Orpington Labour Party

Labour Rose

April Fool!?

Unfortunately not. The government really is making the biggest, most ideological and disproportionately painful changes to the benefits system for a generation.

Working-age benefits cap

Households in Bromley will be one of four trial groups for the cap on working-age benefits which comes into force today. It means that no single person between the ages of 16-64 can receive more than £350 per week in support, and no family, however many children they have, can receive more than £500.

The change will apply to 50% of lone parent families– and 39% of couples with children. The Children’s Society has said that around 220,000 children will be affected.

The average loss will be £93 a week. Pittance to a Tory minister – but make-or-break for many hard-working people.

Bedroom tax

Then there’s the bedroom tax. From today, people living in council or housing association accommodation who have one spare bedroom will lose 14% of their support. If they’ve two or more, they’ll lose 25%. What’s more, children up to age 10 – or up to age 16 of the same gender – must share a room.

The government says this will save £480m – but the National Housing Federation has warned the welfare bill could rise. There are currently 180,000 people ‘under-occupying’ two-bedroom properties – whereas last year, only 85,000 one-bedroom homes became available.

So unless the government decides to prioritise the building of social housing – imagine! – many people will be forced to rent, sometimes at extortionate rates, in the private sector.

IDS heals the sick

Are you disabled? You may not be for much longer!

One in five current claimants of disability living allowance (DLA) won’t be eligible for the new personal independence payment (PIP) in three years’ time. And in five years’ time, half a million people will no longer be eligible for any support.

Below-inflation benefit uprating

For three years from today, benefits will be uprated by just 1% – instead of the 2.2% they would have increased by had the chancellor not imposed a limit. That means support including jobseeker’s allowance, income support, maternity and paternity pay, and some elements of tax credits will be cut in real terms when inflation is taken into account.

9.6 million households will be affected over the three years – each receiving around £3 less a week. And the biggest losers? You guessed it: lone parents.

Local council tax rules

From today, local authorities will be administering council tax support as they see fit – and the current council tax benefit, claimed by nearly 6 million low-income families, is no more.

What’s more, central government funding to councils to do this will be 10% less than last year. The Department for Communities and Local Government has said over three million families will be hit – each losing £137 a year.

The government reckons local authorities will be empowered to get people back to work. But in practice, different levels of support will apply across the UK – which could mean people won’t be able to move to seek work.

A universal disaster

Between today and 2017, people receiving various forms of support – income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit – will find it replaced by one ‘universal’ credit.

The government estimates 3.1 million households will be entitled to more benefits as a result of universal credit, while 2.8 million households will be entitled to less. So if you’re worried about your own situation, you may as well flip a coin.

However, despite selling the scheme on the basis that it will be cheaper to run, the government has scaled back pilot projects from four to just one – because it’s so complicated.

And more than 70 organisations, representing women’s groups, trades unions and charities, have said that the switch to monthly from fortnightly payments could prove a disaster – with some people resorting to payday loans as they struggle to adjust to budgeting in a different way.

Source – BBC News

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