The Con Dem millionaire cabinet is driven by class hatred. Nowhere is that more transparent than in its proposals on welfare. It is actively and deliberately transferring billions of pounds from the very poorest families and individuals in the country to benefit the very rich.
Most of the data in this article come from government sources or the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). The organisation says of itself “We monitor official poverty statistics and carry out research, providing evidence of the shortcomings of the social security and tax credits systems in regular briefings to government ministers, MPs and the general public. We comment on any proposed policy changes likely to affect low-income families with children.” These are modest aims but CPAG’s findings illuminate the brutality of what the Con Dems are doing.
The median wage in Britain was £25 800 in 2009, the last year for which figures are available. The accepted definition of “low income” is 60% of that, or £15480. Poverty in Britain is a huge problem. The Department of Work and Pensions says that in 2009/10 3.8 million children were in households with “incomes below 60 per cent of contemporary median net disposable household income After Housing Costs (AHC)”.
How do the Con Dems plan to deal with the fact that they govern a country with almost 4 million children living in poverty? They intend to make them even poorer and add significantly to their numbers. Let’s look at some of the things they have done already.
In January 2011 the Child Trust Fund and Health in Pregnancy Grant was stopped. In April 2011 the Sure Start Maternity Grant was limited to the first child only. Child benefit has been frozen for three years, a real terms cut.
In April 2011 they introduced a maximum amount or ‘cap’ on the housing benefit they will pay for each property size. Changes came into effect for new claimants in April last year and started for existing claimants in January 2012. From 2013 they intend to cap total benefits for a family at £500 per week. That £500 will have to cover a family’s rent, food, heating, clothing and every other bill. Already councils in London are preparing to advise families to move out of the city to areas with cheaper housing so severing them from their support networks of friends and relatives. In many parts of the country schools have started referring parents to food banks run by charities.
The Sun summed up the Tory view on this: “The hugely popular cap on benefits will affect an extra 50,000 families, on top of the thousands targeted by a £400 a week limit on housing benefit, unveiled in June’s Emergency Budget…. On average, scrounging families will lose £93 a week.”
The Child Poverty Action Group has calculated that a baby born to a low-income family from April 2011 will be around £1,500 worse off compared to a sibling born in April 2010. This is supported by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which calculates that median income among families with children will fall by 4.2% between 2010 and 2015, largely due to benefit changes.
The IFS predicts that child poverty will increase through to 2014/15, with families in the poorest tenth of the population being around 10% worse off. The class nature of these cuts could not be any clearer as 500,000 more children will fall into absolute poverty by 2015/16.
And it is not just a rhetorical device to assert that the most vulnerable are being hardest hit. The Universal Credit, which will be introduced next year, will slash 12% of the income of unemployed lone parents on average by 2014/15, or £2,000 per year. If you are already very poor the Con Dems want to make you even poorer. Even Labour’s Yvette Cooper was obliged to protest against the inequity of this, pointing out that “families with children are being hit more than four times harder than the average household.”
The Con Dem attacks are motivated in part by the Tories’ hatred of the welfare state. But there is more to it than that. They have no scruples about impoverishing the poorest people in the country still further to pay off the bankers’ debt. There is also a deeper reason. They want to force people into very low paid jobs, unpoliced by what Cameron called the “health and safety monster” to make British capitalism more profitable.
Defence of welfare benefits is also defence of the living standards of working people. It needs to be a central part of our fight against the Con Dems.