A typically timid Labour Party has felt unable to properly oppose the latest cuts to welfare benefits being proposed by a smug new Tory government. The Green Party has no such reservations.Green MP Caroline Lucas said, ahead of this week's vote: "Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand "
Cuts are proposed to Tax Credits and there is a plan to limit all financial support to two children only. The slightly more generous benefits currently paid to those too unwell to work are being abolished. Young adults (under 21) will no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit at all and those under 25 will not benefit from the introduction of a so called ' living wage' which, when combined with cuts to in work benefits will be nothing of the kind for many low paid workers.
Perhaps the most vicious of the proposed 'reforms' is the lowering of the Benefit Cap from £26,000 to £20,000 ( £23,000 in London). Under the existing cap the families affected are mostly large and living in London and the South East. The cap has had drastic consequences for many of them, forcing them to move away from areas where rents ( and the prospects of a job! ) are highest. Under the reduced cap almost all families with 3 or more children will be affected, in all parts of the country.
A couple with 3 children living in Brighton in private rented accommodation for instance will only get £50 per week towards a rent which in is usually set at least at the Local Housing Allowance level of £230 pw. This means that £180 has to be found from £334 of benefits ( which are set at a level that even this government believes is the minimum amount required to afford essentials, not including housing costs) leaving £154 pw for a couple and 3 children to live on, less than half of this minimum amount.
But even in Derbyshire, where rents are lower, the impact is huge, with such a family likely to be contributing up to £100 towards a private sector rent and not even having enough Housing Benefit to cover a council or housing association home , even if they all squeezed into a one bedroom flat!
The Benefit Cap must be strongly opposed on grounds of social justice but also because it makes no economic sense. Families will have to choose between eating and paying the rent, and many are likely to be made homeless as a consequence. They will then become the responsibility of cash strapped local councils to provide emergency accommodation, local councils which will have to implement the cap and are likely to take the blame for something over which they have no control. Perhaps such families , who have chosen to feed and cloth their children rather than pay the rent , will be declared " intentionally homeless" and not entitled to assistance, in which case children will presumably end up in care at even greater expense and often with disastrous outcomes.
The main intention is probably not to save money but rather to scapegoat the unemployed , to divide those in work from those looking for it or not well enough to do so. The whole thing is based on the lie that it is easy to stay on 'welfare' with a higher income than those in work when the reality is that a family of five earning £20,000 a year in employment is also dependent on benefits ( Child Benefit Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) to survive.
The Green Party is determined to oppose such scapegoating, and is pleased that at least a minority of Labour MP, were prepared to join Caroline and other opposition MPs in voting against the bill , breaking the whip to do so. We will work with members of all parties and of none to oppose this dreadful government, which is anxious to ensure the continued and growing prosperity of the rich at the expense of the rest of us.
Join us in the fight for the common good. There is more wealth than ever in this country. It is just in the wrong hands.