There was a backbench debate in the House of Commons today on the DWP’s use of benefit sanctions. The official line is that claimants are only ever sanctioned if they are not doing what is required of them to either find work or prepare for work. The strong suspicion however is that sanctions are being used primarily to get people off benefits. Labour MP Michael Meacher opened the debate with a speech in which he gave numerous examples of where claimants have been sanctioned through no fault of their own, and highlighted the impact this can have on people’s lives. Here is the text of the first part of his speech (from Hansard):
“I beg to move,
That this House notes that there have been many cases of sanctions being wrongfully applied to benefit recipients; and call on the Government to review the targeting, severity and impact of such sanctions…
View original post 509 more words
Chancellor George Osborne has outlined tax changes and a tough new benefits regime for Britain’s unemployed.
His speech contains so much rubbish that I just don’t know where to start.
George Osbourne says about his changes to the benefit system “All of this is bringing back the principles that our welfare state was originally based on – something for something, not something for nothing.” What utter drivel is this? The idea of our National Insurance system was as a INSURANCE system, you paid into it when you could and claimed from if it you needed. ‘Something for Nothing’? Most people on the dole have been in work, most people on invalidity benefits have worked and paid their National Insurance premiums for decades. What George Osbourne is bringing in is ‘Nothing for Something’. After years of insurance contributions, if people now need to claim they are being treated like criminals and stripped of benefits for the most trivial of reasons. And is he suggesting that people who have never been able to work because of disabilities should not get state help?
George Osborne brags about creating new jobs. He isn’t concerned that over a million of these are on zero hours contracts, where work hours are not guaranteed. It doesn’t bother him that many more are on short term contracts. He doesn’t care that the majority of people who claim benefits these days are in work, but earning such a pittance that they can’t afford to eat. It doesn’t matter to him him that hundreds of thousands of people have been driven into self employment who do not have the basic skills to run their own businesses, just so that they can avoid the institutional torture that claiming jobseeker’s allowance has become. He doesn’t think that it’s a problem that many of the people going through the jobcentres these days are desperately trying to keep their heads above water between his precious new short term contract jobs.
I could go on and on.
The Welfare News Service has published the whole of his speech here. Read it to understand just how little the government cares about the rate at which Conservative government policy is deliberately creating poverty in Britain.
Any member of the public watching this debate this afternoon and listening to people jeer, laugh, smirk and joke might imagine that some Members of this House were playing a game. Well, I am rising to say to the House that this is not a game; this is about people’s lives.
Whether they be elderly people who are dependent on some of the age-related benefits that will fall under the cap, the disabled or people in low-paid work who depend on the system of tax credits, this is not a game; this is people’s lives. If it is really the position of Government Members that poor people should be made to live on even less, they should at least have the grace to be dignified about it, and not turn it into a game.
I put it to Government Members and to those on my own Front Bench that social security and people’s lives should not be made a matter of short-term political positioning.
Everyone in the House wants to bring down welfare spending, because welfare spending is the price of Government and social failure. The Chancellor talked as if he were some brave warrior wreaking vengeance on an army of “Benefits Street” layabouts. The reality for British people is very different.
Just this week, we saw 1,500 people queuing for three hours for a low-paid job at Aldi. The picture Government Members like to paint of the British people and what is happening in the benefit system is false, misleading and derogatory, yet it is feeding through to public attitudes.
The public thinks that 41% of the benefits bill goes to the unemployed. In fact, it is only 3% of the benefits bill. The public thinks that 27% of benefits are claimed fraudulently. In fact, only 0.7% is so claimed. The truth is that 80% of the people who claim jobseekers allowance—those so-called “Benefits Street” layabouts—only claim it for less than a year.
There is no credit to MPs if they constantly talk in a derogatory way about people who claim benefits when, at any given point in our lives, we may be dependent on social security—be it child benefit, benefits for the elderly or in-work benefits.
This benefits cap is arbitrary and bears no relationship to need, as our benefits system should. It does not allow for changing circumstances—rents going up and population rising—and will make inequality harder to tackle.
There are ways to cut welfare. We could put people back to work, introduce a national living wage, build affordable homes and have our compulsory jobs guarantee. An arbitrary cap is the wrong way in which to go and sends out the wrong message.
The Chancellor does not say many things that I think are correct, but he is correct to say that voting for this cap locks us into the coalition’s cuts. I say to the House that the issue of social security should not be about political positioning.
As the months turn into years, people will be coming to our advice surgeries wanting explanations for totally arbitrary and counter-productive cuts. Will we say that it was a game we were playing with the Chancellor one afternoon in March?
Our welfare system should be based on the facts and on need. Whatever short-term political advantage people think is gained by voting for this cap, it is far outweighed by what is problematic, so, no, I will not be voting for this cap in the Lobby tonight.