Controversial welfare reforms should be scrapped, says retiring West Norfolk support service boss
A leading West Norfolk disability rights campaigner has described the welfare system as “broken” and called for controversial government changes to it to be scrapped immediately.
Jonathan Toye spoke out as he announced plans to retire as co-ordinator of the West Norfolk Disability Information Service (WNDIS) and launch the search for his successor.
WNDIS, which Mr Toye has led for nearly 20 years, offers advice and advocacy services for disabled people and carers, as well as training and disability access audits of buildings.
And, in the week the government admitted benefit errors could end up costing over £1.5 billion to put right, Mr Toye said the service had won £150,000 in back payments this year alone.
He said: “The whole system is broken.
“Universal Credit should just be scrapped. That's the simple solution. It doesn't work.”
In a House of Common debate this week, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey insisted the system was helping to get people into work and a large majority of claimants were satisfied with their experience.
But there have also been calls for more money to be put into the scheme in the Budget on October 29.
Mr Toye said he had spoken to one parent whose daughter could not move house to another district as she feared being worse off by being put onto Universal Credit.
He is also heartened by the interventions of figures like former prime minister, Sir John Major, who warned the system could provoke a response similar to the Poll Tax riots in 1990.
But he argued that WNDIS' 75 per cent appeal success rate proves the need for much more radical action.
He said: “If you want to really simplify the benefits system, a very simple solution is to adopt something they have in Finland, a minimum income guarantee.
“No questions asked, it costs nothing to administrate and with a bit of luck you put everybody like me out of a job.”
Mr Toye, who plans to step down next year, says retirement will mean more time to tend to his garden, which he described as a “jungle” and to play croquet in the grounds of Stow Hall, where the Downham Croquet Club, of which he is a member, meets.
He hopes that announcing his decision now will mean he can guide his successor through a handover period.
He said: “I realised that if I wanted the service to carry on doing the really important work that it does, I'd have to get someone in and train them up.
“I'd been putting it off and putting it off and I realised I needed to set myself a deadline.”
Anyone who is interested in the role should email email@example.com or phone 01553 782558 for more details.