Home Tories Plan Fresh Attack Against Benefit Claimants

Tories Plan Fresh Attack Against Benefit Claimants

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A future Conservative government would reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 and force young unemployed people to work for their benefits, chancellor George Osborne revealed today.

George Osborne told the Mail on Sunday that lowering the controversial benefit cap would help fund three million new apprenticeships. Previous Tory attempts to lower the cap have been blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

He also announced that 18-21 year-olds who are out-of-work for longer that six months would be required to take part in unpaid “community projects”, such as cleaning up local parks, or risk having their benefit payments stopped if they refuse.

The Tories believe such a move would be popular among voters calling for yet more cuts to welfare spending. But will alarm charities and poverty campaigners, who argue that benefit claimants are being unfairly targeted for cuts and marginalised in British society.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, George Osborne said:

“Our mission is not just to save the pounds here and there, we’re trying to change the welfare system so it doesn’t trap people in poverty and a culture of dependency. It is a tragedy for them and a waste for the country.

“We are saying you will receive an allowance but if you can’t find work after six months, you will have to work for the dole. They are difficult decisions but the right ones.”

George Osborne also said that 18-21 year-olds would be prevented from claiming housing benefit.

“It is not acceptable for young people under the age of 21 to go straight from school and into a home paid for through housing benefit – benefit funded by other people who are working”, he said.

Mr Osborne claimed that before the introduction of the benefit cap “some families were receiving £100,000 a year in housing benefit”. An analysis by the respected fact-checking website FullFact in November 2012 found that only 70 households, out of a total of 4.5 million, were receiving over £1,000 per week in housing benefit a week in September 2010.

“Even this is likely to overstate the number claiming £100,000 per year however”, said FullFact, “as a family would need to claim over £1,900 per week to hit this total. Previous FoI responses from the Department have suggested around five families benefited by this amount.”

They added: “While the evidence suggests that there are a small number of Housing Benefit claims of more than £100,000 per year – perhaps around five – these cases are very much the exception rather than the rule.

“Focusing exclusively on these outliers without first putting them into context, where over 80% of claims are below £100 per week, could distort the debate around this important topic.”

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary said:

“David Cameron’s Government is set to overspend by a staggering £13 billion on social security. And the number of working people claiming Housing Benefit is set to double by 2018/19 costing every UK household £488.

“Spending has risen because the Government has failed to tackle the increasing number of low wage jobs and their welfare policies, from Universal Credit to Personal Independence Payments, are in chaos.

“We must bring down social security spending and doing that requires a new approach to tackle the root causes of these costs directly. That’s why a Labour Government would make work pay by increasing the minimum wage, stop young people cycling in and out of welfare before they’re established in jobs and build more homes to tackle rising housing benefit spending.

“Alongside our plans to introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee to get the long term unemployed off benefits and into work, these measures will help control social security spending for the long term. All the Tories offer is announcements to hide the truth of rising welfare spending.”


Update: Since publishing this article it has been brought to our attention that a future Tory government would also scrap Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for 18-21 year-olds. It would be replaced with a “youth allowance”, paid at the same level as JSA. In order to continue receiving payments after six months of being unemployed young people would be required to “work for their dole” on “community projects”. The idea of a youth allowance has already been proposed by the Labour Party.


photo credit: HM Treasury via photopin cc


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  1. An Unconditional basic income for every adult in the UK would mean we could do away with the real problem, departments such as the dwp, pension service and huge, fat multinational corporations such as atos. Not only would it eliminates means testing and undue stress, it would give every person earning under £29k a year, more security and money to live on.

  2. Their lying Their only saying this because they have spent to much money on benefits for people in work but what about the money IDS has wasted on universal credit Their hipocrits and this will not wash my husband lost his job in 2011 at 60 and we have struggled ever since because employer,s think he is to old to employ and have had to manage on the pittance of pension credit they give him all of 50 pounds a month So don,t believe the garbage that comes out of his mans mouth

  3. A number of people would like to do something. In some areas there are almost no jobs and it could seem punitive as it's not their fault. Possibly better to give a higher rate of benefit to those who volunteer?

    • If there is work available for people to "volunteer" to do in return for their benefits, why is someone not being employed on at least minimum wage to do the work? All "work for dole" does is drive wages down further and push yet more low paid workers onto benefits.

      So, you have a 20 year old cleaning the streets for his/her "allowance", causing the council to decide that they no longer need to employ the same number of (or any) street cleaners, putting them on the dole, where they could well end up back doing their old job for one fifth of their previous wage. How exactly is this a good idea?

      • I volunteer (68 and I do it in the mental health field) and see a lot of jobs which need doing but are unlikely to be funded or would return a financial profit, but are socially useful. More opportunities to do some volunteering is what many people would like. I agree with much of what you say but it depends on the type of work.

      • Jobs such as those are the ones that are supposed to be done by people employed by the local councils etc. These kind of jobs are why we pay taxes. If the work needs to be done, if people agree that the work needs to be done, then people should be employed to do the work. This (and previous) government's deliberate undermining of local infrastructure & reducation of funding in the expectation that "volunteers" will fill the gap is disgusting. You cannot rely on volunteers to be available when and where they may be needed. Employees are required to be available. Using unemployed people does nothing but further undermine genuine employment, forcing wages down even further – making more people reliant on additional government benefits (an indirect taxpayer subsidy to their employer).

        If I were in need of regular, frequent, personal home care I'd be screwed under the current government unless I was wealthy enough to employ a 24hr PA/Carer. A council funded care scheme would allow me something like 1 or maybe 2 visits a day of no longer than 15 minutes. Perhaps a volunteer could fill in the gaps, if they felt like it. Perhaps I'd be happy have a random stranger (because it might never be the same volunteer) help me to the toilet, get me dressed, help me bathe, take me out. But I doubt it.

        The suggestions I have heard for youngsters "work for the dole" have always been "street cleaning", "picking litter" and "caring for the sick and elderly" – the first two might not need much training, but are both jobs that we should be paying someone to do and the last is a job that needs at least several weeks of training (and preferably a diploma at least) & certainly should be paid at more than the minimum wage, let alone something under £60/week. If I were in the category to be cared for, I really would be upset, offended and possibly frightened at the idea that untrained (and perhaps resentful) teenagers were going to be responsible for my care!

      • As I said it depends. I would want some training to be available for most of the jobs. But it is important to keep people having somewhere to go and something to do which is useful.
        Home care is not what i have in mind -although much is done by some teenagers on low wages with minimal training.
        I have worked with some volunteers who help in the kitchen -with training
        or with groups such as art or games-things which are in their capacity. I have no time for forcing people to pick litter.
        I don't want to see charities being used to replace state institutions but they can complement in many useful ways and can add services which would be too expensive for full-time professionals. For example I run group courses on mental health -at the moment voluntarily, but I have an OAP -but i used to be paid at £10 an hour. We could arrange and deploy a lot more quickly than the NHS for that particular sector.

      • My point is that if there is work available, then there should be people properly employed to do the work. Forcing teenagers (or anyone out of work, including sick & disabled people) to do the work instead for kess than 20% of an already pitiful minmum wage is disgusting. If someone wants to volunteer their time and labour to help somewhere that is an entirely different situation – the key word is *volunteer*. The Labour Party, the Tories & the Lib Dems (& UKIP) policies are barely distinguishable in this area. All of them blame the lack of jobs on the unemployed & the recession on poor individuals* instead of where the blame belongs – grasping banks & financial houses with employment schemes that rewarded the most idiotic ideas imaginable.

        *It's a popular meme … that any misfortune a person suffers is entirely their own fault. A comfortable thought because then people can pretend it'll never be them in that situation.

      • Last comment. I agree that the poor are often blamed for their poverty-it's the Republican Party line and with the cause of the crisis. I don't want to see people used as cheap labour for corporations but from my experience there is a minority who-for many reasons which i often had to work with- who if left to themselves would spiral into a self destructive cycle and would never be employed. They need support, encouragement but there also needs to be a compulsion element to get them to take responsibility. There is a balance to be struck here-one size does not fit all. And the Tory approach is just vindictive


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