This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 14-15 November 2014.
Together with the NHS, the British social security system has been one of the greatest achievements of the post-war period. Though far from perfect, it was largely successful in achieving its goal of mitigating extreme hardship. In recent decades, a narrative has emerged from all three main parties that accused the social security system of creating generations of people dependent on it and of encouraging fraud, thus adding to myth that cuts are necessary. While it is true that the current system is not flexible enough to motivate people to work, most of the claims are wildly exaggerated. Furthermore, high rents, zero hours contracts, low wages, lack of affordable childcare and a very competitive job market act as a disincentive to work and discriminate against certain categories of people.
Two Welfare Reform Acts (in 2007 and 2012) have completely changed the social security system in recent years, creating a regime which is more punitive, whilst failing to address the causes of poverty. The Reforms have also increased the use of private companies, for example ATOS and A4E, to assess claimants or to help them find employment. These companies have often proved not to be cost effective to the taxpayer and to harass and bully claimants.
At the same time, the welfare system has provided massive taxpayer subsidies to low paying employers through Working Tax Credit and to landlords through Housing Benefit.
We agree that current system needs reforming, but disagree that it has to be more punitive and less supportive. We also disagree with the division into deserving and undeserving poor, categories that are completely arbitrary, as most social security recipients are actually in work and the vast majority of people claiming out of work benefits have worked and paid contributions.
The increase in food banks, homelessness and suicides shows that Labour and the Coalition’s reforms have only increased poverty and despair, and not adequately supported people in a period of high unemployment and little job security. The reforms have also affected disabled people, women with children and young people the most. Many people in these groups have been affected by cuts and reforms multiple times as different benefits have been cut or abolished, without even taking into account the pain caused by cuts to local services and to NHS services.
A few facts:
66% of children in poverty are in working households, 21% of working people are not paid the living wage, Zero hours contracts have increased 75% in 2 years while 64% of UK families receive at least one social security benefit
Lone parent households are losing 18.5% net income by 2015, single parents are forced to work while problems with childcare have not been solved
149,000 JSA claimants per year wrongfully sanctioned, claimants from ethnic minorities and disabled people are disproportionately sanctioned. Most people claim JSA only for short periods of times, Joshua Rowntree Foundation tried to find families with 3 generations out of work (often mentioned by IDS and the tabloids) and found none.
Many sick and disabled people face up to 6 different benefit cuts, losing up to £5,000 each a year. DWP figures says that fraud for DLA was only 0.7% yet implemented costly and stressful reassessments to combat ‘rampant fraud’.
We need a social security system, as part of a general campaign against poverty, that guarantees a minimum living standard to people when unemployed, under-employed, sick and disabled people, unpaid carers and older people. Furthermore, we expect a social security system to also empower people to make an active contribution to society and the economy, according to their abilities, which should be adequately rewarded. The system must be publicly funded and administered.
Our immediate tasks should include:-
Personal Independent Payment (PIP) is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the aim of cutting support to 20% of DLA claimants. PIP should be scrapped and DLA reinstated
Abolish all sanctions (benefit cuts) and Workfare for Jobseekers Allowance and Employment & Support Allowance claimants; no-one should be left with no income.
Scrap the Bedroom Tax
Scrap the Benefit Cap as it discriminates against all larger families and in particular families from ethnic minority communities.
Abolish the Work Capability Assessment in Employment Support Allowance and consequently abolish the Work Related Activity Group. Introduce a basic payment and a higher rate and re-introduce GP assessments.
Restore the annual uprating of benefits based on the the Retail Price Index.
Reverse the cuts made to Tax Credits
Scrap Universal Credit
Remove age discrimination in benefits for under 25’s
Remove age discrimination for the under 35 in Housing Benefit (only entitled to Housing Benefit for shared accommodation)
Reinstate Legal Aid for Social Security cases
Reinstate the Independent Living Fund
Reinstate Council tax Benefit ensuring that 100% council tax rebates are guaranteed in law for those on the lowest incomes. Also, add further council tax bands at the top of the valuation scale so that the rich pay a greater portion of council tax
Reinstate benefit entitlement to Jobseekers Allowance & Housing Benefit for European nationals.
Remove the Housing Benefit caps and base Housing Benefit for private sector tenants (called the Local Housing Allowance) on average rents.
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