The Labour Party has today (Thursday 21 November) pubished its manifesto for the 2019 General Election, and their approach to social security and takling poverty is very different to what we have seen over the last decade.
First off, Labour argue that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has become “a symbol of fear” that punishes rather than supports poor and vulnerable people.
They have pledged to scrap the DWP and replace it with a Department for Social Security. Labour says the new department “will be there to help and support people, not punish and police them”.
“When people feel the DWP is more about harassment than a helping hand, something has gone seriously wrong”, say Labour.
Universal Credit & Benefit Cuts
Labour says the Tories’ flagship social security programme, Universal Credit (UC), has been a catastrophe and have pledges to scrap UC.
They will design an alternative system “that treats people with dignity and respect”, but add that this will take time. In the meantime, they have proposed to “implement an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst features of UC”.
This will involve ending the minimum five-week wait for UC and suspending the “vicious sanction regime“.
They will also scrap the benefit cap and two-child benefit limit, as well as the “immoral” ‘rape clause‘.
Labour say they will protect women in abusive relationships by splitting UC payments and paying the child element to the primary carer.
They would also introduce fortnightly payments to help families budget more easily, and the housing element of Universal Credit (previously known as housing benefit) will be paid directly to landlords.
Labour argue that the Conservatives ‘digital only approach’ is excluding some vulnerable groups and those without a home internet connection. Labour will end this “digital barrier” and offer telephone, face-to- face and outreach support. This will include recruiting 5,000 additional advisors.
Labour say Tory cuts “are pushing people into rent arrears and leaving them at risk of homelessness”. They have pledged to tackle this by scrapping the bedroom tax and increasing the Local Housing Allowance.
The current rhetoric of ‘scroungers’ and ‘skivers’ “has whipped up hatred of disabled people”, say Labour. They highlight the latest disability hate crime statistics, showing that hate crimes against disabled people have increased by 37% in the last year alone.
Labour has pledged to end this “hostile environment” and say they are “committed to removing the barriers constructed by society and ensuring that disabled people can participate fully and equally in our society”.
To help secure this change, Labour has pledged to scrap Work Capability Assessments and disability assessments for Personal Independence Payments.
They have also promised to Increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 per week for those in the work-related activity group.
Labour will also raise the basic rate of support for children with disabilities to the level of Child Tax Credits.
Severely disabled people without a formal carer will be given extra support to enable them to meet the costs of living with a disability, and Labour would increase Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance, which is currently £75.10 per week for over 25s.
And they will introduce a government-backed Reasonable Adjustments Passport scheme to help people move between jobs more easily, and review support for disabled people at work, including the Access to Work scheme.
UPDATE: Labour has pledged a £58bn “compensation package” for millions of women in the 50s who were affected by changes to the state pension age. More details here.
Labour claim that under the Tories 400,000 pensioners have been pushed into poverty, while women born in the 1950s have been subjected to unfair pension age changes.
Labour has promised to work with these (WASPI) women “to design a system of recompense for the losses and insecurity they have suffered”.
They have say “that such an injustice can never happen” and will introduce new legislation “to prevent accrued rights to the state pension from being changed [in the future]”.
Labour will ditch the Tories’ plans to raise the State Pension Age, leaving it at 66, and will “review retirement ages for physically arduous and stressful occupations, including shift workers, in the public and private sectors”.
The manifesto also includes pledges to maintain the State Pension ‘triple lock’ and guarantee the Winter Fuel Payment, free TV licences and maintain free bus passes as universal benefits.
In government, Labour say they will stop people being “auto-enrolled into rip-off schemes and seek to widen and expand access for more low-income and self-employed workers”.
They will also establish an independent Pensions’ Commission, modelled on the Low Pay Commission, to recommend target levels for workplace pensions.
And Expats will benefit from new rules ensuring that pension payments rise in line with pensions in Britain.
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