Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near

Mother with three young children

April 2013 is D-day for literally millions of people who rely on welfare benefits or tax credits to help make ends meet.  Next month, a whole raft of cuts and changes to the benefits system start to come into force, and the impact will be felt by some of the poorest and most vulnerable families across the country.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has heralded the reforms as the biggest for six decades and claims that people will be lifted out of poverty as a result and that lower and middle income families will be better off as a result. But with £18 billion being cut from the benefits budget, the reality for many individuals and families is not so promising.

In a timely intervention, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby has led calls for the Government to abandon the worst of the cuts which will impact most severely on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Most of us find it hard to comprehend the scale of the Government’s welfare reform programme.  But make no mistake, for millions of families directly affected, the impacts will be real and lasting. Many in our own churches and communities will see their incomes go down over the coming months, in some cases by hundreds – or even thousands of pounds a year.  It is therefore incumbent on all of us to try to try and understand at least the basics:

Six and a half million households will lose out as a result of the Government’s decision to uprate most benefits by just one percent for each of the next three years.  With inflation running at over 2.5 percent, families will cut in the real value of their benefits of up to £215 a year by 2015.  More immediately, those reliant on income support or Jobseekers Allowance will receive a meagre 70 pence more a week from April to help them to cover the extra costs of food, fuel and other household essentials.

Over three million low income families will be affected by the abolition of the current system of Council Tax Benefit.  Although families in Scotland and Wales have been protected from the changes, from April each local council in England will be responsible for devising their own system of Council Tax support – but with ten percent less money.  As a result, from April, hundreds of thousands of families on low incomes will be required to pay the majority of poorer Council Tax payers of working age will for the first time have to pay between £96 and £300 a year in Council Tax.  Worst affected will be single parents who work part time and depend on childcare.

Up to 660,000 families and single people will lose an average of £14 a week as a result of the so called ‘bedroom tax’. If you rent from a Council or housing association, and your home is considered to be ‘too big’ for you, your Housing Benefit will be reduced by up to a quarter.  Two children of the same sex under 16 will be expected to share a bedroom, as will two children under 10, regardless of their sex. The bedroom tax takes no account of disabled people’s adapted homes, of foster parents who need rooms to take children in, or of parents sharing custody who will lose the room for their child at weekends. Although the Government hopes that this will ‘encourage’ people to move to smaller properties, many will struggle to do so – because there are simply not enough one and two bedroom houses available in large parts of the country.

Around 67,000 families will be affected by the ‘benefit cap’ of £500 per week, more than half in Greater London.  The majority are larger families, with 3 or more children, who face the unenviable choice of staying put and running up huge debts – or uprooting their families and moving to cheaper parts of the country – with the damage that may do, not least to childrens’ schooling.

April also sees a major change in disability benefits, with Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) being replaced by new ‘Personal Independence Payments’.  In time all current DLA claimants will be re-assessed, and as many are 400,000 people are expected to lose their entitlement to mobility payments, or to lose support altogether.

Last and by no means list, April also sees the start of the biggest change of all – the introduction of Universal Credit.  By 2017, upwards of six million working age people will see their existing benefits and Tax Credits replaced by a single Universal Credit payment.  Whilst some will see their incomes increase – significant numbers will also ultimately see their benefit levels go down.  In a cost saving exercise, most people will be expected to apply for Universal Credit on-line.  This may not be easy for people who do not have easy access to the internet – and the likelihood of people making mistakes in their applications, which may delay or even invalidate their claims, are also high. There are also very real concerns that the move from fortnightly to monthly payments will make it much harder for families to make ends meet.

Many of these numbers involved are truly mind boggling.  In Birmingham, 30,000 are estimated to be affected by the Housing Benefit changes alone; in Barnsley, 3,700 will lose benefits and £33 million will be lost from the local economy; in Plymouth one in five of the total population will be affected by welfare reform in one way or another.

For each and every individual or family affected, in cities, towns and villages across the country, the result will be to see their wallets and purses squeezed as never before. For many there is no further room for ‘belt tightening’ and it will increasingly be a stark choice – do I heat or eat?  Do I pay the bills or feed the children?

The numbers turning to churches and foodbanks or falling prey to the extortionate and irresponsible practices of payday lenders – are almost certainly going to escalate dramatically in the coming months.

You have been warned.

via Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near.

21 thoughts on “Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near

  1. Pingback: Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near | Welfare News Service (UK) | Scoop.it

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  3. We are going to experience civil unrest on a huge scale and by those who are, normally, law abiding citizens.Our society and Infrastructure is collapsing and poverty is being engineered by those with their own agendas. Our Parliament has never suffered from such mistrust, even in the darkest days of Margaret Thatcher. Child poverty is going to increase. Look and despair!

    • Hello Nick, I’m trying to find a group to join to direct my energy & compassion to
      help the less well off in our society, I’m afraid Church Action Against Poverty won’t be it. All I’ve read is anti-government rhetoric The bias I’ve witnessed on this website contradicts my experience with working with vulnerable people over the past 10 years. You mention the “darkest days of Margaret Thatcher”. Margaret Thatcher’s policies gave me a second chance to work my way out of poverty and disadvantage and inspired me to try and give back some of the blessings I have received. From reading other “blogs”, I really doubt the
      churches experiences of working with the poor. I’m afraid drastic action is required to break the cycle of dependency. Today, I refused help to a “poor” family in East Belfast. Last week, I arranged an £80 donation & a substantial food parcel for the family. Today, the family asked for further help for heating & electricity. I have to add the elder boy is 18 and “unemployable”. He is illiterate because he was allowed to sit and do nothing in school due PC & lazy teachers who couldn’t be bothered teaching. I think you’ll find this happened during the
      darkest days of Labour. Time for the churches to get real and face facts. Why do “poor” families have 50″ plasma TVs & Sky packages? Its a complicated issue and it deserves a better, more honest response than I’ve read on this website.
      Regards
      Stephen

      • Stephen, many of your points are based on common misconceptions and myths about poverty, and you haven’t provided any evidence to back them up. Can you actually demonstrate that poor families have Sky packages? In our experience, that’s simply not true. And do you personally know what teachers were doing in that child’s school, or how difficult it is to find work in the current economic climate?

        If you’d like to understand the truth about these issues – based on actual data and experience of working alongside poor communities – take a look at two reports we have recently been involved in: http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/stigma and http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/stigma/truthandlies.

        You’ll find that we were equally prepared to condemn the Labour government on these issues – our mission is to stand alongside the poor and marginalised.

      • “I’m afraid drastic action is required to break the cycle of dependency.”- I think this is what I was trying to hint towards in my comment… yes there are MAJOR issues that need sorting… but we do not help people by creating dependancy… people should be given the chance of employment not oppertunity for state dependnece. The state does not OWE them a living…
        Not sure what proof you want but I am a youth worker working with 16-21 year olds in the “NEET” catagory (not in education, employment or training”)- I meet many different people but I cannot tell you how many people I work with who complain they have to have EITHER sky or the internet… many have bought new tvs that are bigger and better than mine and they all- almost without exception- have a much better phones than me! I dont have any “statistics” to give you, but my FIRST HAND experience reiterrates what is written above…
        I am personally able to give out foodbank vouchers… and aside from people who come into our church centre, I can confirm that there are young people out there I WORK WITH who dont have money due to sanctions, which was a result of not turning up to sign on, which they think was a “piss take”… I know several young people who are homeless yet always seem to have drugs and yet complain of being hungry.
        I am sad to say that often this ends up being lifestyle choice rather than a force of circumstance in my opinion based on my day to day work… Sadly its only the minority who are struggiling because of the “system”.

      • Sami, it seems you are judging all people who are on low incomes or receive benefits, based on your own experiences with a small number of disaffected young people.

    • Hi Liam…
      Well you obviously get the extremists either side… those who say “this isnt fair, how can people survive” and the others who say “this is ridiculous, being able to get so much money for nothing..”- I can see both sides but have to base my opinions on what I see and and experience, and even the vast majority of the foodbank vouchers have not gone to families you would consider in a “stable” situation, but repeat customers often struggling with homelessness…
      I suppose the problem is that when you get involved with those young people you get to learn about their families and how they live and realise how many people there actually are with new TVs, sky and internet packages, regulalry buying drugs etc…

      • Hello Liam,
        Thank you for your reply and contact details for Church Action on Poverty in N.Ireland. My “misconceptions” about poverty are based on actual hands-on working with “poor” families. I’ve been involved with Christians Against Poverty for 5 years and met families in different degrees of “poverty”. The families I’ve a real concern for are those that CAP couldn’t help because they were too poor to get into the type of debt CAP is expert at dealing with. That is, families on benefits that couldn’t borrow from the bank or rake up credit card debt.
        A dad from one of these families joined our men’s support group. He & his partner are unemployed and have two young children. “Fred” didn’t have a 50″ plasma TV. He had an 80″ back projection TV and his partner bought him a Sky Sports Package for Christmas. On the other hand, a former paramilitary and thief who became a brother in Christ last February is genuinely struggling to support is ex-wife and five children. The fifth child arrived 2 weeks ago and my friend doubts it is his. What a mess!
        He can’t heat his private landlord rented house. The minimum oil delivery he can order is 200 litres so he has to buy emergency oil containers from his local filling station. This works out 3 times more expensive. He can’t burn an open fire. Belfast is smokeless.Truly bonkers!
        Another friend owns a bistro. He approached the council last Christmas with proposals he had to bring extra visitors into his part of East Belfast. He was “hit” with Risk Assessment & other Health & Safety baloney. If the state would get off people’s backs and allow them to generate business & employment, maybe my brother would stand a better chance of finding a job.
        My friend admits the damage done to his family by having to rely on state benefits for so long. I haven’t heard any of my “poor” friends complain about the
        welfare reforms. They know better than anyone how the system is abused by neighbours and friends. I’ve listened to more sense from them than from “the churches” and the BBC.There is genuine need, there is genuine abuse and a genuine need to address the catastrophic damage done to our society by welfare dependency and the “nanny state”.
        We’re meeting with representatives of 23 churches in East Belfast this week to try and link our joint outreach work to the East Belfast Independent Advice Centre.
        Surely, as Christians, we’re asked to pray for our government Rom 13:1 -7.
        Lets pray we honour Him in all we say and do to reach the people in genuine need.
        Kind regards
        Stephen

  4. Pingback: Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near | Welfare, Disability, Politics and People's Right's | Scoop.it

  5. We are going to see a level of rioting on the streets we’ve not seen in a generation. Politicians are aware of this and have implied they’d bring in the British army to deal with them implying they’d get our soliders to turn their guns on British citizens.

  6. It is a disgrace. And people earning over £150,000 a year get a tax cut. It defies logic and I hope spells the end of the Tories and Lib Dem

  7. Is this a cost saving exercise or is it an attitude changing one? This is a delicate topic, but there is something seriously wrong with your “system” if it pays more not to work than to work. Whilst there are those who are looking for work out there there are also those who are fussy about what they will do, cant be bothered and others who think its their right to be paid NOT to work.
    I do think high earners should be taxed much more heavily, but I also disagree with taking more money off those who do work (and earn an average wage) and giving to people who dont. Fact is we cannot afford to pay people more without raising taxes. It just wont work mathematically. Something has to give; and why should that be the people who DO work?!
    There are so many issues that need to be tackled here- self-worth, confidence, belief in oneself and your own skills, bankers and their past mistakes, current job market and political handling of a reccession. Many of these people may think they are UNABLE to work as they weill have been told they ar uncapable by others (either parents or professionals) all their lives.
    Housing benefit is another conundrum. Perhaps the rules ARE a little harsh, but its interesting how the media picks out the FEW exceptions rather than the majority cases. Benefits should cover necesities, not luxuries. A spare room is a luxury. Yes some may need it for one particular reason or another, but not all. This ruling, I believe, is aimed at those who have surplus space not the few that have genuine need. There was public outcry when Abu Hamza had a large (was it 5??) bed council house in London with only a couple of people in it. This is the same principle, just rolled out general, yet for some reason its different (yes, he is a terrorist, but let us not forget that many of those who are benefit reliant may have an offending history, and it shouldnt have that much bearing on it, if you consider the cost of keeping someone in prison FOR A DAY!!).
    There should still be some SERIOUS questionning as to why the govnt has not rolled out more stringent laws re bankers, what they must pay back and what bonuses they recieve and how much tax is paid on them- as well as second houses for politicians and all the rest. But the issue of benefits also did need addressing in my opinion.
    Make no mistake though, the Bible has clear teaching about earning a living… here a re just a couple:
    “Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” 2Thess 3
    “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” 2Tim 5

  8. Why do we not require employers to pay a proper wage to those people who are still fortunate enough to have a job. paying 1980 wages in 2013 really is a race to the bottom but nobody mentions it. people are working harder and longer for less and less.

  9. Jesus also told us to take care of widows and orphans which equates to single parents , the elderly and children from broken homes. Many people on benefits are doing voluntary work and don’t get paid. I think they should get an increase in their benefit to help meet the rising cost of living.

  10. We are not wealthy financially by ant stretch. We work extremely hard doing voluntary work helping the vulnerable folk, of whom there are so many. ‘Vulnerable’ covers a whole range of issues from mental and physical health, etc, etc. For Cameron to tar every individual with the same brush is a nonsense. Folk will kick up and cause real problems very soon. BEWARE Cameron and all your cronies and the Lib Dems who just like all the perks of government. (wasters, all of you.) Don’t insult our intelligence. I don’t have the answers but i’m sure a different approach could be found to solve the financial issues of this country. Rant over.

  11. I am distressed at the state we are in, not just on welfare but across the whole country. Everyone is involved if they believe it or not, denial, anger, blame, lies, oppression, depression, “bad” systems, health degeneration, dissolving of services and direct attack planned and directed at the weakest of people and those who stand for them including and not limited to the Church. People reduced to survivors not “strivers” and in the name of equality in a man-made world that does not allow it to exist. Where freedom is defined by bondage, where happiness is defined by others, people are to be uniformed into a impossible template that does not allow them to exist without obeying man written rules over that which they believe. Where Christ’s ways have been abandoned as he warned they would be. Good ideals sold in words like freedom, equality etc. but the opposite is the end of the process. People are forced to obey through systems that are worse than those used in past times as most people are not aware of how things work. Not just let down by those in power but as time unfolds our adversary is being revealed through pride in its source of evil, money is the root of all evil and is worshipped worldwide unbeknown to most and openly forced upon us day after day through every possible channel blinding many from the truth where father curses son and brother fights brother and man against woman and vice-versa. As people we have turned our back on God and let man rule in his place and have suffered the life we know, so how long must we suffer before we let the spirit quicken our souls and we overcome our tongues and speak the truth for I have not heard it spoken only the words in my heart which show the difference of right and wrong. I see around me and my heart aches as I know much is wrong and that I can do more about it. I don’t want to argue because that is what is premeditated by those who want to continue on a road that allows their sinful ways which leads to spiritual and true death but has real world implications as “life” has been turned into a product that hunts your soul that is given to us freely by the Lord not by our current wannabe masters. I gave my life to Christ because without him I would already be dead so I speak the truth when I say I will bow down to no false God whatever form it may take. You may wonder why I write this here but it is not out of place because even though world we live in does not allow life without the use of money, I may need it to survive the journey but the system itself is the lifeblood of our adversary and unlike us cannot exist without it. So remember the armour of light given to us and for those who have eyes and ears to see and speak and our ready to use the sword of truth while grounded in boots of peace with a breastplate of righteousness there heart filled with the spirit of truth reminding us of our helmet of salvation welding the shield of faith, speak now and may the lord be with you.

  12. Pingback: Benefit cuts: The day of reckoning draws near | dcook4real

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