The welfare policy motion needs to be voted down

At Liberal Democrat conference, party members will have the chance to debate policy motion F31 on Monday 19th September from 3.15pm to 4.45pm.

The Radical Association urges all party members to vote AGAINST this policy motion.

Motion F31 is proposing new policy on welfare for the Lib Dems. However, despite being called ‘Mending the Safety Net’, the motion does nothing of the sort. It actively endorses the current welfare system which is failing so many vulnerable people.

We believe the motion needs to be voted down on the following grounds:

  1. It lets down some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society
  2. It spectacularly misses the opportunity to define a real and distinctive alternative approach to welfare for the Liberal Democrats
  3. It can’t be fixed – even if all the amendments to it on the agenda are passed, the motion still won’t be fit for purpose

There are several fundamental flaws in the motion which mean it fails to stand up for those in need:

  • It proposes keeping benefit sanctions which can see benefit claimants left destitute and unable to afford to eat for ‘crimes’ like being 2 minutes late to an appointment – the new ‘safeguards’ proposed by the motion are little better than the safeguards which have already failed in the current system
  • It proposes keeping unfair disability benefit assessments that have seen many severely disabled people (including paralympians) lose vital support and equipment such as mobility cars
  • It perpetuates the false Labour/Tory notion that people in poverty can be divided into the “deserving” who should be helped and the “undeserving” poor who should be punished
  • The only significant change it proposes is opt-out income protection insurance policies which only the relatively well-off will be able to afford to pay for and benefit from
  • It fails to offer more than tokenism in tackling child poverty – giving the poorest families £5 a week extra and telling the second adult in a household to get a job will barely make a dent in the number of children living in poverty

Politically the motion is a disaster as well. While the Tories and Labour continue to basically agree when it comes to the principles of welfare policy, this was a golden opportunity for us to offer a radical and distinctive Liberal Democrat vision for the welfare state – giving us a compelling message which we could have used to reach out to the millions of Britons living below the poverty line.

But ‘Mending the Safety Net’ fails to do this. Apart from minor tinkering, it fundamentally endorses the current model of social security. What we need is a policy which starts with the fundamental Liberal principle that access to food and shelter should be a universal right for every member of society and then sets out a blueprint for how to guarantee this right to every individual in the same way that the NHS guarantees everyone access to healthcare.

With the party on just 8% in the polls we can’t afford to have bad or timid policy. We need radical, innovative policies which will grab attention.

None of the amendments which have been allowed onto the agenda will be enough to fix the motion. At best, they are polishing a turd.

Right now, voting the motion down is the only option. No new policy on welfare would be better than conference approving bad policy and by voting the motion down it gives the opportunity for something better to be brought to next conference.

We urge every party member at conference to vote against policy motion F31.

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