THE BLOG

I Can't Wait to Get Started Defending the Welfare From Dismantlement by the Tories

08/01/2016 13:52 GMT | Updated 08/01/2017 10:12 GMT

I can't wait to get started.

Work is at the centre of all our lives.

The lack of it. The low pay. Poor conditions. Zero hours contracts. The lack of progress in work.

The endemic unfairness and inequalities that work too often brings.

As a low-paid care worker, this was the life I lived not so long ago. As a single mum, I knew how hard it was to put food on the table and worry about how you were going to find the money for the next pair of trainers for the kids.

Like many others, I needed benefits to get by and to give me a foot on the ladder so I could make something of myself and provide for my family.

Now of course, the Tories are kicking away that ladder of opportunity for millions of the poorest-paid working families, with the introduction of Universal Credit. I am appalled at their attacks on the most vulnerable, especially disabled people.

Those people being hit now are not scroungers or shirkers. They are the strivers. Working hard for a better life for themselves and their families.

But the Welfare State, founded by a Labour Government to provide the basic framework to help people get on in life, is now being systematically dismantled by the Tories.

This will be the focus of all my attention as part of Owen Smith's team.

We aim to expose the Tories at every turn. Labour forced George Osborne to back down over working tax credits last year. We can do so again whenever his policies threaten to make Britain a more unequal, less fair, less decent country.

But we want to do more too. We want a Britain where people have decent jobs - I will be a champion for a proper Living Wage. A Britain where work is an opportunity, not a dead end. Where all those who want to work will have the opportunity to do so. Where people are properly valued for the contribution they can make to building a better society.

Labour faces many challenges. Not least in countering the Tory myth of 'scroungers'. As you might expect from someone with my background, I have never believed in 'something for nothing'. You get out what you put in. That's the way it should be.

Work and Pensions is a difficult brief. But hey, it's difficult caring for the most vulnerable people when you get little reward and little recognition. It's difficult getting rejection letters for every job you apply for. It's difficult being sanctioned when you are ten minutes late for a JobCentre appointment.

We are all determined to make life just as difficult for the Tories now.

Angela Rayner is the Labour MP for Ashton, Droylsden & Failsworth, and a shadow work and pensions minister