The race to the bottom of the political barrel continues as claimants head for food banks
by Felix McHugh
Tue 16th Jul 2013
This week's report that 79% of the polled population agree that the Benefit Cap, which came into effect yesterday, is a good thing, is the kind of news which, before I discovered Citalopram used to make me want to self harm. This finding will no doubt encourage the government to reduce the cap still further; apparently £20,000 has been mentioned instead of £26K, which is the upper limit from 15 July. The fact that the vast majority of this money goes not into the pockets of claimants but into the bank accounts of private landlords seems to be lost on all but the rational 21%, but that's not all, folks. The cap comes on top of the bedroom tax and the abolition of Council Tax Benefit so it would seem that there's little left to cut, but read on.
The 40 Club is a group of Tory MPs whose majorities are the lowest in the country, so they are keen to try everything they can to stave off being voted out at the next General Election. This means throwing all principle out of the window and simply knocking on people's doors and asking them which particular piece of legislative bigotry they would like to see next. These are the very people whose proposal to further reduce benefits for single mothers (and by extension their children) is all over the press this week.
And where is the Labour Party meanwhile? Shadow Secretary of State Liam Byrne attacks his opponent Iain Duncan Smith not on the inhumanity of such proposals and policies but on their administration. In other words, Labour does not oppose the cuts just the methodology involved in implementing them. Byrne himself was invited on television last week to commit his party to the repeal of the bedroom tax. It was an invitation he, with depressing inevitability, declined.
Another piece of news is that the Tories and Labour are now neck and neck in opinion polls. Big deal. Two more or less identical right wing market-orientated, warmongering, privatising, Trident-replacing, service cutting, benefits slashing, PFI fiddling, arms dealing, NHS dismantling, corrupt and xenophobic political monsters are battling against each other for the right to mismanage capitalism and blame it all on immigrants and the unemployed.
We have been discussing the short term benefit advance today at work. Ever heard of it? I seriously doubt that you have. It's a measure which was introduced in April instead of crisis loans, to assist new claimants who are, at present, waiting for 5, 6, 7 or 8 weeks or so for their claims to be processed and who are starving while they wait. The reason you haven't heard if it is that the DWP have not made anyone aware of its existence. If someone tries to ask for a benefit advance the DWP staff will not mention the STBA at all but will divert the caller to the local council for emergency relief instead.
From October claimants' patience will be tested yet further as the right to appeal is altered so that anyone whose claim is rejected will have, within a strict time limit, to apply for a mandatory revision before the right of appeal kicks in. But while claimants have to be quick off the mark, there is no time limit imposed on the DWP to produce that revision decision. Currently there is a 17 month backlog of appeals in Derby and the story is similar elsewhere; from October claimants may, for all we know, have to wait a year before they are even given the opportunity to join the queue.
With claimants having to manage longer and longer without their entitlements, and being refused emergency provision, that really is a workhouse you see on the horizon. While the Labour Party sleeps, we return, day by day, week by week and cut by cut to a 19th century welfare system.
A shorter version of this article first appeared on http://sheffieldgulls.freeforums.net