The Tories are already talking about more benefit cuts – and blaming public sector pay rises for them

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The Tories are already coming up with proposals for more cuts to benefits. It comes as the government says inflation is going to go up again in August – blaming public sector pay rises. So, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has responded accordingly. It’s already looking for where it can save money. Clue: it’s chronically ill, disabled, and non-working people – not pensioners – and it’s likely fall under Universal Credit.

DWP: more cuts on the horizon

On Sunday 13 August, the Times reported that the Tories are eyeing up slashing benefits again. To cut an overly wordy article short, it said that:

  • The government thinks inflation (the rate at which prices are rising) is going to go up this month, after falling in July. It’s blaming public sector pay rises.
  • This has panicked the Treasury (the government department responsible for money) – because increases in the state pension are linked to the rate of inflation.
  • Overall, the DWP is likely to breach its benefits spending cap former chancellor George Osborne brought in by around £4bn.
  • If this happens, work and pensions secretary Mel Stride has to go in front of parliament and say what he’ll do to get spending down.

The idea that public sector pay rises are causing inflation to go up is nonsense. Regardless of that, the Treasury and DWP are already in cahoots as to what they’ll do about this. Given it’s the Tories (whose core voter base is pensioners), it’s unlikely they’d touch the state pension. Therefore, some people think health and disability benefits, and Universal Credit, are in their sights.

Universal Credit and PIP in the firing line

ITV News‘s deputy political editor Anushka Asthana thinks that benefits like the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be the first to face the chop. She noted that:

sources in the disability sector tell me they are worried that benefits – and there are concerns that PIP in particular – could be the next target for the government because of the big rise in claimants.

Another big spend is the work capability assessment, which will be abolished in the future but not yet. Tightening eligibility for out of work and disability benefits would save money.

Every April, the government increases benefits, usually in line with the inflation rate the previous September. With means-tested benefits like Universal Credit, it doesn’t legally have to do this. However, with non-means tested ones like PIP it does. So, the Tories couldn’t just cut the rate of PIP without changing the law.

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It seems more likely that:

  1. They’ll cut other benefits like Universal Credit.
  2. Do as James Taylor, Scope’s director of strategy, suggested and make the processes for PIP, as well as the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), harder.

As one person said on Twitter:

Disabled people are always the easiest and socially acceptable targets. Out of sight, out of mind.

Cuts on top of cuts

Of course, two important points in the debate around further DWP cuts are that:

  1. It already doesn’t pay people enough to properly live on – particularly under Universal Credit.
  2. It has repeatedly either frozen or cut benefits in real terms for years.

As the Canary has documented, successive governments have hammered people on benefits. As we previously wrote, April 2023’s DWP benefits increase wasn’t really an increase at all. It merely took Universal Credit, for example, back to the value it was in April 2022:

That is… your money will only be worth what it was a year ago. This is because everything is now more expensive.

Moreover, all this came on top of years of benefits freezes, as well as over 1.5 million people not getting the DWP cost of living payments. Plus, health and disability benefits are already a minefield for claimants to navigate – with the rate of successful tribunal appeals over DWP wrong decisions consistently high.

Benefits cuts: the Tories’ easy option

However, the Tories planning benefit cuts next year isn’t a new thing. In July, the Canary reported that the DWP was already considering it – just for different reasons. At the time, it was because earnings were going up more slowly than inflation. So, the Tories were planning on increasing benefits like Universal Credit in line with wages. This at the time would’ve saved the government money.

Now, that situation has reversed. What it shows is that, regardless of the economic and fiscal reasons for the government claiming it needs to save money, the axe always falls in the same place: on chronically ill, disabled, and non-working people’s pockets.

Featured image via the DWP – YouTube

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