In December £14.2 billion of spending cuts were announced by the Con-Dem government, including an annual 1% cap on all welfare.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies noted that some 7 million workers will loose an average of £165 per year while 2.8 million without a job will lose £215 a year in 2015/16. benefit payments until 2016. From April this cap will encompass all regular income including the following; Job Seeker Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Child Tax credits.
The cap of 1% on benefits for the next three years is entirely arbitrary – it has no link with the needs of people claiming benefits, nor does it have any link with inflation or earnings. Child Poverty Action group claim the changes will actually cut 4% from benefits over the next three years.
The Resolution Foundation – an independent research and policy organisation – has calculated that 68% of households hit by the cuts are actually in work and that broad layers of the population, from nurses to secretaries and shop workers, will be impacted.
USDAW, the shop workers union, calculates that by 2015/16, a family with one child will lose £784, families with two children will lose £1091 and families with three children will be worse off by £1398.
The coalition’s benefit cap will also mean that 56,000 families are a staggering £91 a week worse off. Two million households who need help covering their rent will lose out by £2.3billion a year under the Tory-led government’s brutal austerity measures.
Since 2010, homelessness has risen by 26% with 50,000 households, including young children, couples and individuals, classed as living in temporary accommodation. The prospect of being forced out onto the street is a very real possibility for many.
The relentless narrative of “freeloaders”, “dole scroungers” and “skivers” advanced by the Con Dems and accepted by Labour in demonising the unemployed is an attempt to divide ordinary people and distract from the truth– that this was a crisis created by capitalism, not working class people.
A recent TUC survey into peoples’ attitudes to benefits and unemployment found that this right-wing propaganda does have an effect and must be countered.
- Myth: 41% of the entire welfare budget goes to unemployed people. The true figure is 3%.
- Myth: 27% of the welfare budget is claimed through fraud. The governments own figure is 0.7%.
- Myth: 48% of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance will claim for more than a year. The actual figure is 28%.
In Northern Ireland, unemployment stands at 8.2%. The number of people claiming unemployment related benefits stands at 63,100. The unemployment rate for 18 to 24 year olds is at a staggering 23.5%. Coupled with that there are 161,634 homes in receipt of essential housing benefit. You might ask what the politicians are doing about these cuts.
On October 12th, the second stage of the Welfare Reform Bill was voted through by the Stormont Assembly , passed without reservation by the DUP, UUP and Alliance and “fought” with all the ferocious tenacity of a weak kitten by the SDLP and Sinn Fein. The bill could have been blocked if Sinn Fein had called a petition of concern but they chose not to and allowed the bill to pass. With actual price rises going up far more than the government claims and benefits being capped to only 1%, it will mean all workers dependent on benefits and the unemployed will see their incomes fall behind which will lead to less money being spent in the local economy and more crisis for the economy.