urgent action on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill

An urgent action alert, from Quaker Peace & Social Witness, to ask you to contact your MP about the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, due to be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday 27 October. Please also forward this others who are likely to be interested. 

Some MPs are still deciding whether or not to support the Bill so it's important that as many of them as possible hear your concerns. If you have already contacted your MP there are still things you can do.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill forms a key part of the Government’s strategy to make a further £12 billion of cuts to our social security system. The welfare section of the Bill will hit some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and will have a particular effect on children, large families and people who are unable to work because of sickness or disability.
It is hoped that as many people as possible will be able to raise their concerns about the Bill. Please let Ellie Roberts know when you have emailed your MP and send us a copy of any reply you receive, by contacting ellier@quaker.org.uk. This will help QPSW to understand how MPs are responding to these concerns and help them plan further action around this Bill.

What can I do?
Please send a quick email to your MP, highlighting some of our concerns and drawing their attention to the Quakers in Britain briefing [PDF] about the Bill. The debate will take place on Tuesday 27 October, so it would be most useful to get in touch with your MP before then.
You could use our briefing to help frame your arguments. If you have personal experience which is relevant to the proposals being discussed please consider sharing it as this will strengthen your message.
MPs are much more likely to listen to personally written letters than standard templates. Here are some suggestions about what you could include in your email. If you already know what your MP thinks about further social security cuts do try and adapt your message accordingly.
General points:
The last round of social security cuts has already had a disastrous impact. Now is not the time to be making further cuts.
The welfare section of the Bill will increase already unacceptable levels of poverty, and make Britain an even more unequal, divided society.
Several aspects of the Bill will substantially alter the nature of our social security system by severing the link between what is necessary to meet a household’s basic needs and the amount of support it will be entitled to from the social security system. Many households, particularly large families, will not have enough money to live on and will experience severe hardship as a result.
The government is presenting further welfare cuts as an inevitable consequence of the deficit. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about further weakening our social security system. It is a political choice.
If your MP is opposed to the proposed cuts, or you don’t know what they think, you could:
Emphasise why we need an effective social safety net and that this Bill would significantly damage our social security system.
Ask them to take part in the forthcoming debates and to highlight the human and social costs of the proposed changes.
Ask them to consider supporting amendments designed to mitigate some of the most harmful aspects of the Bill and, if necessary, to vote against the Bill in its entirety.
If you know that your MP has already spoken out against the Bill, don’t forget to thank them!

If you know your MP is in favour of further social security cuts you could:
Emphasise the fact that depending on benefits is not a lifestyle choice but the inescapable reality for millions of adults and children.

Highlight the fact that children will be disproportionately affected by the Bill. The proposal to limit child tax credits to the first two children in a household will disadvantage children, simply because they have more than one sibling.
Emphasise how an effective social safety net is a vital foundation of a just and compassionate society. Proposals to dismantle this further raises uncomfortable questions about our values as a society.
Suggest that the government’s arguments that withdrawing benefits will tackle the root causes of poverty and create work incentives are flawed. There is very little evidence to suggest that this will be the case.

Highlight the fact that the reforms that the government is introducing to offset social security cuts, will only do so partially at best. Some of them will not come into force until after some of the cuts have hit, leaving many families substantially worse off, particularly in the short term.
Ask them to reconsider their position on some of the specific issues highlighted in our briefing.

What if I've already written to my MP?
Many thanks to all those Friends who have already been in dialogue with their MP about this Bill. You are probably the best person to judge whether or not it would be useful to contact them again at this stage. However, here are some thoughts that might help you decide whether this is the right course of action for you.

Where do the different parties stand?
Individual MPs will, of course, have different views about the various reforms proposed in the Bill. However, here is an overview of how the main parties stand.
Conservative: The large majority of Conservative MPs are expected to support the Bill. However some are worried about the impact of cuts to working tax credits, which were agreed separately to the Bill by MPs a few weeks ago. There is a possibility that some Conservative MPs might consider supporting amendments designed to mitigate the impact of working tax credit cuts in this Bill.
Labour: The Labour front bench is expected to come out strongly against many aspects of the Bill, and will probably instruct MPs to vote against it. However it is by no means certain that all MPs will do so.
Liberal Democrats, Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru: Have all stated clear opposition to the Bill and their MPs are expected to vote against it.


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