As expected, the Labour party manifesto holds little comfort for sick and disabled claimants. There are commitments to abolish the bedroom tax, ‘reform’ the work capability assessment and pause and review universal credit. However, the household benefit cap will stay and there was no mention of ending the current sanctions regime, pausing the roll out of personal independence payment or saving the Independent Living Fund (ILF).
Labour say they will:
- Reform the WCA, focusing it on the support disabled people need to get into work
- Abolish the bedroom tax
- Set up an independent scrutiny group of disabled people to monitor the WCA
- Set up a specialist support programme to provide tailored help to disabled people who can work.
- Pause and review the universal credit programme
- Keep the household benefit cap and investigate whether it should actually be lower in some regions
- Not cut tax credits
- Introduce Maths, English and IT skills tests within six weeks of claiming JSA and make training compulsory where it would improve employability
- Introduce a guaranteed paid job for young people out of work for a year and over 25s out of work for two years
- Introduce a higher rate of JSA for those who have paid NI contributions for longer, paid for by extending the period you need to have paid contributions before you qualify
Whilst abolishing the bedroom tax remains very welcome, ‘reform’ of the WCA is a virtually meaningless commitment as is the setting up of a ‘scrutiny group’. The lack of any mention of the sanctions regime or the ILF will also disappoint many disabled activists.
A Labour led government still appears to be a considerably better bet for claimants than a Conservative one. But it’s clear that Labour remain only a less awful option, rather than a positively good one.
Source – Benefits & Work, 13 Apr 2015
George Osborne has confirmed that there will be further massive cuts in the benefits budget, but refuses to say where they will fall, leaving working age claimants the likely target for the worst excesses.
In his budget speech yesterday Osborne confirmed there will be a further cut of £12bn in benefits spending, but gave no further details. Given that pensioners are largely protected, that leaves unemployed, sick and disabled claimants as the only realistic target for big savings.
This morning Osborne told the Today programme:
‘I’m proposing the same pace of cuts as over the last five years.”
“We’ve saved £21 billion in this Parliament and we need £12bn in the next. People can judge me by my track record”.
We know that there are plans to reduce the household benefit cap further and to stop housing benefit for some under 25 year olds. But these measures will be nowhere near enough to meet the proposed level of savings.
This is especially so when you consider that, with out-of-control rents, the housing benefit bill is set to continue to expand.
It certainly is possible to judge Osborne and his fellow ministers by their track record.
Over the last five years we have seen the introduction of the bedroom tax, the replacement of DLA with PIP, the time limiting of ESA, massive increases in sanctions and the destruction of the social fund, to name but a few.
None of these measures were in the Conservative party manifesto. And none of them, it seems, have come close to being harsh enough in Osborne’s view.
Where is there left now to make cuts in the benefits budgets? Where do you think the axe will fall?
Source – Benefits & Work, 19 Mar 2015