Jobcentre Plus, credit: Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons) (uploaded 07/04/2016)
Jobcentre Plus, credit: Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons) (uploaded 07/04/2016)

Charley Lincoln, Northampton Socialist Party

Rishi Sunak announced five welfare reforms on 19 April. He started by misleading the public by claiming that Universal Credit “makes sure work always pays”, ignoring the fact that over half of claimants are in work. He added: “We introduced the National Living Wage – and increased it every year, ending low pay in this country!”

According to Sunak, since the pandemic, the 850,000 more people have joined the ‘sicknote’ group due to long-term sickness.

Of those who are economically inactive, half have depression or anxiety. “Most worrying of all… is the biggest proportional increase in economic inactivity… came from young people”.

A looming climate crisis, 25% of people worldwide living in an active conflict zone. In Britain, the sixth-richest country in the world, thousands go without food, housing and adequate healthcare. What future is there for young people on the basis of profit-driven capitalism?

The multimillionaire prime minister wishes to reallocate who has the power to issue ‘sick notes’ away from GPs (trained medical experts) to unspecified government-appointed health assessors.

He is looking to “strengthen” the “regime” with some kind of twisted morals where “dignity”, “purpose” and “hope” come from work. Anyone who doesn’t comply with the conditions set by their Work Coach will have their claim closed and their benefits removed entirely. Is that justified? Well, Sunak claims it will ‘stimulate growth’.

Decisions about who gets Personal Independence Payments (PIP) with be more ‘rigorous’. Already, 80% of PIP claims that get taken to tribunal are awarded. People are already being unjustly denied support.

24% of Britain’s population is classified as disabled (not all of working age), an increase of 3.9 million people over the last decade. If your disability is invisible or of a mental health variety, Sunak believes you don’t require cash anymore. Instead you will get access to treatment like talking therapies or respite care. Mental health charity Mind called PM’s rhetoric “insulting to the 1.9 million people on a waiting list to get mental health support.”

What was behind the announcement? It feels like a desperate prime minister on his way out trying to blame disabled people for over a decade of Tories making the rich richer and misery for the rest of us.

The Socialist Party says replace Universal Credit and the punitive benefit system with living benefits for all who need them, and calls for a massive expansion of public services to meet need.