Welfare Reform: amendments to protect claimants

Our Chairman, Rev Paul Nicolson, had this letter on Welfare Reform published in yesterday’s Observer:

This week peers will discuss two amendments to the welfare reform bill tabled by Baroness Hollins and Lord Ramsotham, related to the coalition’s careless imposition of damaging debt on our poorest fellow citizens. They are supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Mind and 20 other NGOs. Officials of job centres and local authorities are currently legally prohibited from enforcing recovery of overpayment of benefits against claimants who could not have known they were being overpaid; that sensible bar has been removed by the Commons. Peers will try to retain it.

They will also endeavour to ensure that officials will make themselves formally aware of the facts and circumstances of claimants, including their health, before they decide to reduce their poverty incomes by imposing sanctions and penalties, and therefore debts. This is the normal legal procedure, but ministers have expressed their disdain for the law by saying they prefer officials to use “common sense” and that appeals to tribunals don’t need legal aid.

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