Tagged: housing benefit

Housing benefit cuts considered by ministers

Ministers are considering forcing all housing benefit recipients to contribute towards their rent as part of efforts to save £12bn from the welfare bill, government sources say.

Housing benefit currently can cover the full cost of rent.

The chancellor is also understood to be pushing for the cap on all benefits to be lowered from £26,000 to £20,000 outside London and south-east England.

It was previously announced the cap would be cut to £23,000 across the UK.

It is understood that other proposals to abolish or severely restrict the carer’s allowance have been dropped after opposition from the prime minister.

A government spokesman said it would not comment on speculation about next Wednesday’s Budget.

Since winning the election, officials and ministers have struggled to find £12bn in savings – a key Conservative manifesto commitment.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/169/housing-benefit-cuts-considered-ministers

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Thousands could lose benefits in Government plan to end youth unemployment

Thousands of unemployed young people across the North East could be stripped of benefits under tough plans in the Government’s Queen’s Speech.

David Cameron insisted the crackdown was designed to end youth unemployment, as he set out his plans in the House of Commons.

But Labour MPs said the plans effectively meant young people would be forced to work for as little as less than £2 an hour – payment far below the minimum wage.

The North East has the highest youth unemployment rate in England.

Office figures show 21.4 per cent of young people aged 18 to 24 are unemployed.

The figures cover people who are “economically active”, which means they are in a job or looking for work. Full-time students are not included.

This is a higher proportion than in any other part of England. It’s also higher than Scotland or Wales, and roughly equal to the Northern Ireland figure of 21.8 per cent.

By contrast, the unemployment rate for people aged 18 to 24 in the south east is 11.4 per cent. And in the West Midlands, it is 16.1 per cent.

Official figures also show that 4,000 people in the North East aged 18 to 24 have been claiming Jobseekers Allowance for six months or longer.

But under Government plans, anyone aged 21 or under will lose the right to this benefit – and be put on a new “youth allowance” instead.

They’ll get the same amount of money as before, up to £57.90 a week, but if they are unemployed for six months then they will be given compulsory community work such as making meals for the elderly or working for local charities – and they’ll lose the right to claim benefits if they refuse.

If they will have to work 30 hours a week as expected, that would be a payment of £1.93 for each hour worked, well below the minimum wage of £5.13 for people age 18 to 20 and £6.50 for those older.

 

The Government says it plans to prepare young people for work and will create 200,000 new apprenticeships in the North East.

And Conservatives point out that the number of people aged 18 to 24 in the North East actually in work has risen by 13,000 over the past year.

David Cameron told the House of Commons: “One of the most important things we can do is give young people the chance of an apprenticeship and the chance of work.

“What we have done is expand apprenticeships and uncapped university places, so that there is no cap on aspiration in our country.

“We now want to go further by saying that every young person should be either earning or learning.

“Leaving school, signing on, getting unemployment benefit, getting housing benefit and opting for a life out of work—that is no choice at all, and that is why we will legislate accordingly.”

And Conservative MP Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, said:

“This Bill will provide assistance to young people to earn and learn, and give them the skills which they need to have a long term future in employment.

“We need to address the skills gap and using apprenticeships will really make a difference to do that.”

Labour Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said:

“If young people are expected to work in order to get benefits then they should be entitled to the minimum wage.

“To tell them to work for £2 an hour is ridiculous. We have legislation which says there is a minimum wage in this country and that should be the minimum level people can expect.”

Conservatives will face a battle over plans to stop people aged 18 to 21 claiming housing benefit – with Labour MPs and other critics warning it will put young people who are forced to leave home because of abuse in danger.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 30 May 2015

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Botched Universal Credit Roll Out Set To Continue Under The Tories

The botched roll out of Universal Credit is set to continue under the Conservatives, it has been announced today.

Universal Credit is replacing six existing benefits including Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit, with one single monthly payment.

Described as a “welfare revolution” by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Universal Credit will be made available to new single claimants in Richmond, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Stornoway, from today (11 May 2015).

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, all Jobcentres in the country will be offering Universal Credit to some groups of claimants by spring 2016.

 Iain Duncan Smith MP, said:

“Universal Credit is bringing welfare into the 21st Century by restoring fairness to the system and making work pay in a modern labour market.

“We’ve already seen remarkable successes with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer.

“As part of our long-term economic plan, today sees the next stage of this welfare revolution with the continual roll out of Universal Credit.”

The new benefit is currently available in one-in-three Jobcentres (260). The government initially targeted the roll out of Universal Credit at the ‘easiest to help’ claimants, such as single people without children. For example, only 96 Jobcentres are currently offering Universal Credit to couples, families and lone parents.

DWP figures show that more than 64,000 people have made a claim. However, this is far short of the one million originally promised by Mr Duncan Smith to be in receipt of Universal Credit by April 2014.

Universal Credit has been dogged with delays and IT problems. DWP officials have already been forced to write off millions of pounds in failed IT software.

HM Treasury officials admitted last year that a potential £633 million could be written off by the time Universal Credit is completely rolled-out across the country and to all groups of claimants.

Children’s charity Gingerbread warned in October 2013 that working single parents will be worse off under Universal Credit. Researchers found that there will be little financial incentive for single parents to increase their hours beyond ‘mini-jobs’.

The charity also found that non-working single parents’ income will be on average lower under universal credit than it is now.

Commenting on the findings, Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said at the time:

“Government claims that universal credit will make work pay, but in fact working single parents will be the biggest losers under the new system.

“The simple fact is that universal credit won’t deliver on its promise to make work pay. Single parents on low wages will be under considerable pressure to extend their hours under universal credit, but our research shows that financially, extra hours often won’t stack up.”

However, the DWP claims that Universal Credit will leave three million families better off and provide a £7 billion boost to the economy.

The department also claims that Fraud and Error will be reduced under Universal Credit, with officials having access to real-time HMRC earnings data.

Universal Credit will enable benefit payments to be calculated more accurately, says the DWP, ‘including topping up claimants earnings when they are on a low income’.

Source – Welfare Weekly,  11 May 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/botched-universal-credit-roll-out-set-to-continue-under-the-tories/

Benefits cuts plans leaked to Guardian

Plans to make the medical test for employment and support allowance (ESA) harder to pass and increase the amount of bedroom tax some claimants have to pay have been leaked to the Guardian.

The cuts documents drawn up by civil servants and seen by the Guardian, relate to ways that the benefits bill could be reduced if the government goes over the national spending cap for welfare benefits.

However, sources in the DWP told the Guardian that these are the same options that will be presented to Conservative ministers wanting to cut £12 billion from the benefit bill if they win the election.

The cuts include:

  • Stricter fit for work tests or ‘tighter limits on eligibility’
  • Increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of renters
  • Stopping under-25s from claiming ESA or housing benefit
  • Freezing all benefits payments

The DWP documents also reveal that IDS has failed to meet his targets for cutting the cost of IB/ESA, DLA/PIP and housing benefit and that ‘welfare reform’ is not saving money. The only way to cut costs now, according to the papers is to make cuts, some of which have been rejected in the past by ministers, which are “very/highly/extremely controversial”.

Little wonder then, that the Conservatives don’t want to reveal them before an election.

You can read more in the Guardian

Source – Benefits & Work, 05 May 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3087-benefits-cuts-plans-leaked-to-guardian

Stockton Council accused of “demanding money with menaces”

A father has accused a local authority of “demanding money with menaces” after his daughter was unexpectedly hit with a council tax demand and given seven days to pay – or face court action.

Alan Thompson’s daughter Naomi was left in tears after receiving the letter from Stockton Borough Council.

At the time the single working mother, who receives housing benefit as she is on a low income, was in the process of having her claim re-assessed by the council due to a change of circumstances.

The 34-year-old was told to pay three separate sums totalling £474.72 with the council claiming she had been overpaid going back to December 2011. Panicking as she could not afford it, the money was paid by Mr Thompson on his debit card.

However after an investigation the council later determined Ms Thompson in fact only owed £23 and the rest of the money was refunded.

During her correspondence with the council Ms Thompson, of Elmwood Road, Eaglescliffe, received a letter containing 29 pages of calculations which her father, a former bank manager, said left them both flummoxed.

Mr Thompson, who lives in Middleton-in-Teesdale, was prompted to contact The Northern Echo to explain the situation his daughter had faced after reading a recent report about councils’ increasing use of bailiffs to chase council tax debts.

 He said:
“The council’s approach amounted to demanding money with menaces. Naomi was in tears.

“At the time her account was under assessment so we assumed there was no case to answer until it had been verified what she did owe.

“One of the amounts demanded we did not even know about and when we asked for information on it they could not give us it.

“The staff I met also admitted they did not understand the system they were working with. There are some serious discrepancies here and I suspect lots of people may be getting a raw deal.”

Under the legislation governing council tax collection when a bill is issued in respect of a previous financial year, payment is due in full, rather than in instalments, and the recovery process can move straight to a final notice without the requirement to issue a reminder first.

 In responding to Ms Thompson, Stockton Council apologised for not making a distinction on its website between different recovery processes for current and previous years and said it would be reviewing the wording it published to make it clearer.

Mrs Thompson said:

“I have no faith in Stockton Council, but these kind of errors seem to be happening all over.

“Fortunately I am in a situation where I have got people I can turn to, but a lot of people don’t, or they will just pay the money no questions asked.”

A Stockton Council spokesman said:

“Our collection policy is designed to be fair and consistent.

“People’s specific circumstances are also taken into account when details are provided to us.”

Source – Northern Echo, 13 Apr 2015

Newcastle’s most vulnerable families hit when council leaders slash loan support scheme

Thousands of Tyneside’s most vulnerable families will go hungry when a voucher support scheme is scrapped because of austerity cuts, leaders have warned.

A scheme which sees supermarket vouchers given to 2000 families in Newcastle to help feed their children over the school holidays has been axed as the Government slash £40m from the city council’s annual budget.

Under Newcastle City Council’s Crisis Support Scheme, families with children aged five and six, who have had their housing benefit reduced by the bedroom tax and are paying council tax for the first time, received Asda vouchers to help feed their youngsters during the Easter, Christmas and Summer school holidays.

But the council say they are forced to slash the service as the Government roll out their next round of cuts.

Leaders warned that cutting the benefit would lead to an increase in the number of people turning to foodbanks for emergency food parcels.

The announcement comes shortly after a teacher made claims some of his pupils returned to school after holidays “visibly thinner”.

Simon Kennedy, from teacher’s union NASUWT, said:

“It’s easy to point the finger at Newcastle City Council and say it’s their fault but this is the coalition government’s fault.

“This Government are hitting the most vulnerable and least well off families. I don’t think we can blame the council. The reality is when you get millions cut from your budget you have to cut it from somewhere.

“On May 7 people will be given the chance to vote and these are the sort of things people will take into consideration.

“We know people are going hungry and it’s not just over the holidays, it’s week in week out. We know that parents are missing meals to feed their kids.”

 

In April 2013 the Government abolished the Social Fund and asked local authorities to set up replacement schemes for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants and the council set up the Crisis Support Scheme.

The funding falls under three areas and supports people in crisis, disaster or emergency, provides council tax assistance and did provide meals vouchers to schoolchildren in the holidays before it was cut.

In 2013/14 the council spent £214,000 to spend on the crisis support fund, and a further £173,000 in 2014/15. It will spend £116,000 in 2015/16, which includes a £50,000 overspend from the previous year.

In order to manage the reductions the council said they had no choice but to slash the voucher scheme.

This week letters went out to the affected families as they received their final set of vouchers over the Easter holidays.

Deputy leader of the council Joyce McCarty said:

“We are really disappointed this has been left to the local authority to fund.

“The Government have dumped the austerity cuts with local authorities who can’t afford to pick up the pieces and it’s the least well off in the community that are suffering.”

In Easter 2014 families with one child were awarded a £10 voucher, while families with more than one child were given £20.

A further £40 was handed to families with one child in the summer and an extra £60 to families with more than one child.

And at Christmas 2014 the vouchers were increased to £40 with families with one child and £60 for families with more than one child.

Ms McCarty added:

“It will add to the growing problem. It’s the same families who are struggling, it’s those families having to pay the bedroom tax and it’s things like this that tips people over the edge.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said they would be unable to offer comment in the run up to the general election.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 12 Apr 2015

Election Candidates urged to back pledges on homelessness

A North-East think-tank is calling on parliamentary candidates to support a series of pledges to tackle the region’s homelessness crisis.

Research by the North East Homelessness Think Tank (NEHTT) has shown that many more people are at risk of homelessness today than at the time of the last general election in 2010, and that the numbers of people falling victim to homelessness are rising.

These trends are particularly worrying because of recent changes to housing and welfare policies and potential plans for further cuts to public spending.

NEHTT, of which Northumbria University is a founding member, is asking candidates to sign up to its charter to support specific action by the next Government.

NEHTT is a regional group comprising academics, researchers and policy officers.

Key partners include Northumbria University, Youth Homeless North East, Homeless Link, Shelter, Barnardo’s, Northern Housing Consortium, Changing Lives, IPPR North, Oasis Aquila Housing and the NE Regional Homelessness Group, as well as independent specialists.

The pledges are:

*Appropriate housing with adequate support services will be provided for vulnerable people making access to sufficient social housing a priority.

*Housing benefit will be retained for under 25s

*It will be compulsory to find settled accommodation for offenders leaving prison or who are homeless within the community.

*All houses in multiple occupation and B&Bs which cater for homeless people will be inspected and must provide good quality facilities.

The statutory definition of homelessness will be improved by ensuring that all forms of homelessness – rough sleeping, those in temporary accommodation and ‘sofa surfers’ – are officially recorded.

 Adele Irving, research fellow at Northumbria University and one of the founding members of NEHTT said: “We believe that it is vitally important that policymakers not only recognise and take action to address homelessness, but actively campaign and work towards achieving long-term change in the law around homelessness.
 “The charter is a series of pledges which we hope candidates elected on May 7 will support in the next parliament.

“The pledges are based on the knowledge we have, from a wide range of research evidence, about what would make a real difference to address the key issues encountered by many homeless people, and in particular about homelessness amongst single people and under-25s.”

So far, signatories include four Labour candidates and six Green candidates. Further support has also come from two Labour front bench MPs, and two Conservative candidates.

Source – Northern Echo, 10 Apr 2015

Osborne ducks child benefit claim

George Osborne has refused to categorically rule out rolling child benefit into Universal Credit (UC) to help contribute towards Conservative plans to save £12 billion from the welfare budget.

The Chancellor was asked repeatedly to rule it out and did not, but said that if the Tories had wanted to include child benefit in the new welfare system, they would have done so when it was created.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that scrapping child benefit and increasing UC for eligible families could save £4.8 billion a year.

But such a measure would mean that 4.3 million families who receive child benefit at the moment but would not be entitled to UC in the future would lose more than £1,000 a year, the IFS said.

At a Westminster briefing, Mr Osborne was asked to rule out rolling child benefit into UC.

The Chancellor replied:

“If you judge us on our approach in this parliament and if we wanted to put child benefit into Universal Credit, we would have done it when we set up Universal Credit.

“We have got a track record, we have got a plan that’s based on clear principles about making work pay and sharpening work incentives…”

Asked again to rule it out, Mr Osborne replied:

“I’ve just given you an answer. If we wanted to do it we would have done it when we created Universal Credit.”

Asked again, Mr Osborne said:

“I’ve given a very clear answer and you have to be a contortionist to think I’m not giving a pretty clear answer to that.”

The Conservatives’ plans for the next parliament involve saving £30 billion to contribute to deficit reduction, with £12 billion set to be cut from the welfare budget.

But the party has faced criticism from the IFS and Labour for failing to set out how it would achieve the majority – around £10 billion – of those welfare cuts.

 Mr Osborne repeated his assertion that the savings could be found and that the coalition’s reforms had shown the most vulnerable will be protected.

The Chancellor said:

“If you look at our track record, the £21 billion we’ve saved in this parliament, you can look at principles we will apply to future such savings.

 “As I say, this is perfectly achievable and anyone who thinks that the job of reforming welfare has somehow been completed, I think, is mistaken.

“We want to go on creating a welfare system which rewards work and the aspirations of families and protect the most vulnerable.”

Universal Credit is the coalition Government’s flagship welfare reform and simplifies the system by rolling a string of benefits and tax credits into one payment.

It is being rolled out in stages after being hit by delays and IT problems but will eventually take in jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said Mr Osborne had put middle income families in the firing line.

The Labour frontbencher said:

“The Tories won’t admit where their £12 billion of welfare cuts will come from, but after this press conference it’s now clear middle income families are in the firing line.

“George Osborne repeatedly refused to rule out rolling child benefit into universal credit. This would mean 4.3 million families losing over £1,000 a year, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Treasury Minister Priti Patel said rolling child benefit into UC was not Conservative policy.

She told BBC News:

“We’re very clear as well, we have made it clear and we’ve said that we need to find £12 billion of welfare savings but it’s not our policy, that suggestion, and that there are other ways in which we can find those savings.”

But Ms Patel would not be drawn on whether the Tories will pay child benefit only for the first two or three children.

Asked if it was a possibility, she said:

“I’m not going to come here and start talking the ins and outs of the spending review because that will all be for the next government.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he was not surprised by Mr Osborne’s failure to rule out the move as he insisted the change would not feature in his own party’s manifesto.

Speaking in Newtown, Mid Wales, he said:

“It’s no surprise to me that the Conservatives are considering pretty dramatic changes like taking child benefit away from lots of families because they have committed to taking £12 billion away from some of the most vulnerable families in this country.

> And we’ve been helping them for the last five years…

“They have committed to taking the equivalent of £1,500 away from eight million of the poorest families in this country to balance the books; they are not asking the very wealthy, those with the broadest shoulders, to make a single contribution through the tax system in balancing the books.

“Even if they did what is now being floated by George Osborne, they would still have £8 billion or £9 billion to fund. Who are they going to affect next, those with disabilities?

“Which other vulnerable groups will be affected by this unfair plan from the Conservatives?”

Asked whether the Lib Dems would rule out the move, Mr Clegg said:

“Child benefit rolled into the Universal Credit will not be in our manifesto because we are not planning the very, very extensive reductions in support given to the most vulnerable in our society that the Conservatives are.”

> But if anyone’s interested we’ll sell our souls again. Cheaply.

Pressed on whether it would be a measure he would block in coalition as a red line issue, Mr Clegg said:

“There’s no way the Liberal Democrats would ever endorse, of course not, in government or in opposition an approach which takes £1,500 away from eight million of the most vulnerable families in Britain.”

 

Source – Northern Echo, o7 Apr 2015

Vote for your life – “dramatic” cuts are coming

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.

Dramatic cuts
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.

Hit list
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

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3060-vote-for-your-life-dramatic-cuts-are-coming