This week the committee stage of the government’s controversial Welfare Reform Bill has begun. As one part of the government’s national spending review, the proposed Welfare Reform bill entails a radical reform of the current benefits system. The Welfare Reform Bill Committee will meet twice a week for the next few months to conduct a public consultation on the contents of the bill. During the committee stage of the bill, the Welfare Reform Bill Committee will gather evidence from the general public on the effects of the proposed reforms.
The bill proposes changes to how benefits are paid, including replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new form of payment. Three million people rely on funding from DLA to help with costs arising from their disability, which is thought to cost the government around £12 billion per year. Amongst other things, DLA can be used to fund a specially-adapted mobility Car. The bill also proposes to remove DLA mobility payments for people in residential care – a change that has provoked opposition from charities, academics and some politicians.
Every Tuesday and Thursday until the 24th May 2011, the Welfare Reform Bill Committee will hold meetings in Westminster that are open to the public. This follows the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Commons earlier this month, when a majority of 288 MPs (308 for vs. 20 against) voted for the proposed changes.
When unveiling the details of the bill in December last year, minister for disability Maria Miller invited the general public to have their voice heard:
“We want the views of disabled people to be fully reflected in any change we make to DLA and we remain fully committed to the principles of DLA as a non-means tested cash benefit to assist with the extra costs incurred by disabled people”
From now until the 10th May 2011, the Welfare Reform Bill Committee is receiving written evidence from any interested parties who wish to have their views on the proposed reforms considered in the committee stage of the bill.