BENEFIT CAP CLAP TRAP – by Peter Allen

The Green Party has spoken out strongly against the so-called “welfare reform” proposals being pushed through Parliament. A particularly pernicious proposal is the “Benefit Cap” which will leave families homeless or starving.

The proposal is that families which do not include anyone in work will have total “Welfare Benefit”, including Housing Benefit, capped at £500 pw, leaving unemployed families renting from private landlords, particularly in and around London, unable to feed and clothe their children whilst keeping a roof over their heads. In Central London Housing Benefit is currently limited to £400pw for families needing four bedroom accommodation and £340pw for three.

Elsewhere in London and the South East the limit is only slightly lower. It is almost unbelievable that the cap makes no allowance for the fact that rents in some parts of the country are two or three times as high as in others.

Even this Government believes that a lone parent family with three children needs a minimum of £273pw to meet essential living expenses after housing costs, and one with four needs £335. The Benefit Cap will leave the three children family living in private rented accommodation in Central London with only £160pw to live on. A four child family will have just £100 !

In reality the amount left over after rent is paid is likely to be even less, since rents for most homes in the private sector are higher than the current Housing Benefit limits, and the poor are already having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential living expenses.

The Government says it has decided on a £500 pw cap because this is the average net wage earned by families in work. Whilst not disagreeing that there should be some financial benefit from paid employment, the current Benefit rules already provide this, and many working families already receive large amounts of Housing Benefit in London, given the high rents in the private sector and the chronic shortage of social housing.

The proposal is outrageous. The real problem is a lack of sufficient decently paid jobs and affordable housing, in one of the most unequal societies in Europe. Unemployed families will be forced out of London in particular, perhaps into depressed seaside towns, where they may find housing but probably no jobs. Many may end up working back in London, in one of the

many essential low paid service jobs on which London depends. Maybe they will leave their children behind, and become migrant workers, like workers in China, with whom British business tells us we must compete!

There are plenty more planned too, including cuts to disability benefits and a freeze to child benefits. And the only thing Tory MPs are complaining about is the decision to stop Child Benefit payments to higher rate income tax payers!

Labour are all but silent on the issue of welfare “reform”, anxious to chase swing voters in marginal seats. Worried that many such voters are persuaded that the people to blame for their own increasing economic hardship/insecurities are those even worse off than themselves , rather than the super-rich ( greedy, dishonest and incompetent bankers in particular) and the capitalist system itself.

The Green Party must continue to say loudly and clearly that the poorest and most disadvantaged shouldn’t be the ones paying the highest price for a crisis which they did not cause.  Benefit claimants and migrant workers should not be scapegoated. Most benefit claimants are already in work, have recently been in work, are retired from work, will soon hope to return to work or are too ill to do so.

As for migrant workers…. please read this article published in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/felicitylawrence?INTCMP=SRCH

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