The number of people reliant on food banks to help feed themselves and their families could rocket to more than two million, according to new research.
Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, forecasts that Tory plans for a further £12bn in welfare cuts could lead to a doubling in food banks users by 2017.
Trussell Trust, who operates over 440 food banks, gave out 1,084,604 emergency food parcels in 2014/15 – up from 61,468 in 2010/11.
The charity is just one of many food bank providers, charities and churches supporting hungry families across the UK.
The research also shows that rising food bank use is due to higher demand, rather than greater supply – as claimed by some government ministers.
According to a formula devised by Dr Loopstra, the number of food parcels given out per head of the population rises by 0.16% for every 1% cut in welfare spending.
Dr Loopstra said: “It coincides with spending cuts, welfare reform and record numbers of benefit claimants losing payments due to sanctions.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves seized on the figures, saying they were further evidence of the hardship and misery caused by Tory welfare policy.
“It would be an absolute disgrace for food bank use to double”, she said.
“The welfare state is there to provide a safety net. It’s not doing what it’s meant to do when people have to rely on charity.”
Reeves said David Cameron’s pledge of more savage cuts to welfare benefits means he has no choice but to cut working-age benefits, because the Tories have ruled out any changes to pensions and pensioner benefits.
“The Tories cannot achieve their £12bn of cuts to social security without doing so and hitting family budgets hard”, she said.
“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. Labour will protect them, and families across the country now know the Tories will cut them again.”
Reeves blamed benefit delays, sanctions and the hated bedroom tax for the increased demand on food banks.
She said Labour was the only party committed to reducing the reliance on food banks.
> But hang on… didn’t she say Labour didn’t want to be the party of the unemployed ? And aren’t Labour promising more Workfare ?
“A Labour government would do this by axing the bedroom tax, getting rid of benefit sanctions targets and introducing protections for people with mental health problems, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.”
She added: “It’s inevitable, if the Tories get back in, that we will see further food bank use.”
Trussell Trust’s Adrian Curtis said: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers in the UK today.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 May 2015
No explanations needed… very few (if any) creative people like the Tories, a party of destruction rather than creation. There’s just so much evidence…here’s a selection :
Cassetteboy – Cameron’s Conference Rap
The Common People – Common People
Glasgow Thatcher death party song
NxtGen – IDS Rap
The Common People – Don’t Stop Me Now
Frankenstein Sound Lab– Workfare = Slavery
Ron Barry and the Night Sweats – We Hate The Tories
Taking from the Poor to Pay the Rich
Vote swapping was credited with taking seats from the Tories in the 2001 general election, so should claimants be doing it now?
This election is on a knife edge.
The Conservatives are pouring huge amounts of money into identifying and contacting a tiny number of undecided voters – perhaps 40,000 – in key marginals. If they succeed in persuading them to vote Tory, the election may well be theirs.
This is a tactic that won’t even show up in the polls.
So, should claimants – who have the most to lose if the Tories get in – also be resorting to ‘under the radar’ tactics, such as vote swapping and tactical voting?
Vote swapping is a kind of DIY proportional representation, allowing your vote to be placed somewhere where it might count, rather than being pointless.
So, for example, if you are a Labour supporter in a safe Conservative seat then your vote is wasted.
But there may be a Green supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal with a very small Labour lead. Their heart says vote Green, but their head says that doing so increases the chances of the Tories getting in.
So, you swap votes.
The Labour supporter in a safe Tory seat votes Green. It won’t get the Greens a seat, but it will increase their national vote share. The Green supporter votes Labour, knowing that they’ve helped reduce the chances of a Tory success and also added an extra vote to the Green’s total.
The same could be true if you’re a Labour supporter in a very safe Labour rather than Conservative seat. You may feel that your vote could be put to better use elsewhere and look to do a vote swap.
If swapping votes with a Green or labour supporter appeals to you, there’s the Vote Swap website devoted solely to Labour/Green swaps which you might want to check out.
When we visited, the site claimed to have arranged almost 10,000 swaps already.
Lib Dem/Labour swaps
Labour and Green supporters are likely to be fairly equal in their antipathy towards the Conservatives. So there’s a good chance your vote swap partner will honour their side of the bargain?
But what if you are in a Lib Dem/Tory marginal?
Perhaps you can’t stand either party, but one of them is going to get the seat anyway.
However, every seat the Lib Dems take from the Tories reduces the Conservative’s chances of being the largest party. And the Lib Dems have said they wouldn’t support the full £12 billion in benefits cuts.
So you might be prepared to vote Lib Dem if a Lib Dem supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal will vote Labour for you.
But could you trust a person claiming to be a Lib Dem supporter to vote Labour, when the party clearly favours another coalition with the Tories?
Well, perhaps. There are undoubtedly still some left-leaning Lib Dems and the Swap My Vote site gives you a chance to make contact and check out their political opinions, because you can only register using your Facebook or Twitter login.
But, even if they don’t keep their end of the bargain, you’re probably no worse off. Your vote will not have helped the Tories and their vote in their own constituency will make no difference.
Does vote swapping work?
Vote swapping is not new.
According to a 2005 article in the New Scientist:
“In the 2001 election, the Lib Dems captured Cheadle in Cheshire from the Conservatives with a majority of 33. Online vote trading had seen 47 Labour supporters in Cheadle agree to vote Lib Dem. Assuming they kept their bargain, these vote-traders turned the tide on the Conservatives. There was a similar result in South Dorset, where a Labour majority of 153 followed 185 internet vote-trade pledges.”
So, it’s legal and it quite possibly does make a difference.
The tactical voting alternative
In some circumstances, an alternative to vote swapping is traditional tactical voting. If you’re in a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal you could vote Lib Dem simply to try to deprive the Tories of a seat.
Clearly, whichever way the seat goes it’s still going to be part of any Tory/Lib Dem coalition. But, as noted above, the Lib Dems have said they will oppose the Conservative’s £12 billion benefits cuts plan, aiming to move it closer to their £3 billion cuts. Whether you believe them is another matter.
But voting Lib Dem will also reduce the chances of the Tories being the largest party, making it harder to argue that a Labour minority government lacks legitimacy.
Is it worth it?
Even if vote swapping is effective, could you bring yourself to trust a stranger with your vote?
Likewise, tactical voting definitely works, but could you put your cross next to a Lib Dem candidate?
Is it better to vote as your beliefs dictate and take the consequences, whatever they might be?
Only you can answer those questions for yourself, but many of our readers would be interested to hear your opinion.
So, please leave a comment below or complete our Vote Swapping and Tactical Voting Survey. It’s anonymous, there’s only 4 questions and the results are posted online as they come in.
Source – Benefits & Work, 27 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
Government officials have been reported as saying that up to 30,000 DWP staff could be axed, if the Tories win the next general election.
The startling figure represents a significant reduction in the DWP’s 83,000 full-time staff.
But even under a future Labour government, the number of DWP staff could be slashed by up to 20,000.
If true, the reductions would occur gradually over the course of the next parliament.
A spokesperson for the PCS union, who include DWP staff among their members, said:
“If carried through this would devastate the delivery of essential social security support.”
It’s unclear as to whether these cutbacks would affect front-line Jobcentre staff.
Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have confirmed or denied the allegation.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 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