Monday, 24 March 2014

Five reasons why Labour MPs should oppose the welfare cap

Despite Ed Balls saying Labour will back the welfare cap, because Ed Miliband has already expressed support for a welfare cap, here are five reasons why Labour MPs should vote against on Wednesday (26 March). If you have a Labour MP, email them (template letter via Left Futures).
1.    It means need is subject to an arbitrary cap

The welfare state was founded on the principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need".

This government has failed to address that need: it's welfare programmes are failing - from the Work Programme to the Youth Contract to the Work Capability Assessment. Failing privatised schemes need capping, people in need do not.

2.    It feeds the Tory myth that spending is out of control

In fact the UK spends less on social security than other developed nations, and before the recession welfare spending was falling (read more here, via TUC).

France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and the Czech Republic all spend more than the UK on social security (see chart below, using OECD data)

3.    It does nothing to challenge the reasons for high welfare spending

Low pay, weak trade union rights and an unregulated rental market. When pay is too low or there isn't enough work, people become eligible for tax credits and housing benefit. As the 1945 Labour manifesto said, “there is no reason why Britain should not afford such programmes but she will need full employment and the highest possible industrial efficiency in order to do so”. This government has failed to meet those criteria.

Both tax credits and housing benefit for people in work are subject to the welfare cap. If wages continue to  lag behind inflation, and rental costs continue to exceed inflation, that will mean welfare costs rise. Under this proposal, disabled people's benefits or pensioners' winter fuel allowance could be cut because landlords jack up rents or because employers don't give decent pay rises.

4.    This is feeding the demonisation of people on benefits
Disabled people have already suffered the most under this government's cuts to social security - with the failed Work Capability Assessment  for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the cuts to Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the closure of Remploy and the forthcoming abolition of the Independent Living Fund. Both DLA and ESA are within the welfare cap.

They have also suffered a massive rise in disability hate crime, which follows the demonisation of those on benefits by Tory politicians using the divisive language of 'skivers', 'shirkers' and 'scroungers' - which has then been echoed in the media.

5.    It does nothing to help those in real need
With half a million families using food banks, an extra million people in poverty, homelessness rising, and the number of families housed in B&B accommodation at a ten year high - what will a welfare cap do for them?

It is a gimmick, but a nasty gimmick. And Labour MPs should reject it.

p.s. if Labour MPs want to know how to cut welfare spending from a socialist perspective, read this

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