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About Deborah Padfield

Deborah Padfield has been a Citizens Advice benefits adviser, trainer and supervisor in Cambridge, Peterborough and north Essex, where she still works. In the past she lived and worked in London's East End. She has considerable experience of mental illness and is on the steering committee of The Cambridge Commons.


Articles by Deborah Padfield

This week’s front page editor


Sunny Hundal is openDemocracy’s social media editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

No right to despair

As we enter into five years of Conservative rule, those of us who are relatively privileged need to be reminded of a vital principle: we have no right to despair. We won't pay the highest price.

Who benefits from benefit?

The UK "benefit" system is about ensuring that people play the part alloted to them by economic and political elites.

Universal Credit: the fantasy of a tidy world

The coalition presents its benefit reforms as fair, rational and efficient. For many, however, the world is not as ordered as those in power seem to imagine.  

Basic Income - basic respect

Basic Income is not a panacea for our woeful economic structure but it could certainly be a big step forward.

The Work Programme, people and economy part 4 - 'failure' and 'success'

The final part of a four part series on the Work Programme, examining what the programme means by 'success' and 'failure'.

Our parasitic economy: joining the No campaign

A society dependent on the financial, social and existential insecurity of its people has failed in one of the basic goals of democracy.

The Work Programme, people and economy part 3 - exploring outcomes

If you incentivise private companies to achieve X, Y and Z, they will inevitably find the easiest and lowest cost way of achieiving it. That is not necessarily the desired social outcome.

The Work Programme, people and economy: part 2

The second of a four part series on the government's controversial welfare reforms.

The Work Programme, people and economy: what's happening?

A four part series on the government's controversial welfare reforms.

We Are Many against Conspiracy: holding on to democracy

Two films, one showing the power of the masses, the other showing the power of inaction.

Is the DWP even fit for purpose?

The DWP's goals are controversial in themselves but perhaps more worrying is that the department doesn't seem able to function - report after report lays bare the most fundamental failings.

The tale of a pram: are people on benefits poor?

A young couple on benefits, smiling, with an expensive looking pram. Something's wrong here.

Passports vs ESA assessments - guess which one matters

The current furore over passport delays brings into sharp focus the almost total disregard for ESA claimants from the political and media class.

A dystopian reality - welfare, the homeless and the unfed

Perhaps people are unaware of just how bad the situation has got for many of their fellow citizens, those who have little food, no money, and no home - in 21st century Britain. Two forces make this possible: hypocrisy and invisibility.

It is bust, so fix it: time to discuss the basic income

Witnessing first hand the problems in our current system of welfare payments, basic income has many attractions. But are the alleged pitfalls justified?

Austerity - update from the front line

The cumulative assault on economic security unleashed by this government have left many just a small mishap away from a cascade of misery. The reality for most claimants is very different to inflammatory media protrayals.

The government is misleading in its claims for Universal Credit

The British government's response to criticisms of its welfare reforms are misleading - the overall picture remains one which will ensure poverty and misery for many through little fault of their own.

Britain and benefit tourism: a story full of holes

What can an EU citizen entering Britain expect from its welfare system? And is this fair? A Citizens Advice Bureau adviser gives us the real story on migrants and benefits.

The new normal: housing and protest in Britain

Action is stirring in response to the country-wide housing crisis. Severe shortage and cuts to housing benefits leave the UK struggling to put roofs over heads. Some local authorities and tenant groups are trying to rebel; they need concerted support.

Britain's 'tough choices': a call for a new approach to welfare

At the Citizens Advice Bureau the real Thatcher legacy can be seen every day: social disengagement, indifference and injustice. It is Thatcherism that needs burying.

Equality before the law: a principle abandoned by Britain

A Citizens Advice Bureau adviser describes how recent 'reforms' to legal aid and cuts to services are impacting on the ground. She has a question: At what point did Britain decide that legal rights don’t apply to poor people? 

The real cost of benefit fraud in Britain

Honest mistakes, personal fraud, organised crime. Where does one end and the next begin?

Falling through the cracks in Britain 2013

Strivers vs skivers. Last week saw a game show-like battle between our politicians over the proposed benefit cap. What do they know? Here, a Citizen's Advice Bureau adviser maps the predicament of Britain's dying welfare state through the lives of those living in the system.

How does Britain treat its modern slaves?

How the UK authorities deal with trafficked women speaks volumes about the values at the heart of our democracy.

A job seeker has set himself alight: how many in the UK are steps from such desperation?

The job seeker who set fire to himself in Birmingham appears to have been driven to this horrific act by an all-too-common glitch in the welfare system. A Citizens Advice Bureau worker explains how such desperation is only steps away for many seeking support from the British state.

Cameron's collective responsibility

David Cameron's welfare speech implored the UK's unemployed to 'do the right thing' and work their way out of hard times. His tough rhetoric and cunning manipulation of statistics fostered a dramatic press responsse. But if the 'welfare crisis' really is a crisis of social responsibility, then this monolithic display of misdirection is symptomatic of how 'responsibility' itself is being mishandled by a hypocritical elite.  

Legal aid and arbitrary power

Today marks the final reading of the legal aid bill in the Lords. If - as seems likely - the bill goes through, 'ordinary people' in Britain will be shocked to discover how thin is their access to law when things go wrong. Deborah Padfield, whose work has for several years been funded by legal aid, considers a measure whose significance echoes through our democratic system.

Benefit cap: a divide-and-rule tactic

26K per family in hand-outs is the limit. Reasonable, isn't it? How else do we get Britain off benefits? A Citizens Advice Bureau adviser gives her views from the ground.

Child neglect: welfare benefits and child carers

The plight of young carers in Britain is described by a benefits adviser at Cambridge Citizens Advice Bureau.

The human cost of flexible labour

There is a new dangerous class in the UK: the precariat. Flexible hiring and firing is scarring a generation who want to work, causing an increase in mental health problems and making it harder for people to rejoin the labour force.

Through the eyes of a benefits adviser: a plea for a basic income

Constant fear, routine humiliation, no escape: this isn't prison, but life on incapacity benefit in the United Kingdom. There is another way: one that respects human dignity.

Universal credit: fair for whom?

New changes intended to simplify the UK's welfare benefit system could have negative consequences. While the government moralises about "individual responsibility", its policies will entrench poverty for some

Who’s responsible? Our final ‘Report from the Poverty Line’

We conclude our series of 'Reports from the Poverty Line' with a call for a reassessment of who contributes to society, and who is parasitic. Why can't we look at the wealth-generating potential of the poor, and the costs of the rich to the health of our country?

Living with Fear: Part 4 of 'Reports from the Poverty Line'

Deborah Padfield, a citizen’s advice bureau adviser, returns to report from the poverty line. In the fourth of a series of five posts, she describes the debilitating levels of insecurity under which benefits claimants, and especially those with disabilities, are often forced to live

Get ’em off benefits? Part 3 of 'Reports from the Poverty Line'

Deborah Padfield, a citizen’s advice bureau adviser, returns to report from the poverty line. In the third of a series of five posts, she examines the drive to get claimants off benefits. Should we be deterring state 'scroungers', or helping the 'work-hungry' masses into employment?
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