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11/01/2011 - The Benefits Uprating Bill: a kick in the teeth for British workers


BENEFITS are to be capped with an annual rise of just 1 per cent over the next three years. Legislation has been passed in the House of Commons this week to allow the cap, first announced by Chancellor George Osborne last month.
 
The change will affect increases in jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, elements of housing benefit, maternity allowance, sick pay, maternity pay and paternity pay as well as the couple and lone parent elements of the working tax credit and the child element of the child tax credit.
 
In prepation for the latest assault on Britain's poor, Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith claimed that benefits had risen faster than private-sector pay, aThe ConDem coalition  argues the move is necessary to cut £1.9 billion from the welfare bill.
 
However, Solidarity says the move will mean a real-terms cut in support for many working people on low wages.
 
Solidarity General Secretary, Patrick Harrington, said: "The coalition has sought to play private sector workers against public sector workers with pensions. Now they are trying to play private sector workers against those on benefits with misleading statistics. These are classic divide and rule tactics to turn ordinary people against one another. We will all lose if we fall for this whilst the rich friends of the coalition will be the only winners."

Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said 60 per cent of people receiving the benefits which are affected are in work.
 
He said: “Most people who will be hit are those in work on low incomes trying desperately to balance the family budgets in difficult circumstances. A 1 per cent rise in benefits is a real terms cut.

“Many of the people affected will be the same ones having their council tax benefits cut and their housing benefits reduced if their children have grown up and left home.

“We are already seeing increasing visitors to food banks, children going to school without having had any breakfast. Rent arrears and council tax arrears will go up, and people with mortgages might not be able to meet their payments.

“I don’t think it is right that people receiving benefits are labelled scroungers. If there is a hard core of people who don’t want to work, we should deal with them but we should not punish everybody because of a few people not making an effort.”
 
Capping benefit rises will hit hard working British people on low wages, and will lock the poorest into never ending poverty.
 
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warned yesterday that the new welfare cuts will plunge more children into poverty, and slash support for Britain's working poor.
 
A new report by CPAG smashes the Tories' "scrounger" nonsense and reveals that benefit fraud is at its lowest-ever level. Welfare spending on out-of-work families has also been falling and most people claiming jobseekers' allowance find work within two months.
 
The Group's chief executive Alison Garnham said the government was lashing out at Britain's poorest for the coalition's own inability to boost the economy. She said "this Bill has been laid to create a political dividing line - we are talking about real lives, not political games."
 
"Since those on benefits have incomes so low they have no choice but to spend all their income, it also sucks money out of the economy," she said.
 
Disabled People Against Cuts spokeswoman Linda Burnip said she believed that the latest cuts "will lead to higher death rates from fuel poverty and an inability to meet even day-to-day costs for food and other necessities."
 
The cap on benefits will cost families with two children more than £1,000 in the next three years, says John Hannett, General secretary of Usdaw, adding:

“These are the cruellest of cuts at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet. How can the Coalition justify taking money out of the pockets of families on low incomes who rely on in-work benefits to provide the basic necessities for their children?”
 
He added “Working people on low and middle incomes have already borne a disproportionate cost from the Government’s cuts. The freeze on Working Tax Credit and on Child Benefit has already substantially cut the incomes of working people at a time when the cost of basic necessities like food and fuel has been rising so sharply.

“Many of our members are reporting that they struggle to afford to feed their families and heat their homes. That cannot be right for people who are already working as many hours as they can.

Report by Ian Bell