Our Last Good Friday: Easter Monday Beginning of the End for UK Poor

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As the UK breaks up for Easter weekend most people are quietly ignorant, by circumstance or choice, of the beginning of the end of the welfare state, which begins on Easter Monday.  Today we take a look at what will be happening, how people will be hit, and what we can all do to bring it to a full stop.

The New Poll Tax

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As of April, anyone currently claiming Council Tax benefit will see a rise in their annual council tax bill of up to £600 a year.  The stated purpose of the cut is to reduce the current Council Tax Benefit bill by 10% and is in no way based on the reality of the need for financial support of the groups who currently rely on it.

Council Tax Benefit currently supports 5.9 million UK households, 3.2 million contain working people.  It is payable to pensioners, the disabled, people in low paid jobs and people unemployed through circumstance or sickness.  The government has stated that existing support must be retained for pensioners, but is providing no such stipulation for any of the other groups.

The Resolution Foundation published a report on this change claiming it sets an effective tax rate of 81p in the pound for the lowest paid workers in England.

It will be single parents who work part time and require childcare who will be worst hit, who will see increases of up to 333% in their council tax contributions, with annual bills rising between £96 and £577.

A couple with children where one partner works full time for minimum wage will see their annual council tax bills rise between £96 and £304 a year.

The central government has renamed the benefit Council Tax Support, cut the amount available by an arbitrary 10% and passed responsibility for administering it down to local councils.  This is the state equivalent of lighting the fuse of a poverty bomb and dropping it into the lap of local decision makers.

Gavin Kelly, the Resolution Foundation’s chief executive, said: “Millions of England’s poorest households… are already very close to the edge given falling wages and reduced tax credits and benefits. Very few of those currently exempt from paying the full rate of council tax are expecting a large new bill to drop on to their doormat this spring. When it does, they are going to find it hard to cope.”

The Bedroom Tax

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Also on Easter Monday, the Coalition’s infamous Bedroom Tax kicks in.  The Bedroom Tax stipulates that anyone claiming housing benefit faces cuts in their payments relative to the ‘under occupancy’ of their home.

Tenants classed as ‘under occupying’ their homes by one room will lose 14% of their Housing Benefit from Monday.  They will receive a 25% cut if they are classed as having two spare rooms.

For these already poor people, losing between £520-1300 a year will mean choosing between eating three meals a day and having the heating on for an hour in the evening.

Inside Housing report that the plan will impact 660,000 low income households, around two thirds of which will contain a person with a disability.

I wrote a piece recently telling the stories of some of those 420,000 disabled people who will be waking up on Monday morning with nowhere to go, and no way to pay.

The government points out that the Housing Benefit bill has doubled in recent years, and therefore ‘something must be done’.

So the three pillars of their argument are fairness, proper allocation of housing to need, and a reduction in the housing benefit bill to the tax payer.

In reality the government is pinning the blame for crisis level shortages of housing, spiralling private rents and the lack of its own social housing policy on the victims of these issues.

The Benefit Caps

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The Government is putting in place two benefit caps in April.  One cap relates to the annual rise in benefit payments in line with inflation, the other is a finite limit on the total any family can receive in benefit payments.  Both of these caps break with the principles of the welfare state to provide for what it needed.

The 1% Cap

In the Autumn Statement last year, the government took a step to deliberately make the poorest poorer.  Annual rises in Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support will be  capped at 1% rise for the next three years.  As inflation is currently running at 2.7%, this means we are cutting social security payments in real terms for the next three years.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reports that of 2.8 million workless households of working age, 2.5 million will see their entitlements reduced by an average of about £215 per year in 2015 –16. Seven million households with someone in work will see their entitlements reduced by an average of about £165 per year.

The Resolution Foundation also reported that 60% of these cuts will fall on families in work, whilst 40% fall on families where the legal guardians do not work. Resolution Foundation Chief Executive Gavin Kelly said:

“It’s completely wrong to say (the benefit cap) was all about helping so-called strivers. The OBR [Office of Budget Responsibility] confirmed they expect to see another year of falling wages, stretching into the middle of 2014.”

The Total Cap

The government has also chosen to cap the total amount of benefits any household can receive at £500 a week for single parents and couples with children, or £350 a week for single people. This might seem like alot to those outside of London, but the spiralling rents in the capital make this a paltry sum.  A three bed property in Brixton averages £449 a week, while a two bed in Fulham is now £502 per week. This policy will make it almost impossible for the unworking and working average family to live in the nation’s capital.

This cap rolls out on 15th April in several London boroughs, extending to the rest of the country between 15th July and the end of September 2013.

The Government will only begin issuing letters to those impacted by this cap in July this year, leaving them little time to assess or prepare for the impact.

The cap will impact 67,000 households in the UK. The DWP’s own figures state that the average household will lose £83 each week – but almost 20,000 households will lose over £100 per week, and 11, 390 households will lose over £150 per week.

Universal Credit

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Thanks to the incompetence of the project’s IT team, April will see only a limited rollout of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will roll up Housing Benefit, Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits, Carers Allowance, Maternity Benefits and Widows Benefits into the one payment.

The Universal Credit places unnecessary barriers in the way of people claiming social security.  It means where historically some benefits relating to children were paid directly to women (a saving grace for women in relationships with abusive, alcoholic or drug dependent partners) they will now be paid together, to just one partner.

The system is also only claimable online and payable into a bank account, requiring people not only to have access to a computer and be computer literate, but also have a bank account to be able to make a claim.

This is simply fantasy, which is exactly what service providers on the front line are saying to the Department of Work and Pensions, but sadly this has all fallen on deaf ears.

A joint report by the Children’s Society and Disability Rights UK on the Inquiry into Universal Credit led by Tanni Grey Thompson concluded up to half a million disabled people could lose out on Universal Credit alone.  These include:

  • 230,000 severely disabled people who live alone, or with only a young carer – usually lone parents with school age children – will get between £28 and £58 less in benefits every week.
  • 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week
  • Up to 116,000 disabled people who work will be at risk of losing around £40 a week.

Between the cuts in tax credits and the Universal Credit, the government itself confirmed that 200,000 children will be plunged into poverty as of April 1 2013.

Personal Independence Payment

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The government is also, on Monday, replacing Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence payment and cutting the budget by 20%.

The entire claimant population have been summoned to computer based medical assessments by private IT form Atos on behalf of the DWP in an attempt to ensure that by Monday, half a million fewer people will be entitled to claim the benefit.

A recent House of Commons debate saw MPs detailing the harrowing cases of constituents undergoing the Atos assessment process.  Labour MP Michael Meacher described the death of a young man with epilepsy shortly after he was classified fit for work and saw his benefit cut by £70 a week.

“Is it reasonable to pressurise seriously disabled persons into work so ruthlessly when there are 2.5 million unemployed and when, on average, eight persons chase every vacancy, unless they are provided with the active and extensive support they obviously need to get and hold down work, which is certainly not the case currently?” Meacher asked.

The government’s own figures revealed that 1,300 people have died after being told they should start preparing to go back to work, and another 2,200 had died before their assessment was complete.

Take Your Place on the Right Side of History

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The government has steadfastly refused to undertake a cumulative impact assessment to check the total impact of all these cuts falling on the same groups at the same time. We do know from Tanni Grey Thompson’s recent report, that disabled people will be £4,600 a year worse off.

Meanwhile, top earners will see a tax cut this year of £107,000 each.

Taking this amount of money from the very poorest of our population with no plans to absorb the impact is disgraceful; doing so whilst enriching the wealthiest is unforgiveable.

Local service providers, charities and councils are bracing for the impact while the government has even cut support to legal aid and support functions which would have supported people through the change.

Polly Toynbee wrote an excellent piece in this morning’s Guardian covering the cuts, saying:

“People should know that historians will record the earthquake of social destruction that happened in their name, while they read of nothing but “scroungers” and the “soaring benefit bill”.

It is time to get on the right side of history.  There will be reasons getting in the way of you attending this weekend’s mass protests against the Bedroom Tax and other cuts.  You might have had a long week, fancy a haircut, or maybe just not feel like it.  Sorry, but this just isn’t good enough.  If you consider yourself opposed to these cuts, it is not enough to bemoan them over a glass of red wine.  You must get involved, people are relying on you. Yes you, reading this right now.  When future generations ask you where you were when this cruelty was exercised, when they ask you what you did to stop it…what are you going to say?

Take Action

A wave of protests will be kicking off across the country this Saturday March 30th.  Find your nearest protest here.

Sign the WOW Petition to call for a cumulative impact assessment of these mass cuts to the welfare state.

22 thoughts on “Our Last Good Friday: Easter Monday Beginning of the End for UK Poor

  1. Pingback: Scroungers: How Much Does the Corporate Welfare State Cost the Tax Payer | Scriptonite Daily

  2. Pingback: Iain Duncan Smith Says He Could Live on £53 a Week? His Lunch Cost More than That | Scriptonite Daily

  3. Pingback: Our Last Good Friday: Easter Monday Beginning of the End for UK Poor | SteveB's Politics & Economy Scoops | Scoop.it

  4. These vultures must surely realise that they are so far beyond the pale as to be completely unelectable in 2015. What plans might they have for stealing or limiting the franchise?

  5. we live in a consumerist society. were constantly bombarded with the latest must haves, be it clothes, gadgets, whatever. Stuff you dont need to have the money for, just get it on hp and its yours! Even having dodgy or zero credit isnt a bar, with some companies offering the latest items as long as you have guarantors, heck I saw an ad for a loan company, claiming it was going back to the good old ways of getting a loan using a guarantor. Then there is the payday loans, constant ads telling you not to worry if your short this month and cant afford x, well give you a loan, you can pay back next month. This is where the problem lies. Some people just want it all regardless of cost and then struggle to make ends meet. Countless times, when food shopping, ive seen trolleys groaning full of booze, ready meals and branded goods. Live within your means, if you want it, save for it.

    Having said that, I dont agree with the new bedroom tax. DC says it puts it in line with private housing. No it doesnt. People choose house size when renting private, a choice you dont have with social housing. You take whats offered or get shoved to the bottom of the list. Social tenants should not be getting penalised for the scarcity of appropriate housing. I also dont agree with ATOS assessments and think the GPs and consultants should do something rather than the claimants. After all they are the ones who know you, have a history with you, so what they say should be accepted end of.

    People will realise all too soon, that whilst they were being distracted by the crys of scroungers, DC was sneaking round the back and quietly taking things away.

  6. Pingback: Our Last Good Friday: Easter Monday Beginning of the End for UK Poor | johncresswellplant

  7. The most important thing to remember is the real reason for these policies. They are NOT an incompetent attempt to save taxpayers money. That would have been better achieved by targetting tax evasion and avoidance. However if you look at who has put forward all the ideas behind the policies you will keep coming back to the insurance company UNUM. They pay for the research the government base their policies on. They pay for the seminars, conferences, and meetings, at which these policies have been developed. They stand to make huge sums of money from people taking out unemployment insurance because they see the benefit system being completely destroyed.

    That’s what this is all about. The intended victims are those in work, who will be fleeced for insurance premiums to get a safety net they have already paid taxes for. Those of us who are sick, disabled, and unemployed, are simply collateral damage.

  8. I don’t agree with any of this but I am a single parent with 2 children,I have always worked part time, I pay my own rent and council tax and I get tax credits but boy oh boy do I wish I was getting £500 per week cos I would be living like a king if I was…no bloody wonder so many want to live on benefits if that’s what they are getting every week!!!

    • Tell that to the London families in the same boat as you who face spiralling rents. A 3 bed house in Brixton is now £527 a week. A two bed place in Fulham £502. The whole capital is becoming a no go zone for anyone but the highest earners. This isn’t about people on benefits who are not in work….they are people IN WORK who cannot afford to live in the smallest homes to meet their needs http://www.londonpropertywatch.co.uk/average_rental_prices.html

      • I’m disabled but working, and I get NO benefits at all, despite 20 years of chronic depression and mobility problems. I’m having to move to a different part of the country after four years in a bedsit in London because I just can’t afford to live here any more and my falling standard of living is making me even more sick. I’ve found a job elsewhere in the UK and I shall be off in the next couple of weeks – and if I was on benefits instead of supporting myself, I’d have gone sooner. I don’t care whether getting people like me out of London is what ‘The Man’ wants or not – I can’t afford to stay, so I don’t have a choice. And who knows? It might be better somewhere else.

    • And the abolition of legal aid for welfare claimants, for employment disputes, most housing issues, most immigration cases, and clinical negligence cases. Also, they’ve tightened the eligibility for what is left (not much) so that income-related benefits are no longer a passport. http://www.savelegalaid.co.uk/thefuture.html

      Great article, Scriptonite, and you are right, it is the cumulative effect of all the cuts to benefits and to services, plus I would suggest the rising cost of essentials like food, fuel and housing (the fact that technology gets cheaper makes no difference if you’re on the breadline) that are creating a perfect storm that will blow no-one any good.

  9. Where was I…?! In bed, suffering a relapse of the illness for which I’ve just been told I’m ‘fit for work’!

    I’d LOVE to be there, REALLY I would, but it’s IMPOSSIBLE! From Monday, I’ll be left with nothing (and, because I’m also severely autistic with no means of support – cos there ain’t any! – I’m, if you’ll pardon the vernacular, right royally fucked!)

    Much love and solidarity,

    Sarah X❤X

    P.S. I hope this ‘excuse’ is good enough…

    • Ofcourse! You need to be able :)

      I’m going to be attending on sticks as we couldn’t organise a wheelchair…but I’ll be able bodied again in a couple of months (labrynthitis).

      Give us a wave from your bed Sarah xxx

  10. Reblogged this on Gogwit's Blog and commented:
    Those ‘quietly ignorant, by circumstance or choice’ could choose to not be ignorant and even add their voice to the collective cry of ‘Austerity – That’s Enough!’
    Or they could shuffle on by with their head down on the other side of the street.

    • Yes the government is blaming the wrong people for the problems we have at present. This is because they have a divide and rule policy. Blame the Benefit scroungers, Blame the Immigrants, Blame the Disabled in fact Blame anyone except the Politian’s and shareholders. The rich do not need a Tax cut they may want one but that is not the same. All the people who CANNOT work for what ever reason needs support from the welfare state, this says we are a civilised society. If there were enough jobs which guaranteed a decent quality of life, to go around for all people of working age, then ask why are they not working and get them into work. But we also have to think that there are a lot of working age people who would not earn £500.00 per week as they would be on minimum wage. 48 hours at shall we say £7.00 would only bring in £336 then with WTC, CTC and Child Benefit their income would still be quite low. But employers would not say “Mr Smith I hear you wife had another baby, there’ll be a bit more in your wage packet at the end of the week” as the benefit system does. So what’s wrong with a £500.00 cap. Provided the rich pay their fair share in Tax. If mad Maggie had not privatised all the family jewels then perhaps the treasury would be getting some of the money that is being paid to shareholders considering the taxpayer is still supporting the utilities. GREED has caused the current problems, over spending, Loans etc.

      • Employers shoud pay a living wage, and social security should cover real costs of living. If the cost of living is too high, that’s not a social security problem…that’s a socio-economic problem. We’re coming at this from entirely the wrong angle. By capping the funds, we don’t mitigate the problem. We just leave children. pensioners, disabled people and others to go hungry and homeless.

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