Benefits

“Zero Covid” and “Build back fairer” – two motions, two approaches

Workers’ Liberty recently held a public debate with a comrade from the Zero Covid campaign. You can read Martin Thomas’ speech at the meeting here. We have criticised Zero Covid's focus on demanding - and having unrealistically high hopes from - police measures like lockdowns, and vagueness on promoting workers' struggles for measures of social solidarity in and against the pandemic. At the same we have proposed working together on building such struggles. It must be said we were disappointed to read Zero Covid’s motion in Labour left organisation Momentum’s “policy primary” to decide what...

Boost Universal Credit, don't cut it!

The media reports that the Tories are preparing to cut Universal Credit by rescinding the £20 a week (£1040 a year) increase to the standard rate conceded last year. They are trying to cover up this assault and minimise outrage by giving all current claimants a one-off payment of £500. Chancellor Rishi Sunak held a meeting with Boris Johnson and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to discuss how to avoid making the increase to UC permanent. There is an immediate issue that a one-off payment will not help future claimants, including the large numbers likely to lose their jobs after the...

Withdraw "conditionality"! (John Moloney's column)

The vast majority of directly-employed civil servants continue to work from home, but despite the worsening situation with the pandemic, bosses in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) still want to keep job centres open for face-to-face meetings with benefit claimants. We support limited opening for vulnerable claimants who need additional support, but as a general rule we want contact to be remote. Forcing claimants into job centres puts both the claimants themselves and DWP workers at risk. We’re also fighting for the withdrawal of “conditionality”, under which claimants are sanctioned...

The inequality hit

Pandemic and lockdown (and Tory policies) have increased income inequality. A new report from the Fabian Society shows inequality set to increase even more in the coming months. Universal Credit was increased by £20 at the start of the spring lockdown. That increase is due to be withdrawn on 1 April 2021, at a time when more and more people are likely to be unemployed or on meagre part-time pay. The report estimates 1.1 million more in poverty (including 400,000 children) even on the most optimistic guesses about 2021 unemployment, and 3.2 million (850,000 children) on more pessimistic guesses...

Universal Credit blights women's autonomy

Some women claiming welfare benefits are finding that the system compromises their financial autonomy. If a woman claims benefits, and lives with a partner who also claims benefits, then the system requires them to make a joint claim. Because this is a new claim, she is moved onto Universal Credit. Both her and her partner have individual ‘claimant commitments’, and if her partner doesn’t fulfil his or her ‘claimant commitment’ correctly then the partner will be sanctioned. But because this is a joint claim, she will also lose money, up to half of their joint income. The woman is financially...

Scrap "conditionality"! (John Moloney's column)

The Group Executive Committee for our members in the Department for Work and Pensions met on Tuesday 22 September to discuss the results of a recent indicative ballot of Job Centre workers, which returned a big majority for industrial action against extended opening hours and other unsafe working conditions. Although a final decision has yet to be made, there are now active discussions about moving to a formal, statutory, ballot for action. The general picture, in terms of civil service bosses’ “back-to-the-office” push, has changed since new restrictions were brought in and the Prime Minister...

Statutory ballot in DWP? (John Moloney's column)

The consultative ballot of our members in Job Centres returned an overwhelming majority in favour of industrial action over safety concerns. The union's Group Executive Committee for the Department for Work and Pensions meets on Tuesday 22 September and will discuss whether to proceed to a formal, statutory ballot, which they're very likely to do. Anyone who was wavering on whether action is necessary is likely to have been galvanised by events in recent days. Management is increasing the number of claimants required to attend physical meetings at Job Centres, which is a huge risk given...

NRPF hits women harder in pandemic

Women’s charities have raised the alarm that victims of domestic violence are being refused places at refuges because they do not speak sufficient English. Those turned away include a mother with a 14-month-old baby who was fleeing violence after being held as a slave by her ex-husband. Karma Nirvana, which supports those at risk from forced marriage and “honour”-based violence, said squeezed services in the lockdown period made it even harder for migrant women to access refuge places. Of 20 women Karma Nirvana could not find a refuge for during lockdown, it said five were turned down by six...

"Conditionality" and DWP hours (John Moloney's column)

“Conditionality” for benefit claimants has been restored, which means claimants can be “sanctioned” — i.e., have their benefits revoked — for things like being late for appointments. This is a spectacularly cruel decision on the government’s part, which PCS completely opposes. At the moment, bosses are still proceeding with a light touch and often not insisting that frontline DWP staff impose conditionality. But that’s likely to change, especially as claims continue to rise. We oppose conditionality both in terms of its impact on claimants, and its use as a productivity measure to discipline...

Income shock

The Resolution Foundation cites business surveys to estimate that over one million workers out of the 9.5 million so far furloughed may lose their jobs completely when government furlough money stops at the end of October. It predicts a further “income shock” if the Tories stick to their plan to withdraw from April 2021 the £20 increase in Universal Credit which came with lockdown. That would mean an income cut of over £1,000 for over six million households. All that without factoring in the risk of a full-on second surge of the virus.

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