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From The Socialist newspaper, 25 January 2012

The Lords won't save us!

Fight the Tories' Welfare Reform Bill

Ben Robinson

Tory Iain Duncan Smith's vicious Welfare Reform Bill, which the government aims to make law by May, will leave thousands destitute.

One measure alone, the capping of benefits a household can receive to 500 a week, is estimated to push 80,000 children into homelessness. A family with four children in London would have a measly 62p per person to live on after paying bills.

IDS, by contrast, struggles by on a salary of 145,492, with 94,000 expenses and a pension contribution of 43,825.

The bill will affect those with disabilities particularly badly. The cap on benefits will cut additional support currently provided for those with disabilities, despite government promises. Even on the government's own figures, 5,000 households with someone with disability will lose on average 87 a week.

The Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which under the bill replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is much harder to get and will lead to more disabled people losing out.

Even under the present system, judging who is eligible for disability benefits has been made much harder, outsourced to the notorious private firm Atos that uses staff with five days training that do not require any previous medical experience.

Atos are questioning around 11,000 claimants a week. Questions that can only be answered 'yes' or 'no' can lead to benefits being stopped. Over 400,000 appeals have been made against such test decisions since October 2008. 39% have been successful.

The inadequate 'social fund' - which can provide loans to those in dire need - will be abolished, with part of the funding reallocated to local government budgets, but without being ring fenced. This will push more people towards loan sharks, legal and illegal, on top of the estimated one million people who amass huge debts just to get by.

As job cuts continue, the impact of the Welfare Reform Bill will affect wider sections of society, and Tory mayor Boris Johnson's warning of 'social cleansing' in London will become a reality - not that he put forward an alternative. Part-time and temporary jobs are increasingly replacing permanent contracts. Last month's figures showed that there was a 75,000 increase in part-time jobs, and a loss of 57,000 full-time ones.

Pushing unemployed families out of high-rent areas, where there are generally more jobs available, will create unemployed ghettos across the country.

Rent is often a major cost for families, especially in inner city areas. But housing benefit is a direct subsidy to landlords charging astronomical rents. The housing benefit bill, that Con-Dem and Labour MPs complain about, could be reduced massively by capping rents at an affordable rate. A massive public housebuilding programme could provide employment and cheap rents.

The House of Lords has passed a number of amendments to the bill, which Cameron and Clegg have pledged to overturn when it returns to the House of Commons. But even these changes do little to blunt the axe being taken to provision for some of the most hard up. Guardian commentator Polly Toynbee described the amendments as 'minimal'.

But what lies behind the parliamentary bluster is the huge anger that exists among unions, campaigning organisations and disability activists. This will explode when the real effects of the bill become clear to the majority of the population.

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In The Socialist 25 January 2012:

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Fight the Tories' Welfare Reform Bill

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Kirklees parents say 'save our children's centres!'

Greenwich Unite members oppose cuts, privatisation and racism

Workplace news in brief


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