The government’s Welfare Reform Bill has now returned to the House of Lords. Although the Lords will not return to its previous amendments which lessened the blow for the worst affected, they will be able to table new ones, meaning a prolonged dispute over the Bill is still possible.
The Commons reversed all the changes from the Lords — exempting parents from £50-£100 charges to access Child Support Agency services; exempting Child Benefit from the £26,000 “benefit cap”; continuing non-means tested access to Employment Support Allowance for cancer patients; lessening reductions in benefits for disabled children who don’t need overnight care; and delaying the replacing of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments, which would mean less money accompanied by frequent medical assessments.
The Lords may now discuss the introduction of a regional system for the benefits cap to reflect the variation in housing costs and a limitation on the impact of the “bedroom tax” — housing benefit cuts for tenants with more than one spare bedroom.
The bill is an attack against the disabled and ill, against those who are buffeted between precarious work and unemployment and against adults who need more than £26,000 a year (£500 per week) to provide for dependants. Should people not fall ill with cancer? Should they not be made unemployed? Should they not be born or become disabled? Should they not have children? They can do all those things, says the government — they should just not be a burden on the state!
The workers’ movement should not be relying on the House of Lords — an unelected body which in other circumstances would be attacking working-class people. It should be mounting its own campaign against the benefit cap, and the whole of the Welfare Bill.
Tax the rich to fund the welfare state!