By abandoning ‘hardworking families’ to poverty, have the Tories finally gone too far?

From child tax cut restrictions to universal credit, the government has crossed its own red lines. Soon millions more children will go hungry

Exactly four years since Britain’s first wave of cuts came into force – and as this month’s new measures begin to take hold – we’re entering what we may call the next stage of austerity. Where, at first, particular sections of the poor and marginalised – the disabled, people with mental health problems and the unemployed – were targeted, now it’s free rein on anyone who’s struggling.

While the policies of April 2013 – the bedroom tax, for example, or the original benefit cap pilot – were sold by politicians as protecting “hardworking” families, the policies of April 2017 – from child tax credit restrictions to the impact of universal credit – cross even the line the Conservatives themselves have spent years creating. This is no longer a case of “tough love” against the coalition’s so-called shirkers but, on top of further cuts to out-of-work disabled people, it is the gutting of support for the low paid and their children.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the reduced aisle in supermarkets, 19p for spaghetti and 20p for chopped tomatoes,” says Cydney, 23, from Bournemouth. Six months ago, Cydney’s partner left her and their four-year-old boy, Oscar, and she’s since been struggling to afford regular meals. Cydney had a wage coming in – she worked part time in marketing for an insurance broker, as well as caring for Oscar – but 80% of it went on childcare alone. The rest had to stretch for all her bills: rent, utilities, phone, and council tax. Her £20 a week child benefit helped but barely made a dent. Often, after all her outlays, there’d only be £5 left for a whole week’s food shop.

To be able to feed her son, Cydney ate one or two meals a day: skipping breakfast, eating lunch at work, and then going without dinner. “I’d give Oscar baked beans on toast,” she says. “There were times I’d go to bed early because I was hungry.” With her mental health suffering and no way to pay the bills, Cydney’s only choice was to give up her job to move back in with her mum in Buckinghamshire.

Cydney’s is not a rare case of course, but rather a snapshot of reality for families all over the country. Research by the Young Women’s Trust last month found that half of young mums are now regularly skipping meals because they’re struggling to afford to feed their children. A quarter have had to use a food bank. This is even before this month’s benefit measures kick in. It is part of the same normalisation of hardship that means there are now 11 million people in this country who are not only living far below what the wider public view as “socially acceptable” living standards but who are on the precipice of what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation call “severe poverty”.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/13/cuts-hardworking-families-tories-child-tax-cut-universal-credit

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Benefit sanctions hit one in seven single parents, research shows

‘Single parents increasingly feel punished for being unable to juggle seeking work and looking after their children’, charity says.

One in seven single parents in receipt of benefits have been hit by the Government’s “inflexible” sanctions regime, while even more are at risk of having their benefit payments slashed in the future, according to shocking new research from the Gingerbread charity.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/benefit-sanctions-hit-one-in-seven-single-parents-research-shows/

Single mum has benefits stopped because HMRC thinks local SHOP is her boyfriend

Debbie Balandis says her child tax credits have been stopped because her bank account showed a ‘Martin McColl’ – the newsagents where she collects her benefits

A single mum has had her benefits stopped because the taxman believe she is in a relationship – with her local SHOP.

Debbie Balandis, 40, was shocked to receive a letter from HMRC saying her £140-a-week child tax credits would be stopped because she had a new man, the Daily Record reports .She immediately called the tax office and was told activity on her bank account showed a Martin McColl – the trading name for her local newsagent chain RS McColl.

The mum-of-two, from Glagow, tried to explain that she collects benefits from the post office at her local RS McColl and that was why the name appeared on her bank statements. But she was told her weekly payments were being stopped until she can prove Martin McColl isn’t her live-in lover.

Debbie, who relies on tax credit to look after her 13-year-old son, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter to say my payments were being stopped so I called them up to see what the mix-up had been.

“I expected it to be sorted over the phone but instead I was told they knew I had a new partner.

“Shocked, I asked them who that was – because I’ve not been in a relationship for 10 years. The call handler said they had looked through my benefit payments and asked me who Mr McColl was? At first I was surprised – I’d never heard of anyone with that name – but suddenly I realised it was the name of the shop where I was withdrawing my money. I begged HMRC not to leave me without a penny all because of a fictitious boyfriend.

“But they didn’t believe me and have now stopped my benefits for supposedly having an affair with the post office.”

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/single-mum-benefits-stopped-because-6543849?ICID=FB_mirror_main