On the 24th April, Torbay Fightback activists gathered at Torquay Job centre to protest the largest attack on the welfare state in living memory. Hundreds of flyers were distributed to claimants and members of the public, with some claimants discussing issues with the Fightback members.
In January the ConDem coalition voted in another round of austerity measures aimed at setting the working classes, the deprived and most vulnerable the task of reducing the budget deficit – whilst the millionaires were allowed to get off (to offshore tax havens in some cases) virtually scot free. It has to be pointed out these attacks have been phased in by the British bourgeoisie over a number of years and didn’t just start with the ConDems
To start, the government has placed a cap of 1% increase per annum for a period of three years on all welfare benefits. This has jettisoned the link of benefits to inflation that had previously been in place. When we consider that the present level for JSA is £71 (if you are 25 or over, £56.25 if under), an already impoverished situation is bound to get worse. The Department of Works and Pensions has insisted that this is not a cut, but is committed to establishing a further £10 billion ‘saving’ in the welfare bill in the coming period.
Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, has promised to introduce a ‘Universal Benefit’ which will impose a £500 ceiling on all benefits for every household. This is currently being trialled in different boroughs in the country because the DWP does not have in place the infra-structure to implement it immediately. However, the cuts will still take place. These cuts will affect JSA, working tax credits, and pension credits. The Disability Living Allowance will be replaced by a ’Personal Independence Payment’.
The cuts to child credit payment will affect 2.5 million single women workers and a further million whose partners are in work. This in effect will be throwing millions of children into poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group has said that these changes will cut 4% from benefits over the next three years. The overall plan is to subsume all payments into the one ‘Universal Benefit’ payment. The government will thus cut its welfare bill. All the guff about lazy ‘shirkers’ versus hard-working ‘strivers’ is just so much camouflage to hide the attacks. According to another report, this time by the Children’s Society, “up to 40,000 soldiers, 300,000 nurses and 150,000 primary and nursery school teachers will lose cash, in some cases many hundreds of pounds” (Guardian 5/1/13) So much for targeting ‘shirkers’!
The government has placed a cap of £500 per household per week on the rent of a family home. In places like London this is impossible for many to find. According to the government’s own figures on risk assessment, this will affect some 2.8 million people. 400,000 of the poorest people will be included. 300,000 households stand to lose more than £300 per week.
The government in its ‘war on welfare dependency’ will hit the young hardest. The government intends to refuse housing benefit to the under 25’s. This is to effectively throw thousands of young people onto the streets.
The government is also cutting its subsidies to local councils by 10% while leaving local authorities to implement the cuts in Council Tax payments. This will mean an average £10 per week that social tenants will have to find to supplement their rents. Those occupying dwellings which have a spare bedroom will have to find a minimum of £10 per week under the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ since they now fall into the “over occupancy” category. This will again hit young people the hardest. The homeless charity Shelter say that only 1 in 5 of rental homes are affordable to single people on benefits.The attacks are only just beginning. The benefit cuts are part of a wider push to make the working class pick up the bill for their crisis. If the working class is to mount any resistance to this offensive, it must reject out of hand all attempts to make it feel responsible for the crisis of capitalism, and all the nauseating campaigns about shirkers and strivers, which are aimed at dividing the working class. Unemployment and poverty are the product of capitalism in crisis and the working class can only defend itself by developing its unity in the struggle against this system.
Torbay Fightback is planning further Job Centre activity as part of its battles against benefit cuts.
If you have a story to tell about how benefit cuts affect you, or would like to be part of any future protests please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org