It has almost escaped notice that next year the government will be cutting benefits from those already in work – unless they can get extra work which may of course not be available. This will affect 1,400,000 people who are working part-time because they can’t get full-time work. The latest employment figures have shown a surprising increase since the UK economy is in the middle of a double-dip recession, but it is explained by a very large increase in part-time work because there has been little or no increase in full-time work. Now this section of the workforce is about to be penalised as a result of the introduction of IDS’ universal credit.
There are estimated to be some 700,000 single people plus a further 500,000 who are part of a couple who will lose out if they earn less than the minimum wage which is currently £212 a week for a single person (assuming a 35 hour week). This is because the new universal credit system, to be inaugurated in April 2013, introduces a new conditionality, namely that any claimant for working benefits is required to meet an earnings threshold equal to national minimum pay rates for a 35-hour week, to be earned if necessary through such combined measures as working longer hours, getting their employer to increase their hourly wage or getting an additional job on top of what they were already working.
The obvious question arises: is it fair to dock their in-work benefits (e.g. council tax benefit because they’re earning such a low wage) if, however hard they try, they can’t meet any of the new conditions being laid down? This is yet another of the impossible conditions being set by the coalition as an excuse to chop benefits. Already job seekers on JSA (£71 a week) are having this very low sum cut further if they don’t find work which is simply not available, which must mathematically apply in 86% of cases since there are officially 7 unemployed persons chasing every vacancy. And already there are, it is known, tens of thousands of persons on Incapacity Benefit who have been judged by Atos Healthcare to be capable of work and have their benefit sharply cut, yet have a chronic severe disability which even in conditions of near-full employment, let alone with 2.6m unemployed, would find it next to impossible (and not for lack of trying) to get a job.