Socialist Worker

Pushed into poverty by cruel benefit freeze—scrap this vile government

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2645

Phillip Hammond

Phillip Hammond (Pic: EU2007EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr)


Tory chancellor Philip Hammond’s spring statement this week follows a decision from MPs last week to continue with a freeze on many benefits.

The freeze means claimants’ income stays the same while the cost of living goes up—meaning people have less to spend in real terms.

Between 2016 and 2020 the freeze will have affected more than 27 million people and pushed 400,000 into poverty.

Universal Credit claimant Emma told Socialist Worker that trying to survive on the benefit is a “constant struggle”.

“The cuts have had a detrimental effect on my health,” she said. “My oven broke and I have no money to replace it. I can’t pay for necessary domestic care or decent food to maintain a healthy diet. This plays a big part in my wellbeing as a disabled person.”

Even MPs have admitted that the freeze is “cruel”. A Work and Pensions Committee report this week said the overwhelming majority of those hit by the freeze can’t work.

Some 82 percent of those affected aren’t expected to look for work due to health issues or caring responsibilities.

This exposes the lies that claimants are too lazy to work and that attacks on benefits “incentivise” people into jobs. The report said the freeze is hitting “single mothers with newborn babies and people with serious health conditions”.

Neglect

Some families have been left with so little money that their children were taken into care due to neglect. And because claimants can’t work they have “no way to escape the cap”.

Just five out of every 100 households affected by the cap have moved into work.

Unfortunately the report calls for the benefit freeze to continue for claimants seeking work. The freeze is aimed at making life harder for poor and working class people—it needs to be scrapped.

It’s hypocrisy for the Tories to attack people for not working. Over one million public sector jobs went between 2010 and June 2017 because of cuts, privatisation and outsourcing, according to the GMB union.

The money’s there to give everyone a decent standard of living. But disgracefully the Tories are holding onto it.

Hammond bragged on Radio 4’s Today programme this week of having “fiscal reserves”. “Public finances have improved very significantly over the last couple of years,” he said.

But he is using Brexit as an excuse to keep hammering the poor. According to the Sunday Times, Hammond has £15 billion in a no-deal contingency fund. Hammond said if money is spent “dealing with the disruption of a no-deal exit” it can’t be spent on services.

“People need to remember this bunch of clowns are supposed to work for us,” said Emma. “Austerity is killing people and the Tories have blood on their hands. It’s simple—this government needs to go.”


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