By Martin Kelly
A newly published report from the Child Poverty Action Group has condemned the Westminster Government’s benefit uprating plans as ‘based on bogus claims and is a poverty-producing bill that will further exclude the poorest workers, jobseekers, carers and disabled people’.
The report’s authors claim that the Westminster coalition’s plans to peg most benefit increases at one per cent for the next three years will lock out the most vulnerable from benefits and tax credits, cutting them out of main stream society.
The report – ‘The Double Lockout: How low income families will be locked out of fair living standards’ – also warns of “serious consequences for large numbers of children, their families and indeed for broader society”.
The Westminster Government is in the process of legislating to break the link between benefits and inflation, by capping any increase to benefits payments of 1% per annum, well below the rate of inflation.
This is expected to have the cumulative effect of introducing a 4% real-terms cut to working-age benefits payments received by workers, jobseekers, carers and disabled people over the next three years.
The report concludes:
- The bill is poverty-producing and means that both absolute and relative child poverty will increase
- Contrary to arguments made by Ministers, welfare spending on workless families has been falling and most Jobseekers Allowance claimants find new jobs within months
- The bill puts the economy at risk by failing to protect the economy’s ‘automatic stabilisers’
- Contrary to popular perception, benefit fraud is at its lowest ever recorded level and the ‘scrounger’ stereotype is grossly inaccurate
- The government must focus on the root causes of social security and tax credit demand and prioritise progress on full employment, living wages, affordable housing and affordable childcare
Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford, MP for Banff and Buchan said:
“This report makes damning reading for the Westminster Government who are set to throw their commitments to tackle child poverty out the window by hammering some of the poorest people in society.
“It shows that their arguments are fundamentally flawed and are set to do untold damage to thousands and thousands of people across Scotland.
“The Coalition’s welfare plans will inevitably only increase poverty and increase inequality in society, which is why they have been condemned in such stark and unequivocal terms.
“It could scarcely be clearer that the Westminster Government has its priorities all wrong and are failing to act in the interests of people in Scotland.
“Decisions over taxes and welfare in Scotland should be made by people in Scotland so that we can build the kind of country that Westminster has consistently failed to deliver. Only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in next year’s referendum will give us that opportunity.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“The ‘Double Lockout Bill’ will leave low paid families, jobseekers, carers and disabled people locked out from both rising prices and earnings, with the inevitable consequence that child poverty will increase. It’s wrong to punish the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society by cutting social security protection every time growth targets are missed while the better-off are protected.
“It really would be politics of the worst kind if, as reported, this bill has been laid to create a political dividing line – we are talking about real lives, not political games.
“Depicting the neighbour with drawn curtains in the morning as a ‘scrounger’ to be scorned is a dangerous game to play. You may find it is a sick or disabled person, whose curtains are only drawn when their carer arrives, or a nurse who just got to bed after her night shift.
“This is a poverty-producing bill that does nothing to reduce the need for support. And 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.
“We need a secure future for Britain’s families, and that means ending poverty by making progress towards full-employment, living wages, affordable housing and affordable childcare. The truth is that our social security and tax credits have been left to do far too much of the heavy lifting left by labour market, housing and childcare market failures.”
Polling shows that the public are against the policy, with an Ipsos Mori survey from December 2012 showing 69% of people believed benefits should rise at least in line with inflation.