Brian McGarr

Sad news from Durham Welfare Rights:

Brian McGarr one of our former colleagues has passed away. A lot of people who are new to Welfare Rights won’t know of Brian. It’s probably only the ‘oldies’ who will remember Brian because he wasn’t active in Welfare Rights for many years due to ill health, but he was one of the pioneers of early Welfare Rights.

He started as  a community activist in Glasgow, then as a WRO with Strathclyde Regional Council, ending his working life with Durham Welfare Rights in the late 90’s.

He was a tremendous influence on the many WRO’s who had the pleasure of working directly with him, and those who knew him from attending his always packed workshops at NAWRA. He was a funny, kind, generous man and a brilliant and innovative WRO.

For those of us who worked with Brian at Durham he was the heartbeat of the service, and he set the standards and the level of commitment that we try to live up to today.

NAWRA members pay their respects to one of our early activists. Brian is survived by his son Christopher.

For details of funeral arrangements please contact Scott McInally.

Readers are welcome to post their thoughts and memories of Brian below.

Attendance Allowance consultation

NAWRA has submitted a response to the ‘Self-sufficient local government: 100% business rates retention’ consultation voicing our concern at the proposal that Attendance Allowance would no longer be a cash benefit in England and Wales if responsibility for it transfers from the DWP to each local authority’s social care budget.

Our submission is available here.

Thanks to our North-East representative, Julie Henry (Durham County Council), for drafting it.

Basic Income – the modern form of Social Security

Tying in with a theme of our meeting in Glasgow tomorrow, we are reproducing part of a blog by Dr Simon Duffy of the Centre for Welfare Reform. (Reproduced with kind permission of the author.)

“Although the idea of Basic Income has been around for at least two and a half thousand years, it is still unfamiliar to most people in modern Britain. However it is an idea whose time has come. Currently only the Green Party is officially championing it, but it will come to dominate debate about what a fair and sensible system of income security should look like; for it is ideally suited to the modern world and it brings with it significant economic advantages.

What is Basic Income? It is the simple idea that we give everyone an adequate income – unconditionally. Every child, every adult, every older person would gets a basic income – not because they’re poor, not because they’ve paid into some scheme, not because they’ve got special needs – just because they are human and human beings need an income in order to survive. Basic Income is the best way to meet our basic human right to exist.

Is Basic Income affordable? Well, like most things in life, the answer is – it depends. But the easiest way to see how affordable it could be is to recognise that we already do provide people with such an income – but in a complex and perverse manner:

  • Children get child benefit
  • Older people get pensions
  • Working age adults get a mixture of benefits, tax credits and tax allowances

So, for instance, if you are paying 25% income tax, after a tax allowance of £10,000, then this is financially equivalent to being given £2,500 and then paying tax on every pound of your earnings. Basic Income is best thought of as the integration, and simplification, of all the current systems of income security into one universal system.

It is this universality which makes it such an essential reform.”

To continue reading the full article, and for suggestions for further reading around this subject, visit Dr Duffy’s Basic Income blog.

UN condemns UK benefit sanctions regime

Our friend and colleague, Dr David Webster, writes:

“I thought you would want to know about this important report from the United Nations, adopted on 24 June, which specifically condemns the current operation of the UK’s benefit sanctions regime. Below I have extracted the section on social security, with the comments on sanctions shown in bold. If Theresa May means what she says, perhaps she will ensure that it will be given more attention than the previous calls for a comprehensive review of sanctions have been.”

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/GBR/CO/6
– Advance unedited version, 24 June 2016

Social security
40. The Committee is deeply concerned about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits, introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act of 2016, such as the reduction of the household benefit cap, the removal of the spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax), the four year freeze on certain benefits and the reduction in child tax credits. The Committee is particularly concerned about the adverse impact of these changes and cuts on the enjoyment of the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children. The Committee also is concerned about the extent to which the State party has made use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions (International Covenant, art. 9 and 11).
41. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Review the entitlement conditions and reverse the cuts in social security benefits introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016;
(b) Restore the link between the rates of state benefits and the costs of living and guarantee that all social benefits provide a level of benefits sufficient to ensure an adequate standard of living, including access to health care, adequate housing and food;
(c) Review the use of sanctions in relation to social security benefits and ensure that they are used proportionately and are subject to prompt and independent dispute resolution mechanisms; and
(d) Provide in its next report, disaggregated data on the impact of the reforms to social security on women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children.
42. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General Comment N°19 (2007) on the right to social security.

Dr David Webster
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Urban Studies
School of Social and Political Sciences
University of Glasgow

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