Welfare and Benefit Reform: MEA update on Parliamentary activity, 22 November 2011

APPG on ME: Monday 21 November

Members of the APPG on ME (Countess of Mar, Annette Brooke, Ian Swales) formed part of a joint meeting of all the medical APPGs (covering arthritis, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease – Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease) who are involved with Professor Malcolm Harrington’s Group on Fluctuating Medical Conditions.

The well attended meeting – which also included a presentation from Dame Ann Begg, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and questions to Mark Wilson from the DWP – took place at 5pm in the Grand Committee Room at the House of Commons on Monday 21 November 2011.

The main issues under discussion were how the proposed changes to benefit reform (WCA descriptors and the change from DLA to Personal Independence Payment, along with the proposed assessment procedures) would affect people with fluctuating medical conditions.

The meeting also discussed a number of other issues of major concern – in particular the proposal to place a time limit on ESA payments for those in the work-related activity group (WRAG).

CS comment: We now have a very proactive APPG on ME and I would stress again how important it is for people with ME/CFS to make their MP aware of this group and to try and persuade them to join it and attend the regular meetings.

The agenda and briefing paper for this joint APPG meeting can be found at the end of this update.

Committee Stage of the Welfare Reform Bill: Monday 21 November

Earlier in the afternoon, members of the House of Lords discussed amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill in Committee with Lord Freud.

ME was mentioned several times. The Countess of Mar again stressed how severe ME/CFS can be in relation to DWP benefit assessments and Atos examinations.

Fluctuating Conditions Report

Members of Professor Harrington’s Fluctuating Conditions Group (including CS) met before and after the joint APPG meeting to finalise changes to the report that have been agreed during a six-month discussion process involving a DWP Scrutiny Group.

The report’s conclusions and recommendations regarding changes to the WCA descriptors will form part of Professor Harrington’s second-year review which will be presented to a meeting at the DWP on Thursday 24 November. The Fluctuating Conditions Group will be issuing a joint press release.

A copy of our original report can be downloaded by clicking on this link: www.meassociation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Fluctuating_conditions_report_FINAL.pdf

DWP appeals and role of Atos

Reference was also made during the day at Westminster to the item in the Guardian relating to benefit appeals and Atos.

Link to Guardian report: www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/nov/21/benefits-appeals-system-near-collapse?newsfeed=true

Joint APPG agenda and Briefing Paper

Please click HERE to download a Word.doc of this Briefing Paper.

Update prepared by Dr Charles Shepherd, 22 November 2011

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