Socialist Worker

Tories’ benefit plans will punish the poor

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2288

The government’s benefit-busting Welfare Reform Bill was set to return to the House of Commons on Wednesday of this week.

The Tories want to take billions of pounds away from people on benefits. They say this is to motivate poor people to get “back to work”.

Bishops, Labour peers and Lib Dem rebels have passed six amendments to the bill in the House of Lords.

These would soften some of the bill’s harshest attacks on disabled people, social housing tenants and families on child benefit. But they don’t go far enough.

But Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith has pledged to overturn the amendments.

Shamefully, the Labour Party leadership agrees with him.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne has suggested that Labour will vote with the government on some of the amendments.

But he has suggested one new change of his own. Byrne thinks the proposed cap on benefits is too high for many regions.

He would prefer a localised cap, to stop London from “forcing up the national average to a level that does not make sense in many parts of the country”.

In other words he wants the government to impose even harsher attacks on claimants outside London.

The bill could be made law by the end of February, and come into effect from next year.

It is an enormous attack on the whole idea of the welfare state, and it will push people further into poverty. The Tories are attacking the poorest people and must be stopped.

Behind the propaganda on the cap

The Tories claim that capping benefits will help people out of poverty and into jobs. The figures don’t add up.

  • The cap of £26,000 only applies to couples and families. For single people it would be £18,200 a year.

  • Supporters of the cap say it will allow unemployed claimants to receive more than many workers earn.

    But if a worker with a family earned this level of pay, they would be eligible for benefits.

  • If the Tories include child benefits in the cap, large families would get nothing extra for their children.

    After housing costs, £26,000 a year could work out at under £1 per person per day.

  • The new capped Universal Credit would be calculated for a whole family—but paid into the account of one individual.

    This could severely limit the financial independence of women.

What else is in the Welfare Reform Bill?

Socialist Worker’s seven key things you need to know about the government plans to reform benefits:

  1. A “Personal Independence Payment” would replace the Disability Living Allowance. This would have much tighter conditions on who can receive it.

  2. Humiliating tests would force claimants of Employment Support Allowance (ESA, formerly Incapacity Benefit) to prove their disability more often.

  3. Local Housing Allowance rates would move from RPI inflation to the usually lower CPI—a measure which doesn’t include housing costs!

    Between 1997 and 2007, average rents rose by 70 percent but CPI rose by just 20 percent.

    On those figures, the move to CPI would work out as a more than 40 percent cut.

  4. Social housing tenants would face an average £670 penalty for living in a home with spare rooms. Parents with shared custody of children and disabled people with carers often need the “extra” rooms.

  5. Anyone trying to use the Child Support Agency would face an upfront charge of up to £100 and a fee of up to 12 percent of any money collected.

  6. Unemployed claimants will have to show that they have spent up to 40 hours a week looking and applying for jobs. It is not clear what to do if there are no jobs.

  7. Central funding for the social fund, which provides emergency loans, would be cut back. This would drive poor people into the hands of predatory lenders.

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Article information

Sat 4 Feb 2012, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2288
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