Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/642/10408
Con-Dem attacks will lead to social cleansing
THE CON-Dem government and their anti-working class press would have us believe that the country is full of lazy, oversized families living the high life off benefits worth tens of thousands of pounds a year. They say that by capping total benefits that can be claimed to £500 a week and getting rid of incapacity benefit they will "incentivise" people to move into employment.
North London health worker
However, the facts tell a very different story. Only 50,000 out of some six million people who claim housing and other benefits pass this threshold. Of those the vast majority live in central London in privately rented accommodation and pay high rents.
This is due in large part to the sell-off of social housing since the 1980s and the failure of successive governments and local councils to replace the diminishing stock. These housing benefit claimants of course never actually see the majority of this money, as it is paid to the greedy buy-to-let landlords who cream off vast amounts in profit and drive up house prices.
The Con-Dem changes will serve to drive lower income families with young children out of inner cities, creating a form of class cleansing or alternatively force them into substandard housing. There can be no doubt that homelessness and social fragmentation will increase and families will be forced to live in slum conditions with all of the resulting misery.
The knock-on effects of such policies can be seen by recent studies which show that the highest risk factor for parental depression is poor housing. Another recent study demonstrates that depression among parents is the most significant risk factor for teenage children's involvement in crime and drug addiction.
The latest weapon of attack by the government is the scrapping of incapacity benefit, also the brainchild of Department for Work and Pensions chief Ian Duncan-Smith. IDS has decided that all incapacity claimants (people with disabilities) will be subjected to a new health review to ascertain their fitness for work. Has no-one told IDS that New Labour undertook precisely the same process in the last 12 months!
During these recent reviews in 2009-10 tens of thousands of disabled people were wrongly re-classified as fully fit for work or entitled to less benefit. Of those where benefits were cut or stopped 70% lodged an appeal of their decision, 60% of decisions were then reversed after this appeal.
Reports to the Socialist Party from victims of this review suggest that where the claimant could not answer a question it was automatically scored as if they were fully fit to work, without their knowledge or approval.
As with the last review the current assessment does not take into account mental illness. Thousands of the most vulnerable people in our society went through the torture and anxiety of having benefits wrongly slashed or stopped, but IDS clearly feels that New Labour wasn't cruel enough and now wants to replicate this misery all over again.
This duplication, along with the recent cuts in child benefit for higher earners, is because the Con-Dem government want to demonstrate that they are sharing out the pain as they come for the wages and living standards of all workers.
However it is not just enough to challenge these attacks, we must offer an alternative.
If the government wants to stop exploitation of the housing benefit system then introduce compulsory rent controls in high demand areas. If it wants to incentivise paid work over benefits then increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour and if they want to increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities then fund more training and support people to maximise their potential while investing in a programme of socially useful job creation.
In The Socialist 14 October 2010:
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