Labour Shadow, Debbie Abrahams, urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric” but post-Brexit new Benefit shake up Looms.
Hate Speech in Millionaires’ far-Right Press.
Parliament today (BBC):
Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric”.
She calls for cuts to the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group to be reversed, arguing that they target sick and disabled people.
She tells the House that the country is becoming “more and more unequal” and attacks the government for giving tax breaks to the “highest earners”.
Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt tells MPs that government is helping people to get out of their jobless situation “not just to endure it”.
She says that new money from the Treasury will be used to extend a hardship fund and adds that the government will help jobseekers with “work related costs”.
The debate comes to an end and MPs vote on Labour’s motion.
The result is expected at approximately 4.20pm.
I think we know already what that will be…..
Debbie Adams MP has already written this: No more “shirkers” or “scroungers” – let’s overhaul the culture of the benefits system (6th of October)
I’ve been campaigning to stop the Government’s punitive sanctions regime for nearly four years now, ever since the Coalition government introduced their new sanctions regime in 2012. I have quizzed the former secretary of state for work & pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, specifically on this issue, and have worked with people who have been affected by sanctions. These include Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned.
In January 2015, I managed to get the work and pensions select committee to agree to hold an inquiry on sanctions. The evidence was shocking. We heard of the sudden rise in sanctions, with 3.2m alone occurring between October 2012 and June 2014. Sanctions to people who were sick or disabled on Employment Support Allowance increased five-fold.
We heard from Jobcentre Plus advisers of sanction “targets” in order to get claimants “off-flow”, in benefits speak, which distorted the unemployment claimant count in the process. And we heard of the dramatic rise in foodbank use, with more than1m foodbank parcels in 2014, primarily as a result of sanctions. We heard in turn of the effects on the physical and mental health of claimants and their families.
The select committee made more than 20 recommendations, including stopping financial sanctions for people who were sick or disabled on ESA, or vulnerable in other ways, and setting up an independent body to investigate deaths associated with sanctions.
Unfortunately, the government refused to accept the select committee’s recommendations.
Since the inquiry, the government has been compelled to publish details of 49 claimants who died between 2012 and 2014, 10 of whom died following a sanction. It is still to publish reports on another nine claimant deaths since 2014. We have discovered that the government is watering down the guidance to jobcentre staff to identify and protect vulnerable claimants.
Meanwhile the following is worth thinking about.
Reports Andrew Grice in the Independent this afternoon.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that 11.5 million families, who were originally due to lose an average of £260 a year, are now likely to lose £360 because of higher inflation. The Government will save £4.6bn instead of £3.6bn.
Damian Green, the One Nation Conservative appointed Work and Pensions Secretary by Theresa May, has started to smooth some of the rougher edges of what can be a tough benefits system – as anyone who has seen Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake knows.
People with the most severe health conditions on Employment and Support Allowance will no longer face reassessments. On Wednesday, Green announced that jobseekers who are homeless or have a mental health condition will have immediate access to hardship payments if they are hit by a benefit sanction.
(NOTE: this leaves everybody else still at risk from the arbitary “police of JobCentre Plus).While these are welcome steps, the big picture emerging under the May Government is less flattering. We will know more about its intentions towards those on benefits next week when Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement, the first economic update since the Brexit vote.
May pressed the Chancellor to do something for the “just managing” classes she promised to champion on becoming Prime Minister. After some tense negotiations, measures such as a freeze in fuel duty, cuts to air passenger duty and more help with childcare costs seem to be on the agenda.
Green has promised no further welfare cuts before the next general election. But that is not as generous as it sounds because £12bn of cuts are already in the pipeline. They include almost £3bn from reducing work allowances under Universal Credit – the amount families can earn before their benefits are scaled back. About three million people will lose an average of £1,000 a year, reducing the incentive to work for those striving that May wants to help.
Regarding these people as “claimants” misses the point; about two in three children growing up in poverty have at least one parent in work. The biggest challenge on welfare is in-work poverty, not so-called scroungers.
Hammond should stop the cut to work allowances by switching some of the £8bn earmarked for income tax cuts for the middle classes, which are likely to go ahead because they were promised in last year’s Tory manifesto. By 2020, the threshold for the 40p higher rate will rise to £50,000 and the personal allowance to about £12,500.