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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Greens attack the Tories’ ‘war on welfare’

Green Party Work and Pensions spokesperson Jonathan Bartley has launched a blistering attack on the government’s “war on welfare”, accusing the Tories of “kicking people when they are down”. The attack came in response to a speech by David Cameron on welfare.

Jonathan Bartley said: "The Conservative war on welfare is incoherent, misguided and based on ideology rather than reality. Welfare is an investment which helps people to build a decent life, not something that 'papers over the cracks with a veneer of fairness'. The social security of millions is being threatened in a way we haven't seen since the modern welfare state was set up. The best way to help people into work is to support them, not kick them when they are down. Conservative sanctions are creating barriers and making it harder, not easier, to find a job. These sanctions should be scrapped, not extended to those claiming tax credits."

Continuing his attack on the Tories, Mr Bartlett said: "Cutting tax credits would take away a crucial lifeline which enables many people to stay in work, while the shambolic new Universal Credit system also has an in-built disincentive to work. For every £100 someone on Universal Credit earns, £65 of support is lost. If the government wants to make work pay it should make the minimum wage a Living Wage. Not only would this save £2.4bn in tax credits, it would also raise £1.5bn in tax revenues. Reducing the pernicious household benefit cap and closing the Independent Living Fund places the burden of the government’s austerity programme on the shoulders of the most vulnerable. Such cuts are another example of the government failing the disabled, as just 9% of participants on the ill-conceived work programme ever find work."

"Short of creating an ‘opportunity society’, Conservative cuts will plunge more people into destitution, remove vital support and create additional costs elsewhere, which already squeezed local authorities and voluntary agencies such as foodbanks will have to try and meet." Jonathan Bartlett added.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett meanwhile criticised the Prime Minister for refusing to rule out further cuts to disability benefits. Ms Bennett said: "David Cameron's speech suggested very strongly that the government is planning further cuts to disability benefits, specifically the Disability Living Allowance and the Personal Independence Payment, or the taxing of them. Either or both options would be indefensible. As the government's own website says, PIP ‘helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability’."

Ms Bennett continued: "Our society and its structures (such as public transport and access to facilities) fail to adequately meet the needs of many disabled people, and the payment is a part recompense for this. David Cameron is right to say that we have to move away from Britain's low wage employment culture. But that can only be achieved by raising the minimum wage - simply cutting tax credits will only harm workers who will have no chance to make up the difference between the inadequate minimum wage and the living wage level that it should be set at."