A new series of welfare cuts is being pushed through by Theresa May’s government over the coming months. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments for sick and disabled people are to be trimmed by £29 a week. Meanwhile, a new national benefit cap will plunge some 300,000 children below the poverty line – and it’s due to come into effect just in time for Christmas.
This flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s conference pledge to create a “society that works for everyone”.
A fairer society?
In her speech to the Conservative Party conference on 5 October, she stressed this point again and again. May promised:
a new centre ground of British politics, built on the values of fairness and opportunity
She went on to discuss the sense that people have:
that the world works for a privileged few, but not for them
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She then talked of workers rights, creating millions of jobs, and
shifting the balance of Britian in favour of ordinary, working class people
During the whole address she repeated the phrase “a society where everyone plays by the same rules” no less than five times.
The new cuts
May’s rhetoric could not disguise the fact that many saw her actual policies and appointments indicating a shift to the right. This now appears confirmed. Rather than distance herself from the attacks on the most vulnerable perpetrated by her predecessors, she is set to continue them.
The cut to ESA for the sick and disabled will see claimants’ benefits drop to £73 a week. It is due to take effect from next April. May is facing vigorous opposition from a cross-party group of MPs over the reduction, which includes a number of Conservatives. Despite this, she is pressing ahead.
Meanwhile, the new national benefit cap, set at £23,000 in London and £20,000 elsewhere is due to come into effect from 7 November. Combined with the housing crisis, it is predicted to cause a perfect storm of social problems.
Terrie Alafat, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, has calculated that some families will lose as much as £115 a week due to the benefit cap. For those already struggling, such a hit will be impossible to absorb. With rents soaring, thousands of them will be at immediate risk of homelessness. And as the winter months approach, the timing could not be worse.
A society that works for everyone? Merry Christmas, from Theresa May.
– Read more Canary articles about government austerity policies here.
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