THE government’s benefit uprating bill is based on bogus claims, will plunge tens of thousands more ordinary families into poverty and will further cut off low earners, jobseekers, carers, disabled people and their children from mainstream society.
It creates a “double lockout” that excludes a vital source of their income from a link with either rising prices or earnings, in stark contrast to the “triple lock” guarantee the government has given pensioners.
Yet coalition ministers argue that the bill, breaking the link between benefits and tax credits and inflation, is needed to cut the deficit and ensure fairness when wages are being squeezed.
The reality, however, is that the value of benefits has already fallen massively behind average earnings – in 1979 unemployment benefit was worth 22 per cent of average weekly earnings while today’s jobseeker allowance equivalent is worth only 15 per cent.
What’s more, well over half of those who will be hit by this real terms benefit cut are working families for whom benefits and tax credits play a crucial role, protecting them as their wages stagnate and the cost of living soars.
Ministers’ justification that this is a bill that protects “strivers” from paying for “shirkers” is as bogus as it is offensive to the sick, disabled and unemployed.
Finally, there is absolutely nothing fair in yet again imposing the costs of deficit reduction on the least well off, while taxes are cut for the richest.
The Treasury’s own analysis of recent tax and benefit changes shows that the poorest half of the population are seeing their incomes slashed whilst three out of five of the richest half are actually seeing their incomes boosted.
If MPs are serious about fair deficit reduction and all being in this together, they must act now to ensure this bill progresses no further.
• John Dickie is head of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland