David Cameron’s plans to target benefit cuts at the young and vulnerable have come under fire from within his own party.
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health committee, said she did not support scrapping housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, after the prime minister toured the television studios detailing some of the Tories’ proposals to cut another £12bn from the welfare budget.
In a series of interviews, Cameron repeated his pledge to lower the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per family alongside proposals to stop housing benefit for school-leavers. The cap was about a “basic issue of fairness”, he said.
“I don’t think a family should be able to get more in benefits than someone going out to work, working every day, and trying to do the right thing for them and their family,” he said.
> If anyone ever does get more in benefits than someone working (which I doubt) , perhaps it’d be because the wages they are earning are so poor, or they’re only working 16 hours a week.
But in any case, you can only play the hand you’ve got, so if it did happen that you’d get more on benefits than by working…why not ? Cameron & Co probably dodge paying more tax in a year than you’d claim.
“One of the criticisms of the cap set at £26,000, which I have heard all over the country, is that the cap was set too high. We’re responding to that.
“We’re generating these jobs. People listening to this programme don’t pay their taxes to sustain people on welfare who could work.”
> Well actually, yes they do – National Insurance, at least. When working I’ve never grudged paying NI (much) because I paid it in the belief that I could claim some of it back should I become unemployed, and also – and this is an important point – that it should go towards helping others unemployed even if I wasn’t.
He said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living on welfare as “a lifestyle choice” and claimed Conservative plans would help “young people move into work more quickly”.
> A lifestyle choice ? And I thought it was a survival choice….the choice being survive or die.
However, his proposals on scrapping housing benefit for young people came under fire from Wollaston and a number of charities.
Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, told the BBC’s Daily Politics:
“That is a policy that I don’t actually support. The point is that there is a debate going forward, I would not support personally taking housing benefit from the most vulnerable. I would not personally support taking away housing benefit from the very young. I think because there is an issue here we need to discuss about intergenerational fairness … There are many policies within parties that we have a debate about.”
Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft later added that the Conservatives need to “get the tone right” to make sure they sound sympathetic towards those who cannot work.
“I firmly believe there is only one nasty party and it’s a very nasty party called Ukip. What the Conservative party needs to do is to be careful that it does not appear to be in the least nasty, but kind and caring and wants people to work because it is the best possible solution to them as well as the country,” she told the World at One.
> HA HA HA HA HA ! Maybe you’d appear kind and caring if you were kind and caring. No-one who has been fucked over by the Tories is going to forget it.
The warnings came the day after academics from the LSE, Manchester and York published a new study showing the coalition’s cuts are disproportionately hitting families with young children.
Among the charities to issue warnings about the proposed benefit cap were the Child Poverty Action Group. Its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said:
“Let’s be absolutely clear – the benefit cap is at least nine times more likely to affect children than adults, and the majority of adults it hits are lone parents, many of whom have children so young even the government recognises they should not be required to work.
> The parent or the children ? I only ask because the government making small children work just seems so likely…
“On the day that a major programme of research by academics from leading universities shows families with young children have been more impoverished than anyone else in recent years, we have another policy-push that would undercut the most vulnerable.”
Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, weighed in on the issue of housing benefit, saying it would cause further misery for vulnerable young people.
“The 80,000 young people who find themselves homeless will think David Cameron is more focused on May’s elections than the reality that, for the most vulnerable young people in our society, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice,” he said.
Source – The Guardian, 27 Jan 2015
The coalition’s war against sick and disabled claimants is becoming ever more intense. The latest statistics show that sanctions against employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants have risen from 1,104 in the month of March 2103 to 7507 in March 2014, an increase of 580%.
The massive increase in sanctions is even more marked when looking just at the first three months of 2014, the most recent dates for which statistics are available:
The figures show that sanctions against the sick and disabled have doubled in the space of just three months.
Sanctions are only applied to claimants in the work-related activity group of ESA and the vast majority are aimed at sick and disabled claimants who have been forced onto the work programme and then failed to carry out a mandatory work-related activity.
In March 2014 7,108 claimants were sanctioned for failure to participate in work-related activity and 395 for failure to attend an interview.
Very often the reason for failure to participate in work-related activity is that the claimant was too unwell to carry out the activity or had not had it clearly explained in the first place. More than 60% of ESA claimants who are sanctioned have a mental health condition or learning difficulty.
There has been no explanation from the DWP for this massive rise in sanctions, but given that sanctions against ESA claimants are an easy way to cut benefits costs when the coalition is already in danger of breaching its self-imposed welfare cap, it’s not hard to understand what is driving the increase.
Source – Benefeits & Work, 13 Aug 2014
A Commons inquiry has backed warnings from Newcastle City Council that cuts to housing benefit are causing hardship for families with children and disabled people – while failing to free up housing stock.
MPs are warning that cuts in benefits paid to social housing tenants who are considered to have a spare bedroom has caused “severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups”.
The policy, known by critics as the “bedroom tax”, was designed to free up larger properties for families who need them most by encouraging council or housing association tenants with spare rooms to downsize.
But the Commons Work and Pensions Committee – which has Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem members – highlighted warnings from Newcastle City Council that there simply aren’t enough smaller properties for people to move into.
The Committee published its findings after hearing evidence from a range of witnesses including Coun Joyce McCarty, Newcastle Council’s deputy leader.
The Government has published figures showing that the cost of paying housing benefit in the North East had fallen by £25m as a result of the reforms.
Housing benefit rules introduced last year allow tenants to have one bedroom for a single adult or couple, for any two children under 15 of the same gender and for any two children under nine of either gender.
Housing benefit is cut by 14% of the property’s assessed rent if they have one room deemed to be a spare bedroom and 25% if they have two.
In the North East, 50,000 households had their benefit cut, or 440 households for every 10,000 in the region – a higher proportion than any other part of the country.
MPs highlighted evidence from Newcastle, which told the inquiry that 3,233 of its tenants were on the waiting list for a one-bedroom property but only around 800 one-bedroom properties were becoming available each year, including bedsits.
Referring to the policy as the social sector size criteria (SSSC), the MPs said: “Newcastle City Council questioned whether the SSSC policy was likely to succeed in encouraging better use of social housing stock. It pointed out that in Newcastle overcrowding was not a significant issue”
“Coun McCarty made the point that the SSSC had actually led to very few overcrowded families being rehoused.”
They warned: “We understand the Government’s wish to use social housing stock more efficiently and to reduce overcrowding. However, the SSSC so far seems to be a blunt instrument for achieving this. In many areas there is insufficient smaller social housing stock to which affected tenants can move, meaning that they remain in housing deemed to be too large and pay the SSSC.”
But ministers said housing benefit reforms and the welfare cap – which means no household can receive more than £26,000 in benefits – were needed to manage soaring welfare spending, which grew by 50% in Britain in just 10 years and saw the housing benefit bill exceed £1bn in the North East alone.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1m daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.
“We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan.”
> “And all the stress, debt, homelessness and suicide resulting from this policy is actually good for them, they thrive on it. I’ve got figures to prove it”, he might have added…
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 April 2014
Several North East MPs will either defy a party whip or not be at the House of Commons when Labour is told to vote in line with the coalition for a new cap on how much can be spent on state benefits.
Ed Miliband has told his MPs to back a Budget plan to cap welfare at £119bn, ending a situation in which benefit spending is increased to match the number of claimants.
While party leader Mr Miliband is keen to avoid looking soft on welfare, across the North East, MPs have called for the party to proudly stand up for low income families.
Easington MP Grahame Morris said he will not be voting for the cap. He told The Journal: “I cannot vote for the welfare cap. By implication it plays to the Tory strategy of divide and rule demonising those on benefits as the undeserving poor.
“It conveniently ignores the fact that two thirds of the welfare budget goes on pensions that people have contributed to during their working lives. Another substantial slice goes on supporting those in work on low wages.
“Once again Labour must differentiate its position from the Tories. It is shameful of the Tories to seek to set the working poor against the disabled. There are better, fairer ways to limit benefit spending for example by limiting the £20bn taxpayer spend on housing benefits which goes to private landlords through the introduction of rent controls.”
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said he will not be in the Commons for the vote as a result of select committee business, but would not have voted for the cap.
He said: “Inherent in this is a further reduction in real terms of benefits over time. If the economy has another significant downturn this limits the capacity of the state to respond to genuine hardship.
“And let’s not forget that only about 3% of the benefits bill is for jobseekers’ allowance, the biggest single pot is for pensions.”
And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson also hit out at the plan. He said: “The welfare cap is just another piece of the Coalitions jigsaw to make the poor, the weak and the disabled pay for the failures of big business and global capitalism.
“This vote comes in the same week that Lloyds have been exposed as continuing to exploit customers over the disgraceful PPI misselling scandal. It is these rogues and many others like them who should be carrying the can for economic failure and not the most vulnerable in our country.”
It is thought other MPs will not be in Parliament for the vote, avoiding the need to rebel. Some 20 MPs nationally are thought to be ready to vote against the cap.
Labour has said that since much of the cap on spending does not include benefits linked to increased unemployment, it is happy to accept the changes.
The party has hit back at claims that there is little to differentiate its economic policy from the coalition, insisting a future Labour government would “make different choices”.
> It’s what the present Labour opposition is doing right now that really matters. And it doesn’t seem to be doing very much at all, apart from trying to make out it’ll be tougher on the poor than the current bunch.
Does ‘Red Ed’ really think that’s the way to win votes ? If he does, he’s going to be disapointed.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said Labour would support the Government when voting on the welfare cap, but insisted the party would also “take tough decisions” over future spending if in office after the General Election.
Source – Newcastle Journal, March 26 2014
According to the Newcastle Journal (04 Oct 2013), “the Conservatives have said their mission for the North will see them elected in Newcastle – but only within 20 years.”
Well, there’s nothing like optimism, I suppose. It could happen, though probably only after a few changes to the electoral system, such as removing the vote from the unemployed (far-fetched ? Maybe – but its an idea that’s been floated on right-wing blogs, and the Eton mafia do seem partial to anything that helps keep the poor poor).
Certainly Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman seems to think its a vision to believe in. Speaking at an event organized by think tank IPPR North, he claimed that “I had the joy of being what the call the candidate’s friend in the South Shields by-election – not a place you would think of as naturally ours. But on the doorstep, when you explain what we stand for, people say yes, I like those policies, when you tell them you want welfare capped or immigration down they like that and say that’s what they’d vote for.”
One can only wonder which parts of South Shields he did his doorstepping in. Certainly not the bits where the many people reliant on welfare live !
He continued – “But when you say, oh and I’m from the Conservatives, they punch you in the face and say ‘cap that, you bastard !’”
Sorry – wishful thinking there…
He continued – “But when you say, oh and I’m from the Conservatives, they say no, I could never vote for them. That’s the job ahead of us. That shows we need to be saying more about what we are doing, because the voter likes it.”
Sadly, some voters do like it, though inevitably not those actually being poked by the sharp end of the Tory stick. I’ve certainly come across plenty of (mainly) senior citizens who proclaim ‘I’ve voted Labour all my life,’ while espousing views somewhere to the right of the late, unlamented Thatcher.
They did alright in the relatively good times and with the support of the welfare state, but they’re damned sure no-one else is going to. Sadly for Opperman, they’re probably more likely to vote UKIP.
One thing I can’t quite get my head around – Opperman is on the one hand a supporter of the Living Wage, yet on the other hand appears to be supporting the Tory line that unemployment is the fault of the unemployed and they must be made to suffer.
Anyone existing on the basic Jobseekers Allowance of 71.70 a week, might like to consider the fact that Mr Opperman is a barrister who, not counting his MP salary and related perks, undertakes private work at rates of pay between 100.00 and 250.00 pounds per hour.
(source – http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/24962/guy_opperman/hexham)
Now that’s what I call a living wage !