by Sandra Webster • The mantra of the caring, sharing Tory party is “We will protect the most vulnerable.” It was banged out during the last general election campaign at regular intervals.
Have they kept to their promise? No, as usual. While there are tax cuts for the rich it is the most vulnerable who again will pay the highest price in cuts to benefits.
Those who can least afford it should not have to bear on their shoulders the weight of a huge economic cost but we are. From April, further cuts will dig deep and have a huge impact on the lives of one hundred of thousands people’s lives.
The Universal Credit project, the Frankenstein experiment of Frank Field and Iain Duncan Smith, continues to be rolled out. This will include Employment Support Allowance and Income Support.
Originally the government said those with a family member with an impairment or a long term health condition would be exempt. They did not even announce that this will no longer be the case—they just quietly changed the legislation with no protestation from those on the opposition benches. Like a game of smoke and mirrors, they buried the evidence.
Universal Credit will have a huge impact on larger families. From April 2017 it will only be awarded to new claimants with two children, although those already in receipt will not be affected yet. Give them time though.
At the moment, those with a child over five have to look for work; from April the age will be lowered to three. There is a plethora of evidence about the benefits of very young children forming an attachment to their caregiver and the long term positive outcomes. This is to be a luxury for those who can afford it.
Young people aged 18-21 will only be allowed to claim Universal Credit for six months, then take “training”, an apprenticeship or a work placement.
The job market is precarious already and along with cutting housing benefit, this will take a huge toll on the generation who are future taxpayers. How can young people get on the job ladder without support and contribute as tax payers?
The current limit for exemption is £430 a month this will increase to the average 16 hours a week which means £520 a month.
The cap for London will decrease from £26,000 a year to £23,000 and the rest of the UK to £20,000.
This seems a large sum of money but this will include all benefits, including housing benefit. In 2015, the BBC reported up to 58,700 families were affected but the DWP estimates this will increase “significantly”—as will people’s misery.
There will also be a benefits freeze for four years on Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. All this makes grim reading but we have to know our enemies; we are all workers and it is a terrible time to have to be dependent on the state as, in truth, we all are.
Brexit looms, which will have the worst effect on the most vulnerable. The Tories have also decided that the “most” disabled will receive PIP. Those with hidden disabilities will be forced into a brutal system.
As for disability benefits, the Scottish Government can take responsibility, as they were granted by the Smith Commission. Rather than blaming Westminster, they need to take responsibility soon, as many more people face further suffering.
We are not the criminals; it is those who make money from poverty and of course the bankers.
This is going to be a difficult year for so many. We have to stand with those who will need the greatest support before people feel completely crushed without the energy to organise.