We have already been told that more than a third of the £32bn extra cuts unveiled in the Budget a week ago will come from welfare. Yesterday’s Commons debate began to reveal how deeply unjust is some of the thinking behind that. In addition to ‘on yer bike’ to wherever 200-300 miles away there may be (temporary or impermanent) work, the question of where you’ll move to in view of the 4 million on the Council/housing association waiting lists was solved by IDS telling us it would be into “under-occupied” Council homes when the current occupiers transfer to smaller properties.
Then there’s the drastic cuts planned in DLA and Incapacity Benefit entitlement after pilot schemes suggested half were fit to do some work. Everyone agrees that anyone genuinely capable of work should do so. But what if there aren’t jobs available when unemployment is already 2.45m and likely to rise soon to over 3m? What if there’s a mismatch within the locality or region beween work skills and job availability? Can we be sure of the skill and judgement of those assessing whether someone is capable of work, as opposed to doctors paid by DWP who are not independent or bounty-seekers under some private scheme that pays bonuses for targets reached in work placements?
It is also being said that the housing benefit budget is far too big and must be cut extensively – this at a time when the housing market is at its lowest ebb since 1923 and virtually no affordable homes are being built at all. If people can’t pay their rent and arrears mount up, and they’re evicted, where do they go? Into overcrowded housing with family or friends, or into temporary accommodation for the homeless (already 80,000+) and paid for by the State with no saving?
And then there’s the innocent-looking but insidious switch from RPI (retail price index) to CPI (consumer price index) as the measure for the uprating of benefits. What this underhand device means is dropping housing costs (rents, mortgages), which rise faster in price than most other household purchases, from the calculation – which will quietly but devastatingly wipe billions off the value of future benefits across the piste.
And this is just for starters.