Monday, January 20, 2020

Esther McVey quits Samaritans advisory board amid pressure from campaigners

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Ether McVey has been forced to step down from her role on the Samaritans‘ Advisory Board, after concerted pressure from campaigners following her recent appointment as the new Work and Pensions Secretary.

Campaigners welcomed the news and one Twitter user said it shows “a need for a review of advisory board membership” among charities that work with disabled people.

McVey’s promotion was met with anger and dismay from welfare rights activists and disabled person’s groups, because she supported many of the cuts to social security benefits disabled people rely on during her previous role as a Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Tatton MP is widely regarded as being on the right of the Conservative Party and aided Iain Duncan Smith in enforcing a number of welfare ‘reforms’, including the introduction of the hated ‘bedroom tax’ and a raft of other benefit changes.

The former television presenter famously lost her Wirral seat in the 2015 general election, but quickly made a return to front-line politics, having been gifted George Osborne’s ultra-safe Tatton seat in a by-election resulting from his spectacular fall from grace.

She is remembered for seemingly boasting that more than 300,000 disabled people would lose their benefits when reassessed for Personal Independence Payments, as well as voting to abolish the 10p tax rate but not to raise taxes for higher earners.

Commenting on McVey’s promotion to the Cabinet, Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said: “Like many in Merseyside, I am gobsmacked that anyone would think Esther McVey ought to be appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.”

And would seem that others finally agree. In a press release published on their website, the Samaritans said: “Esther McVey MP has stepped down from our Advisory Board due to her commitments as Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.

“She was invited by the Board to become a member in early 2017 when she was Chair of the British Transport Police Authority, one of the partners we work with to reduce suicides in the rail environment.

“We are extremely grateful to Esther for her support for the work of Samaritans and for the time she has given to the Advisory Board.

“Samaritans’ Advisory Board provides us with informal support, helping us to increase our potential to influence and fundraise. Neither the Chair nor any of its members is paid.”

Twitter user Andy Fugard congratulated campaigners after learning about the news.

Writing on his blog, Mr Fugard said: “This is great news, thanks to hard work by groups like Disabled People Against Cuts, Recovery in the Bin, and Black Triangle — groups led by disabled people, mental health service users and survivors. Their investigations revealed McVey’s membership on the board.

“These groups should be confident Samaritans is on their side and should be more involved in informing policy.

“This episode reveals a need for a review of advisory board membership. Samaritans must win back the trust of disabled people and others who have been harmed by disability (re)assessment policies, “sanctioning”, and cuts to welfare payments.

“Additionally, there should be an urgent review of Samaritans’ communications policy. It is not acceptable for the same message to be copied and pasted to multiple people who are concerned about serious conflicts of interest which harm Samaritans’ reputation, potentially affecting donations and most worryingly putting people off calling.”

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