The attacks on the poor, working poor and disabled under the guise of "Welfare Reform" by the Tory-led Government has caused untold damage to households and families up and down the country. It would appear that the Government believes that welfare claimants should pay the most for the mistakes of the financial sector.
Let's be clear, those who are being hardest hit by the Government's cuts to welfare are not the people who caused the economic crisis that the UK is in.
The social security budget did not force reckless banking within the financial sector. Disabled people did not cause some banks to go belly-up and unemployed people most certainly did not under-regulate the financial market. Yet it is them who face the harshest punishments for the failures of the financial sector and inept Osbornomics. Government policies such as the bedroom tax and unreasonable sanctions force struggling welfare claimants and their families into poverty and exasperate an already unequal country.
If you were to believe the narrative from the Government and their media friends then you would believe that this UK is awash with lazy, skiving layabouts who do nothing but sit on their sofa, watch Jeremy Kyle and wait for their next dole payment. This narrative is gladly pumped out by the Government's friends in the media. Propaganda-esque headlines of "SKIVERS", "BENEFIT CHEATS' and "FRAUDSTERS" hit the front pages. But this narrative, like the Government's rhetoric, is based on narrow-minded views of the unemployed.
They tell us that "benefit cheats" are robbing the taxpayer. They print extraordinary stories reinforcing the Government's rhetoric that fraud is prevalent amongst benefit claimants. In fact, only 0.7% of the welfare budget was overpaid due to fraud.
They tell us that our welfare system is being milked by layabouts who refuse to work, conveniently ignoring that 53% of the social security budget is spent on pensioners and less that 25% of the welfare budget goes to out-of-work benefits.
They tell us stories of the 'feral underclass' and how the taxpayer is spending vast amounts on families with hordes of children. Certain media outlets and commentators lap this up, tutting at the 'over-breeding' of the unworthy poor. Yet the reality tells a different story; Families with more than 5 children accounted for less that 1% of out-of-work benefit claims.
Here are some stats that the Government prefers to be ignored:
- In the UK 6.1 million people live in poverty in working households.
- Less than 10% of JSA claimants claim for 12 months or more.
- Benefit spending in 2011/12 accounted for 10.4% of GDP, lower that the mid 80(11%) and mid 90s (12%).
The old adage "You can judge a society by the way it treats its weakest member" springs to mind.
What sort of Government would allow a million young people to be unemployed then announce that they plan to ban under 25's from claiming out-of-work benefits? What sort of Government would give the richest a tax break in the same week as they implement savage cuts to welfare? Benefit caps, housing benefit cuts, benefit freezes, ATOS, PIP, unreasonable sanctions - the Government's attacks on the poor, poorly paid and disabled continue.
I am proud of the UK's welfare state. I am proud that this nation provides a safety need for our citizens. Yes, the welfare state needs intelligent and joined up reforms, no one would deny that. But this ideological-driven arrack of the welfare state in harsh economic times is nothing more that heartless and pointless politics by a Government that brings shame onto our society.