Social Action charity Community Links today called on future governments to adopt an ‘early action’ approach to reforming welfare. The charity says that a social security system that acts earlier, tackles the root causes of problems, and ‘presumes the willingness’ of people who receive benefits would be better for both claimants and the public purse.
Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South and Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, hosted the launch of Community Links’ new research which warns that the Government’s welfare reforms are “likely to lead to considerable costs” by wasting money in reacting to rather than preventing crisis. It also warns that the reforms are failing claimants by “pushing people towards a cliff edge”.
These warnings come on the eve of the Autumn Review, in which Chancellor George Osborne is expected to argue that continued cuts to the welfare budget will be required far into the next Parliament
Dame Anne Begg said: This research sheds valuable light on the very human impacts of the recent changes to the benefits system. We need to ensure that future changes to social security tackle the root causes of problems, rather than moving costs around and passing blame to benefit recipients.
Community Links’ research looked at the lives of people with jobs and people out of work. One participant, Diana, is in her late 50s. She “used to love going to work” as a school cook and cleaner but is now unable to work due to a range of serious health issues including diabetes and depression. Diana has been hit particularly hard by four different welfare reforms, which have together pushed her into really tough situations, including significant rent arrears, being unable to heat her home and not eating. Now Diana says that she “just doesn’t feel secure at all” and that she feels like she’s “just living here week-by-week.”
Diana’s story illustrates how drastic cuts to the social security system can cause costs elsewhere for public services. She said “I’m diabetic so I am supposed to eat three times a day which I can’t afford to do, I was supposed to take my medication with meals but I couldn’t do that… So my son was coming at about 9 o’clock with chicken and chips from up the road – just £2 for those – and I ended up in hospital… it was total hell.”
Diana said: “They’re taking the money out … I know it sounds stupid but I am past the stage of caring, because every time I pay my rent I think, there’s another week with a roof over my head. I just don’t feel secure at all… I feel like I’m just living here week-by-week.”
Dame Anne Begg commented: Cases like Diana’s show the devastating impact the Coalition’s welfare reform is having. It’s hitting the least well off the hardest.
Every week at my constituency surgery, I listen to similar stories of people being hit again and again by the welfare changes. The Coalition Government continues to cut money from those who already have very little and it is having a detrimental effect on their health and wellbeing, making it harder for them to find work.
I have repeatedly called for a cumulative impact assessment which would study the overall effects of welfare reform on individuals. So far, the Government has failed to do this saying its ‘Too Difficult’. Yet this report shows it’s certainly possible. It’s as if they’re deaf to the problem they’re causing