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Parliament tomorrow debates the impact of Tory welfare reforms on poverty

foodbank-map-orangeTwo events in this last week point up both the savagery and mindlessness of the Tories’ continuing and relentless assault on benefits. One was Osborne’s declaration that, after lopping off £25bn from the social security system in this parliament, he will make additional £25bn cuts in the next parliament half of which will be severed from working-age benefits (with scarcely a cheep of protest from Labour). The other was the revelation that up to 40,000 people have been wrongly identified as liable for the bedroom tax, and therefore either facing eviction or forced to move to one-bedroom properties, as a result of DWP error.

These are just the latest items in the catalogue of the sheer nastiness of Tory Britain which seems aimed ultimately at the disposal of the entire welfare system with the exception of benefits for pensioners (whose votes are needed), even though nearly all of it has been earned by 40 years of payments of national insurance contributions to which those who have subsequently fallen on hard times are therefore fully entitled.

Monday’s debate on the floor of the House on the impact of the government welfare reforms on the incidence of poverty, which I am pleased to have secured under the Backbench Business Committee procedure, is therefore urgently needed and will lead to a vote if enough Opposition votes can be mobilised despite the initial government business on that day, the purely technical and avowedly uncontroversial EU (Approvals) Bill (Lords), being designated a 1-line voting affair not requiring attendance. It certainly requires a vote to ram home that demonising the victims of the recession – by drastically cutting benefits below the subsistence level and forcing people into destitution for months on end by ‘sanctioning’ them – is gratuitously cruel when the budget deficit it is supposed to be cutting is hardly being reduced at all.

A survey of a sample of these households in the last 3 months by Northern Housing Consortium found that the proportion spending less than £200 per week on food has increased from a quarter to a third. The number of people in these households having no money left each week once bills have been paid is now 51%. The average spend on food per person per day is £2.10. Households are spending 16% more on gas and electricity. The proportion of households having to make debt repayments of more than £40 per week has doubled. The average level of debt per households is now £2,273. A third of these households now have council tax debt. And people in these households who are looking for work or for more hours have made on average 40 applications in 3 months, yet 70% are not even reaching the interview stage. Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith or, even better, George Osborne would like to show us how to survive if they found it impossible to get a job and then were made destitute for 3 months.

Picture Credit: The Tressell Trust

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