Campaigns and Consortiums
CPAG and campaign co-operation in the 1980s
Whilst in much of their work CPAG worked independently at points it proved fruitful to form wider alliances with other groups to support a particular campaign, or type of action. Sometimes this might be in the form of a jointly sponsored press release or test case, but at other times it was in a more long-standing, organised relationship. These associations increased CPAG’s ability to impact policy, brought in a different area of expertise and spread the work load. The 1980s were particularly noted for these relationships when many organisations banded together to challenge the Governments changes to the welfare state. Some of the most noted groups that CPAG was a leading force in included Save Child Benefit, Action for Benefits, the Social Security Consortium and the Peoples Petition Against the Poll Tax, although they were active in a number of others such as the Maternity Alliance, the Right to Fuel campaign, the Unemployment Alliance and the Education Alliance.
One of the organisations that they worked closely with was the Low Pay Unit, a body originally set up in the 1970s by Frank Field. Their links were strengthened when CPAG decided to adopt a minimum wage as a policy. Moreover, the LPU, CPAG and Church Action on Poverty formed a joint campaign in the run up to the 1987 general election under the title: ‘Put Poverty at the Heart of the Election Campaign.’ Other close relationships, building on co-operation from the 1970s can be seen with the Citizens Advice Bureau, Friends Service Units, Help the Aged, Shelter, the National Council for One-Parent Families and the Disability Rights Group.
The first of what might be termed a wider consortium in the 1980s was a broad social security group who were initially called the Anti-Social Security Cuts Group. They jointly monitored the impact of changes to the Social security system following the 1980 Social Security Act, there were 10 organisations represented and they sent joint press releases and lobbied ministers.1 In 1981 a press release to protest about the Social Security Cuts, was sent from NCPF, Age Concern, Disability Alliance, CPAG, RADAR, LPU, Youth Aid, Unemployment Unit and the FSU.2 Save Child Benefit was also a large consortium that did manage to mobilise strong support for child benefit, and sent out numerous joint press releases, and ran a number of large campaigns and petitions across its 70 member organisations which included women’s groups, churches, trade unions as well as other campaigning groups.
By the later 1980s much of the work on social security was spearheaded by the Social Security Consortium (SSC). In 1988 the EC were presented with a paper from the SSC that looked at alternatives to the Social Security Act. In noted that too much already on statue so a new government would not simply repeal need “day/year 1” alternatives.3 In 1989 the: ‘SSC has received a long letter from John Moore on reply to SSC’s letter suggesting improvements to April 1988 benefit scheme. Action for Benefits was a third major consortium that CPAG were involved with, both at a national and local level. As they noted of the TU conference: ‘in recent years CPAG has done little work in its own name around the trade union conferences. We have instead worked through Action for Benefits providing speakers for some of their fringe meetings or some literature.’4 The Unemployment Alliance was a further consortium CPAG were involved with, with a wide range of organisations.5
CPAG were also, as has already been noted, instrumental in setting up a group opposed to the Poll tax. CPAG and Shelter initiated the meetings about the poll tax between poverty lobby, housing, youth and church groups’ and raised idea of petition. The Poll tax petition: ‘was launched in 28 March at a press conference which was very well attended and received excellent coverage.’
The 1980s were a period of intense activity in the need to challenge changes to social security through submissions to government, media work, campaigns and publications. By working alongside other like-minded groups CPAG were able to extend the reach and impact of their message and if not stop the direction of change at least, at points, moderate it.
1 LSE/CPAG/38, Box 1 of 3, Social Security.
2 LSE/CPAG/38, Box 1 of 3, Social Security, Press Release, 15 October 1981.
3 LSE/CPAG/63 (316) Box 4 of 5, Executive Committee Minutes, 13 February 1987.
4 LSE/CPAG/63 (316) Box 2 of 5, Paper to Executive Committee, 10 February 1989.
5 LSE/CPAG/44, Box 2of 3 (66), Jim Lester, 17 January 1986.