, after which they'll be left to fend for themselves regardless they are capable of working or not.

I recently got an update from Liberal Youth on what exactly they've been up to with regards to their campaign and so, for those who are interested, here's what's been happening.

Since conference they've been working with Lib Dem HQ staff to identify other lords that will support changing the Welfare Reform Bill so they can organise a briefing for them. They've also had a meeting about using councils to pass motions against the ESA changes and to generate pressure from local government, while one of the LY executive has emailed a leading peer about ESA in order to try and get them on side as a "big beast" in the Lords.

They've drafted some text about ESA and the motion and what peers can do about it which they will try and persuade the whips office to send out to the lords and they're also working with disability charities to obtain their indexes of friendly peers and their contact details so that LY can speak to them about ESA.

Their main focus at the moment is on finding their 'Lords champion' who will be vital in the success of the campaign as they're crucial to being able to set up the Lords briefing. They've also got a comms strategy in place which will ramp up the profile of the campaign as things get closer to the vote in the Lords.

All in all, it seems as though they'll be bringing a significant amount of pressure to bear over the next two weeks and I really hope it will be successful. The strategy is sound, at any rate, the hard bit will be getting peers to truly take the message on-board.

UPDATE: Caron Lindsay has also blogged about efforts on this front at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference. You can read her blogpost here.


  1. Thanks for this, George. I was speaking at fringe meeting run by RNIB Scotland at our conference on Saturday and I encouraged everyone to write to our Lords, Mike German, Celia Thomas and Archy Kirkwood in particular, and any others they might know, to let them know the strength of feeling in the party about this.

    The meeting was completely packed, and chaired by a Cabinet Minister, Mike Moore. I've written about it here:

  2. Caron, thanks very much for what you did at the Scottish conference and thanks for your blogpost. I have to say, I'm starting to feel fairly optimistic about getting the changes made :)

  3. George,
    Just be careful that slight inaccuracies do not deflect attention and weaken the case. The time limit only applies to contribution-based ESA and is not quite arbitrary - contribution based JSA has been limited for some long while. Once contribution based benefits are exhausted there are still income-based equivalents, but as in other areas these policies will force those sensible enough to have saved to dip into the savings for support costs that were not expected.

  4. @JDN,

    Thanks for the heads up, but I'm aware that it applies to contributory ESA and whenever I'm writing anything important and official then I always make sure to qualify the statement in order to avoid accusations of innacuracy.

    When I say arbitrary, I mean it in the sense that the time limit was plucked out of thin air without any reference to medical facts or anything like that.

  5. Thank you so Much for this - you have helped to bring a prospect of hope to us sick and disabled. Very much appreciate your efforts on our behalf. Many of us who are housebound have been sending e-mails to the house of lords for a hope of a brake on this bill.

  6. George,
    Agreed - there is quite a big gap between 12m and for ever.

    Probably more worrying is this report - one of many on the same subject over the past week.
    It is so horrific, I wonder if it is just scare tactics to make us realise just how lucky we are - Mr Grayling could make life a great deal worse!!! The sooner it is quashed however the better, so please bring whatever pressure you can to bear.

  7. PS What we need is a good lobbyist.


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