6th January: The Observer reports that half a million low paid workers such as teachers, soldiers and nurses will be worse off as a result of the Coalition’s benefit reforms.
The planned rise of 1% for many benefits is widely regarded as the Coalition being tough on the workshy, but in fact it is those in work who will be worst hit.
The Observer also published the following letter, signed by (among others) the chief executives of the Children’s Society, Banardo’s, and Citizens Advice:
On Tuesday, MPs will debate the introduction of a 1% cap on benefit and tax credit increases under the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. If introduced, this hardship penalty will hurt millions of families across the country – families already struggling to pay for food, fuel, rent and other basics.
Many thousands have turned to food banks for help. Nearly half of teachers say they often see children going hungry. Shockingly, 6 million households struggle to afford to heat their homes.
As the costs of fuel, food and housing rise again, we can expect to see these problems become even more severe and widespread.
This hardship penalty comes on top of freezes to child benefit and working tax credit, and cuts to housing benefit and council tax benefit. As a result of the 1% cap, a single-parent primary school teacher or a nurse with two children stands to lose £424 a year by 2015. An army second lieutenant with three children could lose £552 a year. If they are in private rented housing or if prices rise faster than expected, the loss is likely to be even greater.
The government must make sure that increases in benefit rates at the very least reflect rises in the cost of living. Otherwise, this toll will deepen inequality and increase poverty.