Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/571/7063

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 March 2009

End the 'benefits trap'

Fight for a living wage

IN JANUARY, two similar cases came before Liverpool Magistrate's Court. They both concerned women who had claimed benefits they weren't entitled to. Both were married to security guards; both had several children; both had separated from their husbands when they had claimed benefit, and had kept claiming when their husbands returned.

Tony Aitman

One, who lived on the Wirral (seen as the "posher" side of the Mersey) and who was overpaid 59,000, was told "Go back to your family... you are a good woman who works hard for your family." She was given a 36-week sentence suspended for two years.

The other woman lived in Norris Green; previous issues of The Socialist have described the desperate conditions for many on the Norris Green estates. She was paid 53,000, 32,000 of which she was entitled to. The judge accepted she had not spent the money extravagantly but said: "there needs to be a deterrent effect for this sort of offence." She was jailed for 18 months.

Bankers' handouts

Bank presidents on 4 million a year - more than most of us would earn in five lifetimes - can be given billions in handouts in return for a pathetic "apology". But the law's harshest sentences bear down on those so desperate to feed and clothe their families that they try to use the benefits system in their favour.

The disgraceful disparity between these two women's treatment condemns the postcode lottery that faces many. It also highlights a growing feature of the lives of thousands: people forced to claim benefits just to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the government is changing the rules, making it harder for people to get the benefits they are entitled to, and forcing people into low-paid jobs. Frank Field, Labour former welfare minister, says the government has not gone far enough. He says all young single people between 16 and 24 should have to work for their benefit, losing all benefits if they do not find work after a certain time.

Further, he says, if benefits claimants turn down a "reasonable" job offer, all their benefits should stop. What a prospect during a period of job losses and recession: a return to the darkest days of 1930s America, with camps of unemployed and the starkest poverty.

Field and the government spread the lie that people do not want to work, that the young unemployed are work-shy. The truth is far more disgraceful. Thanks to the government's tax credits system, a culture of massive subsidy to employers has grown up.

Employers know they can pay the lowest wages possible as these will be enhanced by tax credits. Money we pay in taxes will be used to compensate the low wages paid by employers and boost their profits. Rather than raise the minimum wage to a living level, the government makes the poorest pay for capitalism's problems.

The "benefits trap" shows how far wages have sunk. For many, coming off benefits and into work can mean a substantial drop in income. Although benefits rates are set as low as possible, many employers pay below these rates. No wonder many workers, whose priority is feeding, clothing and housing their families, are forced to stay on benefit rather than go into work.

Research by organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureaux shows that most people asking their advice on returning to work would either be no better off at all, or only marginally so. A major government target is single-parent families, with draconian methods used to force single parents back into work.

However, while a single parent on Income Support with one child would be around 2 - 3 a week better off working and claiming Tax Credits, they could lose Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Their rights to other benefits such as free school meals would be lost, and they would face the extra costs of travel to work.

Similar problems with Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit apply to people on long-term incapacity benefit. Returning to full-time work would leave many thousands of people on Incapacity Benefit worse off working than staying on benefit.

Another problem faced throughout industry is that of short-term contracts. This growing feature of employment leaves thousands working with no certainty as to the future and unsure of having a job at the end of the year.

For workers who come off benefits, there is the fear that, given the slowness of the benefits system, there would be some time before they get any benefits at all when their contract finishes. Even worse for people on Incapacity Benefit or Disability Living Allowance; re-applying after a period in work could see their benefits refused completely, leaving them worse off than before they started work.

Debt

Many people on benefit find themselves in debt with catalogues, credit cards, etc. While someone is on benefit, many creditors will accept a token repayment of these debts; if working, however, creditors tend to demand a much higher repayment rate, reducing an individual's available income even more.

All these facts show that people are often no better off on benefits than working. They are a condemnation not just of the paltry level of benefits, but of the scandalously low level of wages. Just an 'overhaul' of the benefits and tax credit systems will resolve nothing.

We must demand the right to a living wage or benefit. Scapegoating the poor and those on benefits, the TV adverts criminalising people desperate to make ends meet, are part of a government campaign to make the poorest pay for capitalism's crisis. The real criminals get away with a slap on the wrist and billions of pounds poured into their coffers.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 March 2009:

Fight tuition fees: fight for jobs: fight for a future!

Youth march for jobs


Unison witch-hunt

Stop the witch-hunt


International socialist news and analysis

Worldwide protests at killings of Tamils

Rosa Luxemburg - still relevant today

Ireland: Make the rich pay

Tibet: The 1959 uprising


Socialist Party campaigns

The miners were right!

End the 'benefits trap'

Liverpool University: Stop the cuts!

Tube strike ballot

Crisis in the legal aid system


Socialist Party congress

Socialist Party congress reports

Videos of Socialist Party Congress 2009

Perspectives for Britain and the world 2009


Socialist Party election campaign

The European elections and working-class representation

Lessons of the 2004 election

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

CNWP website


Socialist Party workplace news

Strike threat wins job back

Isle of Grain - Low-paying contractor exposed

2.5 bn profit, but BT still announces pay freeze

Rhyl: One-day teachers' strike

Rooftop protest wins apology from Royal Mail

Airwave Solutions: Striking against job cuts

Salford university


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 March 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Benefits:

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

triangleHousing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

triangleMajor attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

triangleFight expansion of disastrous 'Universal Credit' welfare system

triangleUN slams Tories for disabled rights ruin

Tax:

triangleNasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

triangleThem & Us

triangleProblem gambling soars by 33%

triangleAmazon tax halves as revenues soar - nationalise now!

Pay:

triangleArriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangleRoyal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangleNorth London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

Housing:

triangleNo more fire deaths - ensure safety now!

triangleEast London summit fails to address housing crisis

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

19/10/17

North West

Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

18/10/17

Democratic rights

Conference on state spies: who's watching who?

18/10/17

Leeds

Striking back against sackers' charter at Leeds Uni

18/10/17

Royal Mail

Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

18/10/17

PCS

Balloting members on the pay cap

18/10/17

Art

'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

18/10/17

Council

Sheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

18/10/17

South West Wales

Hundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

18/10/17

NHS

Uprising to save the NHS!

18/10/17

Socialism

Can you donate to the Socialism 2017 appeal?

18/10/17

East London

No cuts - hands off King George A&E!

18/10/17

North London

North London hospital workers fight cuts and job losses

18/10/17

BAE

Nationalise to save jobs at BAE Systems

18/10/17

Schools

Schools "can't go any further" - stop the cuts: set deficit budgets now

18/10/17

Swansea

Socialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2