Welfare Reform Hitting the Wrong People Hardest

In case you missed my article in today’s Press and Journal, here is the text:

My heart sank when I heard the Prime Minister was making yet another speech about getting tough with people on benefits.  Many people who have fallen on hard times, due to unemployment or ill health and disability, are already finding out how harsh life can be as welfare recipients.

I did wonder as I listened to David Cameron deliver his speech whether he really knew how ordinary people live their lives and what motivates them.

For example, the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten that most people in receipt of Housing Benefit are in work.  A young couple with one earner on a low wage and 2 young children often qualify for housing benefit.  But under his proposals if they are under 25 they won’t get housing benefit so could face homelessness unless they move back to their parents, even if the parents’ don’t have room.  Instead of doing something about high rents in the private sector, he wants to punish the young people who can’t afford to pay these rents.

It would have been much better if the Prime Minister had waited to see whether the “reforms” his government is in the process of introducing worked before announcing even more measures. The new single benefit for working aged people, the Universal Credit, won’t begin to be rolled out until October next year.  It is meant to deliver on the government’s promise to make work pay, but I suspect it won’t.

Instead of taking the action to get growth back in the economy which would create more jobs, he wants to punish those who haven’t been able to find work by forcing them to work for nothing.

Instead of dealing with the problem of low pay, he punishes the people who can’t make ends meet even when they are in work by changing the qualifying rules for working tax credits.

Instead of making sure there is sufficient good quality affordable childcare making it easier for parents to work, the Prime Minister wants to punish those who have large families.

Most people don’t come into contact with the benefits system until something has gone wrong in their life. Then they discover that despite paying into the system for years they get very little back.  Under this government, that “little” has got a great deal less.