Sheffield Welfare Action Network (SWAN) is one of the lead organisations in the campaign against the proposed welfare reforms. They are organising the forthcoming People's March and Rally Against the IB cuts, a national demonstration on the 17th June being held in Sheffield. SWAN has been steadily helping build the campaign and seen opposition grow to the draconian welfare reforms as their implications become clear. There is also a benefit concert in aid of SWAN on the 20th May.
In anticipation of the reforms SWAN held a conference on disability benefits in October 2005 to discuss the issue. Those at the conference voiced their experience of the welfare system as a demoralising and threatening one, the prospect of further sanctions being terrifying to many.
SWAN went on to leaflet and have stalls to publicise the sanctions. In February 2006 there was a demonstration against the cuts (Report and Photos). SWAN continued to campaign - making links with organisation such as the British Council of Disabled People, Disability Alliance and WinVisible - as well as lobbying MP's and councellors - encouraging submissions to the green paper on welfare reform and submitting a formal response that concluded:
We would like to make it clear that SWAN supports the principle of offering good quality support to claimants who feel ready to accept it. To us, the central issue is one of control. The proposals in the Green Paper will mean that the state, and not the individual, will decide whether a person is ready to think about a return to work. We cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance that many, many claimants attach to having pressure-free time in which to make a recovery, and the extreme stress and anxiety which they experience when this is threatened. We hope that we have given claimants a voice in the consultation process, when they are almost entirely absent from the Green Paper.
SWAN believes that disabled people themselves are the best-placed people to decide on suitable programmes and work-related activities, to be undertaken at their own pace and at the right time. SWAN would like assurances that there will be no sanctions against those who do not take part in such programmes, and that there will be no compulsion to take part in healthcare treatments.
We would prefer a humane benefits system where the current mistrust and fear of the DWP is replaced by a genuine feeling of being supported. This will require some considerable work on the DWPs part, and will certainly not be helped by the threat of sanctions. We believe that claimants will gladly accept good-quality support to return to work if they feel ready, and if this support is offered by agencies which they have no need to fear, and that this will entirely negate the "need" for sanctions.
To find out more about SWAN, read our full response, keep up to date with news about the reforms or read more about the conference, go to the SWAN website.