Socialist Worker

Blair says make the poor poorer

Issue No. 1799

TONY BLAIR is preparing to rob child benefit and housing benefit from the poorest families in Britain because their children have been branded 'tearaways'. He is pressing ahead with the plan despite opposition from even right wing papers that exploit people's fear of crime. Far from cutting crime, Blair's scheme will make it worse. The single biggest cause of crime is poverty.

Slashing benefits will push people into greater hardship, leading some people to commit crime to make ends meet. Blair knows his plans will force families out onto the streets because they can't pay their rent.

One of the factors most likely to lead to crime is spending time in local authority care. Yet this will be a result of cutting benefits. The poorest parents already struggle to pay bills and buy food. Benefit worth £17.55 to a single parent of one child can be a lifeline. Around 4.5 million private, council and housing association tenants on low incomes rely on housing benefit.

The press and politicians present these people as 'feckless'-people who refuse to get a job and don't supervise their children. Children But almost half the people claiming housing benefit are pensioners. Only 12 percent of claimants are unemployed. The vast majority are in chronically low paid work that has to be supplemented by state benefits. They are parents working long hours on low pay trying to care for their children.

They get housing benefit that is worth on average £43.60 a week, according to the National Citizens Advice Bureaux. This small sum does not cover the actual rent tenants pay. More than one in five people who go to Citizens Advice Bureaux are already at risk of losing their home because of problems with housing benefit. Former Labour Party deputy leader Roy Hattersley has condemned Blair's plan as 'lunacy'. He said, 'If children play truant, the withdrawal of family benefit would only have one result. Money would run out earlier, and either the gas meter would not be fed or fewer groceries would be collected.'

Crime is built into a society where forms of greed (making a profit) are celebrated, and we are all told to aspire to the kind of life only a few have, funded by legalised robbery. Services that made life bearable for ordinary people have been cut to shreds over the last two decades.

It is surprising that there is not more crime. If Blair has his way, there will be.

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Sat 11 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1799
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