By Campaign Agent Ethan Moxam
Earlier this week, junior minister Justin Tomlinson, when asked about the impact of the benefit cap said, that those affected could take in a lodger, move house, or seek to renegotiate their rent to beat the benefit cap.
The minister has been deeply criticised by Labour and poverty charities for being out of touch for his suggestion, and rightly so. Despite the government’s argument that the cap provides an incentive to work and prevent unfairness among benefit recipients, the cap has pushed many families into poverty.
Earlier this week, the UN released their report of the effect that the Conservative government’s drastic austerity cuts had on the country’s poorest. The report described the government’s austerity policies as “punitive, mean spirited and callous”, with radical cuts to social services entrenching high levels of poverty.
The report describes the results of a near decade long attack on the poorest and most vulnerable people in this country. Along with the benefit cap, I ask by what right does the Tory government have to lecture the poor on how to manage their money to ‘beat’ their cruel benefits policy.
The idea that these families can simply take in a lodger or renegotiate their rent to bring in more money is a Tory fantasy. Such a statement clearly shows disconnect between the government and the harsh reality of low-income families.
While some tenants are allowed to take in lodgers in social housing, those in private accommodation require permission from the landlord and must declare their earnings.
Since 2010, the UN report on Austerity has revealed that there has been a predicted 7% increase in child poverty, along with a 60% rise in homelessness since the Conservatives came into power. The disgraceful rise of poverty has also led to the exponential increase in food banks. Reliance on food banks has also risen by 13% since last year, as reported by the Trussel Trust in March.
The rise in referrals to food banks have been primarily due to low incomes, along with benefit changes, reduction in benefit value, and benefit delays. The failure of the government’s universal credit scheme has been detrimental in areas of full universal credit rollout, which have seen a 52% rise in food bank use.
The Conservative party are failing poverty stricken people across the UK; not only are Justin Tomlinson’s comments ignorant to the plight of these people, they are insulting. The Conservative administration and their callous austerity policies, along with their failure of welfare reform has made the difficult lives of this country’s poorest, that much harder.
Those in poverty don’t need the financial advice of ignorant ministers, they need support, effective welfare reform, sufficiently funded public services, and most of all, to be treated with dignity.
Sources and Further Reading
Peter Walker, ‘Poor families could take in lodger to beat benefit cap – minister’, The Guardian (21 November 2018)
May Bulman, ‘UN condemns UK government's 'mean-spirited and callous approach' to poorest, in damning report’, The Independent (16 November 2018)
May Bulman, ‘Food bank use in UK reaches highest rate on record as benefits fail to cover basic costs’, The Independent (24 April 2018)
Heather Stewart and Richard Partington, ‘Poorest families to lose out on £210 a year owing to benefits cap’, The Guardian (13 October 2018)
Chris McAndrew @WikimediaCommons