David Cameron was challenged over the death of diabetic benefits claimant James Clapson and over the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show. Cameron’s unapologetic response was that there are hardship funds available for ‘difficult cases’.
On his programme yesterday Marr asked Cameron if he accepted that the £22 billion of welfare cuts so far ‘has hurt a lot of poor and vulnerable people?’
Cameron replied that it had involved ‘difficult decisions’ but:
“ . . . we have protected for instance the pension, we’ve protected benefits for the lowest paid, we’ve always made sure that we’ve increased spending on disability benefits rather than reduced it.”
On the subject of why one million people now depend on food banks, Cameron argued that:
“One of the things we did was that Labour, because they didn’t like the PR of this, they didn’t advertise or promote the existence of food banks through job centres. We changed that because we thought that was, that was basically sort of selfish and shortminded…”
And when it came to the subject of James Clapson, a former soldier who failed to turn up for a Jobcentre interview, had his benefits sanctioned and died after being unable to refrigerate his insulin, Cameron was entirely unapologetic. His response was:
“Well we have hardship funds and councils have hardship funds for exactly those sorts of tragic cases but if you’re asking me is it right that people who are asked to turn up for interviews or asked to fill in a CV or asked to apply for a job should have to do those things before getting benefits then yes it’s right that we do have that system in place . . .”
When asked about another case involving a claimant with learning difficulties who had his benefits sanctioned for not using a computer, Cameron again relied on hardship funds and entirely ignored Marr’s suggestion that there should be a review of the system:
“I look at all of those individual cases and all of those cases can be addressed by the hardship funds and by the flexibilities that are there in the system . . . People watching this programme who pay their taxes, who work very hard, they don’t pay their taxes so people can sign on and show no effort at getting a job, as I put it on the steps of Downing Street those who can should; those who can’t we always help”
Cameron was equally dismissive of the abolition of the ILF, due to take place in June:
“Well what we’ve done is we’ve given that responsibility to local councils as the last resort and local councils have that funding available to help.”
When Marr pointed out that the funding is only for one year, Cameron replied simply “they have it for difficult cases” before once again reminding listeners how many more people have moved into work under the Coalition.
Cameron’s lack of compassion, apology or understanding combined with a total refusal to actually look into what is going wrong with the benefits system are a powerful reminder of what another five years of Conservative led government will mean to sick and disabled claimants.
Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Apr 2015
“Dramatic” and “life-changing” benefits cuts will be imposed if the Tories are running the country after 7 May, Iain Duncan Smith has warned.
They could include taxing DLA, PIP and AA, axeing contribution-based ESA and JSA, cutting the work-related activity component of ESA to 50p, cutting carers allowance numbers by 40%, and making people pay the first 10% of their housing benefit.
For many, these will be life-threatening cuts, rather than life-changing ones.
But claimants are in a position to prevent them happening.
And it won’t take a miracle.
In fact, just an additional 5% turnout by working age claimants could have a dramatic and life-changing effect on IDS and his plans instead.
But a higher turnout won’t happen by itself. Labour are too frightened of the tabloids to try to rally claimants. Many of the major charities and disability organisations have been scared into silence by the Lobbying Act. And the media has little interest in benefits cuts, other than to applaud them as a good thing.
So it looks like it’s up to ordinary claimants to make sure as many other claimants as possible understand the threat they are facing.
In this newsletter we tell you what’s at stake and how you can make a difference.
IDS told Andrew Marr last week he didn’t become a minister to make “cheese-paring” cuts. Instead he has ‘dramatic’ and ‘life-changing’ plans for claimants.
And the tool for those dramatic changes is £12 billion of cuts to benefits in the space of just two years.
So far, we only know where £2 billion of the cuts will come from – a freeze on working age benefits. But the Conservatives are refusing to say where the other savings will be made.
A document leaked to the BBC, however, set out some of the cuts the Conservative party are considering, including:
- Taxing DLA, PIP and AA.
- Abolishing contribution based ESA and JSA entirely, so that only claimants who pass a means test can claim these benefits.
- Cutting the number of people getting carer’s allowance by 40%.
- Limiting child benefit to the first two children.
There are other proposed cuts too, including replacing industrial injuries benefits with an insurance policy for employers, regional benefit caps and changes to council tax.
Not enough cuts
But all of this will still not be enough.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS):
“If all of these were implemented, the total saving would be likely to fall well short of the missing £10 billion per year that the Conservatives intend to find by 2017–18”
So, what else might be in the firing line?
Housing benefit and ESA cuts
We know that pensioners benefits are protected. And JSA costs such a tiny amount compared to other benefits that further cuts there would make little difference.
Cuts to housing benefit are one possibility that the IFS have highlighted, however, as this makes up a large and growing proportion of the benefits bill.
The IFS have estimated that making everyone pay the first 10% of their housing benefit would save £2.5 billion over two years.
Another extremely strong contender is to cut the work-related activity component (WRAC) of ESA to just 50 pence.
We know that the Conservatives are keen to slash the WRAC, because they’ve considered doing it before.
Cutting the WRAC wouldn’t save huge amounts, probably less than £1 billion a year.
But combined with cuts to housing benefit and all the other cuts listed above, it would probably be enough.
What you can do
Is this all nothing more than unnecessarily distressing speculation? After all, we don’t know what cuts will be made until – and unless – the Tories are elected.
But by then it will be too late. As Andrew Marr said in his interview with IDS, if the Conservatives won’t tell us which benefits will be cut, sick and disabled claimants will have to expect the worst:
“What I’m saying to you is if I was on welfare, if I was on disability benefit and I was told that you were taking £12 billion out of the budget, I would really need to know before I voted was I going to be hit. Or if I didn’t know that, I’d have to be assume that I was going to be hit.”
IDS, Osborne and Cameron have all now said no details of the cuts will be given before the election. So there’s no time to lose.
Clearly, the most important thing is to make sure you are registered to vote and then actually vote for a candidate who can keep the Tories out, if that’s possible, in your constituency.
But there’s more.
Above all, alert other claimants and carers to the dramatic threat they face – because many people still have no idea how huge £12 billion in cuts in two years really is.
And then try to persuade them that voting isn’t a waste of time. Because it is no longer true that all the parties are the same.
Here at Benefits and Work we have no trust for either of the major parties. But Labour, unpleasant as they undoubtedly are, don’t drool at the thought of cutting welfare in the way that the Tories do.
And the £7 billion savings Labour say they plan to make are very much smaller than the Conservative cuts. Even if every single pound Labour saved was from cutting benefits, instead of from other measures such as raising taxes from the wealthy, it would still amount to just over half the benefits cuts the Tories have guaranteed.
Not that it has to be Labour that claimants turn to. There are other parties – most notably the SNP – which have a real chance to win seats in some areas of the UK and who don’t support big cuts to benefits.
Read our suggestions on how to fight back, possibly add your own and then make a start. Talk to people, contact your local paper, tweet, comment and write letters.
You can make a difference
And don’t imagine that your voice can’t make a difference.
This is a very close election so far.
There will be many seats where the winner’s majority is in the low hundreds, some where it will be less than a hundred. Even a 5% additional turnout by working age claimants – amounting to perhaps 400 voters in many constituencies – could make the difference between Labour and the Conservatives being the largest party.
If you can convince a handful of people to vote and to talk to other claimants, you could genuinely help to change the course of this election.
Remember, you’re not trying to persuade hard-faced, right wing tabloid readers that cutting benefits is wrong. That undoubtedly would be a waste of time.
You’re talking to people who already know how painful the Coalition benefits cuts have been – because they’ve been hit by them.
You just have to persuade them that it’s not time to despair.
It’s time to fight back.
It’s time to vote for your life.
Source – Benefits & Work, 07 Apr 2015
Iain Duncan Smith yesterday warned that claimants face “dramatic”, “life-changing” cuts if the Conservatives win the election. He refused to rule out cutting disability benefits and the support group, whilst explaining that the Conservatives “may not decide that it’s relevant” to tell people prior to the election where the cuts will be made.
In an interview on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, IDS gave what many sick and disabled claimants will view as a chilling warning that:
“I didn’t come into this job after years looking at this to just make cheese paring cuts.”
Instead, he said, he wanted to do things that will have a “life changing, dramatic effect, and that is about getting people back to work and improving their life chances.”
The ‘back to work’ reference appears to be a clear warning that employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are in the firing line of any ‘dramatic’ changes.
This is especially the case as Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is expected to cost just £2.39 billion in 2016-17, when the cuts come in, compared to £14.47 billion for ESA. So cuts to JSA would go nowhere near meeting the £12 billion in welfare savings the Conservatives have said they will make in just two years.
But cuts to ESA would still not go far enough and IDS refused to rule out an attack on disability benefits as well. He argued that:
“Throughout all of my changes, we have protected the most disabled, we have kept disability benefits out of the freeze and we’ve supported the support group.”
But when Marr asked: “Will that continue?”
IDS would only respond that:
“Well, as I said, as and when the time is right, we will make it very clear what our position is.”
“When we’re ready”
Unfortunately for voters, IDS repeatedly made it clear that the right time to reveal their plans may not be until after the election, saying that “when we’re right and when we’re ready, we will talk about what we plan to do.”
When specifically asked by Marr:
“Will they know before they vote what you plan to do?”
“Well you know we may, we may not decide that it’s relevant to put something out there about some of those changes.”
No decisions made yet
In fact, according to IDS it would be impossible for the Conservatives to reveal their plans to voters because, in spite of warning for two years that they planned to make £12 billion in benefits cuts, no decisions have been made yet about what to cut.
“I can tell you now no decisions have been made. As and when decisions are made, of course we will be very open to the public.”
Improved quality of life
Perhaps the most alarming claim made by IDS was that his time at the DWP has resulted in an improvement in people’s lives:
“And I’ve said that these changes would improve the quality of lives, and I have to tell you right now our welfare reforms have improved the quality of life for the vast majority of the British people and also saving taxpayers’ money – which is the key point.”
Sick and disabled claimants have already been hit by the bedroom tax, the switch from DLA to PIP, the time-limiting of contribution-based ESA, changes to council tax, changes to the way benefits are uprated and more.
The prospect of IDS spending another five years improving their lives may ensure a very high turnout of claimants on May 7th.
Source – Benefits & Work, 30 Mar 2015
A future Tory Government would slash benefits for around 100,000 struggling families and young people to fund more low-paid apprenticeships, Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge on Monday.
Cameron will say that he plans to deliver 3 million more apprenticeships by cutting the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.
The plan would affect 70,000 families in receipt of either in-work or out-of-work benefits and tax credits, saving around £135 million a year. This will include 40,000 households who have so far managed to escape welfare cuts, according to Conservative Party figures released to the Press Association (PA).
Figures released at the end of last year (December 2013) show that for the first time in recorded history more low-paid working households are living on or below the breadline than those who are out-of-work. More cuts to in-work benefits could further exacerbate this issue and cost the Tories votes at the next general election.
The Tories would also remove Housing Benefit entitlement from 18-21 year-olds, affecting 30,000 young people and saving an estimated £120 million a year.
SKY News reports that Mr Cameron has the backing of a number of large firms including Nestle, Airbus, Ford, Balfour Beatty, Fujitsu and the National Grid.
“Because of difficult decisions we will make on welfare, we will deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020. This is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.
“It will help give us the skills to compete with the rest of the world. And it will mean more hope, more opportunity, and more security for our young people, helping them get on in life and make something of themselves.
“We have already doubled apprenticeships this Parliament. We will finish the job in the next and end youth unemployment.”
Cameron had previously told the Andrew Marr show:
“All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down saves money, will mean more families getting into work, and what I want to see – the plan we have for Britain – is to spend less money on welfare and more on helping people into work.”
However, the Tories relentless attack against the young and low-paid has come under criticism from their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
Leader Nick Clegg used his speech at the Liberal Democrats annual conference to attack the Tories for taking an “axe” to the welfare budget, without showing any “regard for the impact on people’s lives”.
His words will anger millions of people affected by welfare cuts his party helped (voted) to introduce – including the cap on benefits.
Currently the minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £2.73 an hour for 16-18 year-olds. The same hourly rate applies to 19 year-olds who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Apprentices over the age of 19, or who have completed their first year, are paid at least the national minimum wage for their age group, with some businesses willing to pay more – if you’re lucky.
The national minimum wage rate for 16-18 year-olds currently stands at £3.79 an hour, £1.06 higher than that for apprentices. Those aged 18-20 receive a minimum wage rate of £5.13 an hour, rising to £6.50 for the over 20’s.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 20 Oct 2014
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said any pay rise for MPs would be “ridiculous” and he would strongly vote against any proposal to increase their income.
Mr Wright told the Hartlepool Mail those behind the calls for a 10 per cent rise for MPs are “not living in the real world”.
The comments from the town’s MP come after Chancellor George Osborne insisted a 10 per cent pay hike for MPs is “unacceptable” after the Commons watchdog reiterated its determination to push ahead with the rise.
The Chancellor suggested the move will be blocked after the General Election, stressing that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’s (Ipsa) position was not “final”.
The comments, in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, came after new Ipsa chief executive Marcial Boo reiterated its commitment to the increase from £67,000 to £74,000.
Mr Wright told the Mail: “This is ridiculous and those calling for it are not living in the real world.
“If it came to a vote, I would strongly be voting against.”
He added there is already a disconnection between politicians and the general public and this would only make that worse.
Mr Boo said the economy was recovering and politicians should not be paid a “miserly amount”.
He said: “It is not an easy thing to do. We want to have good people doing the job and they need to be paid fairly.”
> But surly those criteria could – and should – be applied to any job ? Not forgetting that any other job doesn’t get the wide range of perks that MPs come to expect.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 09 Sept 2014