Friday, 30 March 2012

My Welfare CV

Yesterday, it was reported that Liam Byrne would be stepping down from the shadow cabinet to run for Mayor of Birmingham.

Welfare is a dodgy area for Labour - probably the dodgiest of all. Traditionally, it's a department for hawks, for hardliners and for attack dogs. I don't think anyone would argue that it has gone well for Labour under Mr Byrne. Or Mr Alexander for that matter. Or Purnell.Or Cooper.

Well, I want the job. I won't get it, but here's why I should :

1 - I actually understand Universal Credit. I know who will be winners and who will be losers. I know all the nasty little details that will hurt the "Squeezed Middle" way more than the "Undeserving Poor". I know whether Mr Duncan-Smith can actually deliver it on time and within budget.

2 - I know what the Independent Living Fund is and exactly how many profoundly disabled people are set to lose it or no longer qualify for it at all. Ditto the Severe Disability Premium, the Youth Premium (I must be one of only 4 or 5 who actually understand what this really means, surely?) the CSA changes and the death of the Social Fund

3 - I actually know the difference between the WRAG and Support Group. I know how many people qualify for each - both new and existing claimants. I understand the one year Time Limit and exactly who it will affect. I pointed out that it would only affect working families and that it encourages family breakdown and further benefit dependency.

4 - I know every little fib the Conservatives have used to push their Welfare Reform Bill through Parliament. I know exactly how many times David Cameron has "misled Parliament" at PMQs about welfare policies. I know which vast multinational companies stand to profit from "reforms" and I know very well that the balance of payments to these private companies is totally out of proportion to the "help" the claim to offer. I know that A4E were only 8.06% successful at finding work for disadvantaged jobseekers because I worked the figure out.

5 - I have lots of Lib Dem friends - grassroots and Westminster types - who would love to hear a different narrative from Labour on Welfare. I'm a pragmatist and I've built relationships with anyone willing to judge welfare on evidence rather than ideology.

6 - I know exactly how many "intergenerational workless families" there are (not many) exactly how many people are really "long term unemployed" (way less than you'd think) exactly how many families really get over 100k in benefits (a handful) and how many people stand to lose their homes through the benefit cap.

7 - I understand Personal Independence Payments. I know how many disabled people will lose all of their support and how this will tie into social care support, putting further strain on local authorities. I know what disabled people and their charities really think about PIP and how reform could actually be implemented so that it worked.

8 - OK, I'm a blogger, but I understand politics. I'm a strategist and a pragmatist. I have lived and breathed Labour politics since I was old enough to speak, I've run campaigns, always stood for local council, written election addresses, run voter ID campaigns and achieved swings of over 30% in an area so Conservative you could pin a blue rosette on a sheep and they'd still win. It's not my fault I live in Sussex, therefore never having any possibility of actually getting elected.

9 - I'm a left of centre Blairite! Yep, we exist. And frankly Ed needs as many as he can get. I understand the need for reform of welfare very well. But, I know the difference between "reforms" and "cuts". They are not the same thing. I grew up on a council estate, I went to a rough comprehensive, but I've been to university and, you know, actually had jobs, in the real world and stuff.

10. I have a narrative that could start to rehabilitate Labour on Welfare and a whole raft of policies that sick and disabled people and people living in poverty would actually like, would actually engage with and (whisper it) that might actually work. 


12. I am fluent in "human" (also French and Italian, but that's much less important) and have a whole range of sardonic eyebrows and sharp one liners just waiting to show Grayling, Miller and Duncan-Smith for the fools that they are. I'm dead good on the telly.

13. I scrub up OK in black tights and heels - which seems to be a pre-requisite for 21st Century female political advancement.

But I'll stop on 13. Unluckily for some, it would be unthinkable for a "no-one" like me to get the job. Ed would have to slip me some Ermine, but actually, there's no reason why he couldn't (If it's good enough for Glasman....) The Westminster bubble might actually pop with shock if someone with knowledge, experience, passion and ability got the job over career politicians who have "done their time" on local councils and endless hustings. Shadow Cabinet members have to have a First in compromise, an unshakeable loyalty to the whip and one eye firmly on their careers. I may be wrong about this last bit, but most of the country feels that  this is the case.

But if we really wanted to do politics differently, really wanted to engage with - and even solve - some of society's problems, really wanted to show the public that Westminster isn't some bloated old-boy's club incapable of change, then perhaps my idea isn't so silly after all.

Sadly, I fear we are some centuries away from such radical solutions.




40 comments:

  1. You are coherent, you clearly know what you are talking about... it would bring Westminster to it's knees to have somebody like you about!

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  2. I'd vote for you, it would be so good to have some who understands the situation from grass-roots to policy.

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  3. I would move house (and thus lose my HB entitlement) just to vote for you Sue...

    Perhaps we could even show people that a job like this could be flexi-time (and job shared) and thus make it more acceptable to hire people with illness and disability who can't do the 40hr per week thing week in week out? Or is that crazy talk riddled with common sense, practicality and life experience?

    No wonder I'm unemployed...

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  4. Someone please listen to this woman. I'd vote for her any day.

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  5. I think you're selling yourself short - you'd be wasted as the welfare spokesperson.

    Sue for Labour leader!

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  6. Why can't they jettison you into a "safe" seat? Then you could have a house there on expenses, and still have yours in sussex.

    Or stand as an Independent. after he Galloway win, Labour must be desperate, but the Tories and Fib Dems too. I think what the result showed is that people are so sick of politicians from ALL parties they will vote for anyone who isn't either of them, given the chance.

    Maybe even a sheep with a purple rosette!

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  7. you got my vote sue

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    1. Ignore me if this is a random tweet, but are you Edel's brother?

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  8. i wish i could actually vote for you! let me be the 1st to offer my services as a job-share

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  9. You have my vote to Sue.We need someone in Parliament who understands,disability and poverty.

    Martin Bell got elected has a independent.Why not go for it Sue.Look at all the Press attention you could get and put your points across.

    You could piss of one heck of a lot of people.You could use Parliamentary Privilege to discuss Haytossers etc,without them being able to shut you up.

    And if you did win,Politicians pay and Pensions are very very good.

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  10. You have two things that stops you from getting the job, Honesty and intelligence...

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    1. Not forgetting compassion.

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  11. Don't forget, everyone, that Sue doesn't need to be an MP or a member of the House of Lords to be invited to join the Shadow Cabinet (or the Cabinet, when Labour win the next General Election). Plenty of precedents for "civilians" being invited!

    It would be a major coup for the Labour Party to get someone with so much knowledge, experience, expertise and commitment into the core parliamentary group. And it would give a huge amount of optimism to "spoonies", "not-yet-spoonies" and our loved ones!

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  12. I hope that someone in the Labour Party, with some influence, is reading this. Galloway's win has demonstrated just how tired we all are of the main three parties, and how much we need people who can offer ideas we can relate to.

    People with real integrity and compassion ( not the feigned sort as demonstrated by Cameron, when he puts on his 'sincere' face)seem to be thin on the ground. They should take this opportunity now!

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  13. While I agree a ministerial appointment is vanishingly unlikely, I do think the party should hire you as a policy advisor. You'd do the job spectacularly.

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  14. I would dearly love to feel like there was a politician somewhere that actually spoke for me. Like a good many others I am ill and I am tired. I am scared and I am angry. I feel despondent and powerless, and yet outraged. There is an overwhelming feeling that there is nothing I can do yet a deep compulsion that I must do something regardless. I’m at a loss as to what that something could be though. Have you made, or would you consider making, a post about what actions people with varying degrees of energy and wellness could do to help the cause?

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  15. Sue would win most seats I'm sure

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  16. You've got my vote, government wouldn't know what has hit them! I say go for it, seriously.

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  17. Go for it Sue, we need you.

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  18. Like so many others, I feel completely disenfranchised, represented by a Tory MP who trots out the party line verbatim on everything, and who is never likely to be voted out of this safe Tory seat. So it would be fantastic to know someone of Sue's calibre and knowledge was in a political position of influence somewhere. We're going to see doctors standing as pro NHS candidates against LibDems, so why not a brilliant welfare rights candidate like Sue?

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  19. "I'm a left of centre Blairite! Yep, we exist. "

    I knew there was a reason I liked you! Okay, that makes two of us, so I guess that officially qualifies us as a grass-roots movement ;)

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    1. Wow! So we increased our membership by 100% on the 1st day. If we could keep that up, the whole would be voting for us within about 16 days ;)

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  20. York woman who suffered 40% burns decanting petrol is now recovering in Specialist Burns Unit at Pinderfields

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/francis-maude-urged-to-quit-over-tanker-driver-strike-row-as-woman-suffers-burns-7602990.html


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-17560534#TWEET118467

    i doubt he'll resign as most of his life has been he's been asleep


    and this makes front page news but the death of a sick or disabled benefit claimer doesn't ? very odd probably the oddest thing I've ever heard of in my life
    hence George winning Bradford today

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  21. York woman who suffered 40% burns decanting petrol is now recovering in Specialist Burns Unit at Pinderfields.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/francis-maude-urged-to-quit-over-tanker-driver-strike-row-as-woman-suffers-burns-7602990.html


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-17560534#TWEET118467

    i doubt he'll resign as most of his life has been he's been asleep

    and this makes headline news but the ongoing deaths of sick and disabled people dont
    The most oddest thing I've ever heard of hence the win by George in Bradford we need to get rid of all of labour and conservatives and the sooner the better

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  22. WE WANT SUE
    WE WANT SUE

    Come on Sue, step up for independent. Don't do it for you - do it for us. We need you.

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  23. sue would win most seats i have every confidence in her is she well enough ? only she could say if i was fit i would join her and take another seat it's not at all difficult for a fit person who is passionate about helping other people and as i say sue fit's that bill to a tee and that's me with my bank of England hat on for the first time in my life in support of someone from the uk so that is indeed a very thing for me to do and not at all done lightly

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  24. Wouldn't it be empowering to support policies that made people feel worthwhile and optimistic, instead of being kicked around on stony ground like some old deflated football? I want the Labour Party to support and encourage and not vilify those of us who cannot work right now. To dispense with the scrounger rhetoric immediately. To spend real money educating the public that lifting people out of poverty and destitution actually increases their chances of becoming upwardly mobile. I want them to unite communities and neighbours instead of dividing them with accusations of unfairness and resentment. Instead of bullying and threatening sick people under an atmosphere of intense fear and distrust I want Labour to show some solidarity and concern for us. I want ATOS kicked off the face of the planet and a new fair and suitable assessment process in place. I want people who need to claim sickness benefits to get them without months of battling and stomach turning mind blowing stress and sleepless nights of worry for their futures. I don't want to be made to doubt myself and feel like a huge failure because I'm not in one of those 'hard working families' and can't financially support myself in this capitalist materialistic society right now. None of this was my own choice. Can Labour deliver this for me and others? The answer is no.

    Sue, you have my vote. If Labour want to make a real difference and offer a real alternative then they'd be foolish not to hire you! Why not go for an independent seat at the next general election? The GPs are doing it. Galloway has just done it. The Commons will be an interesting place if nothing changes. You go girl go (with my 100% support and good wishes).

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  25. You could always start your own political party. Plenty of us disabled out there to vote for you at the general election :)

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  26. (Please tell me they use fake ermine now.)

    I agree with the person who points out that non-politicians can be co-opted or drafted or whatever into the shadow cabinet.

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  27. Ok so lets all actually tell Milliband that he should take sue on...either in ermine or as a policy advisor...OR like i have said before we start our own party....it has worked well for Mr Galloway and if labour ever needed a wake up call it was pointed out to them up in bradford. As for the tories well as i have also said before they dont care if they get in again,and i suspect they known they wont,but they will have sold everything they can and in most cases actually been the buyers one way or another so they will own what was once ours and the power that goes with it so yeah one way or another a new part could actually win some good seats so whay not.If Milliband still aint listening and doesnt at least contact sue then we should email him and get him to do so and also point out if he wants someone actually errr qualified to do the bloody job then he should look no further BUT there are millions of us who would actually support a new party,at least i think they should,who best represents us.We should also point out to Labour IF they want our votes then we want atos gone and the wrb gone too....If not we really should start our own party....

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    1. If Labour want power next general election they should scrap these Atos frauds, and introduce a fairer test for disabled.

      It'd be amazing how many of us disabled, and our families would vote for Labour if he abolishes ESA entirely.

      There was nothing wrong with what we had before. a simple sick note say dated a year if doctors agree + DWP decision maker should be better than fabricated Atos reports + ignoring medical evidence.

      I'm sure most of us would make the trip to our GPs for a discussion or two once or twice a year if it meant a fairer deal.

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    2. A simple sick note? You're kidding right? Incapacity Benefit was also hard to claim, especially for MH conditions and also required supportive medical evidence and a thorough assessment from a qualified doctor sent by the DWP. That however, seemed much more fair because they listened carefully, genuinely empathised and looked at the evidence. If you have a long term condition they at least understood this and let you get on with managing your illness instead of bullying you into finding a non-existent job.

      Yes there could have been much better support with IB if you felt you wanted or needed it. There was need for improvement and I can think of many things they could have done that would have made life better for me and helped me to improve my prospects but time limiting sickness benefits for long term conditions definitely was not the answer. (It proves that the Tories have thrown us on the scrapheap and have no desire to improve life quality, though they claim that these assessments make sure no one is 'excluded' if they want to work. What baloney!) Not 12 monthly assessments even when there's no chance of recovery and not forcing people into attending interviews, groups and schemes which they can't cope with or lose benefits. If Labour devise a fair deal for sick and disabled people that gives them dignity and support instead of behaving (as someone put it) like 'conservative-lites' they would gain trust and votes from several million people and their families desperate for some hope.

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    3. I think at some point spoonies will have to have this discussion about what should replace ESA and/or the system for ESA eligibility.

      For me, I do not mind the idea of there being a work-related activity group and a support group; I DO mind that so many are found 'fit for work' at all when the key purpose of the WRAG should actually greatly expand the number of claiming the benefit for the short-term whilst reducing slightly long-term claims. The fact that this has not expanded says to me it was designed purely to get rid of claimants and that's it.

      If the WRAG were being used for what it is supposedly for, I'd have no problem claiming ESA but as it is I am so likely to be found 'fit for work' that I would not risk my DLA against trying now that the DWP have reportedly started using ESA decisions to kick people off.

      But we can't and must not go back to how IB worked. There was considerable discontent with the Personal Capability Assessment and how the DWP were making decisions. The figures for 'fit for work' were not much better and the number of successful appeals was high.

      I for one would can't see what was wrong with the Invalidity Benefit pre-1995, except that any government reintroducing it would be name-called 'soft on scroungers' by the ignoratti.

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    4. Sorry I guess I was too vague in that answer. What I meant was, shouldn't GPs just give us a sicknote ontop of our evidence? It would be better than Atos.

      So Form + Evidence + Sicknote -> Decision maker -> Decision made.

      Add that extra layer to make the public on the side of us disabled.

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    5. Particularly with the move to UC, surely the way is open to a far more graded spectrum of both conditionality and extra benefit components. The legal framework defines the components, but they can decide the levels of conditionality entirely on a management level without even needing regulations. I have no problem with the WRAG with its current effective definition (well, perhaps more should be in the SG) if the people who 'just miss' it get similar conditionality to WRAG, and the people nearer to the SG get less conditionality than normal for WRAG.

      Plus they have to sort out the insanely short prognoses.

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  28. Ah that's makes sense now Andy Burnham saying IF he was the next secretary of state for health he would repeal the Health and Social Care Act

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  29. I would give you my vote, and I know many who would. To be living in this age and be disabled, is like livng in Nazi Germany, just before the start of the Second World War ..

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  30. As a dyed in the wool Tory voter reading this post has made me feel quite uncomfortable. You've given me something to think about. In a small way I address some claiming disability welfare issues on my 'Well-Being On The Web' via the web site link or copy and paste: http://bennyfitz.99k.org/well-being.htm
    BTW with reference to your # 13 Dr Martens can look quite endearing too ! ;)

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  31. I have ideas and i am blind and i wouldent be telling other blind people they can work, some have the use of their heads and others for no fault of their own are good with their hands and while they might be willing to do anything in reality most jobs are not even on offer and as the gov dosent employ its own disabled numbers because they say its not fair to spend money on remploy places as they only help very few and they cant justify 23,000 per head. will someone please tell me the falkland island spend per year per head ,im not sure of the exact figure but you would need to count in millions to get anyware near to it,And as for robbing banks from the inside with and ministers saying in future it will be a crime HEEELLLLLOOO IT ALREADY IS ITS CALLED FRAUD,

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  32. Cute tale. Can make myself need to be greater. Appreciate your revealing. You are wonderful.

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