The safety net that workers pay into is under attack.
The Coalition made it a top target for cuts, which have been so severe that food banks have had to step in to stop hunger.
Whether it is benefits to protect you from redundancy, from sickness and disability, from homelessness, from low pay, or from a short-term crisis, they’ve all been severely cut. And if they are re-elected, the Conservatives are planning more, deeper cuts for after the election.
The Coalition promised a major reform of benefits – the Universal Credit. It was meant to make work pay, and fix some of the problems the benefit system can cause when people move in and out of work or increase their hours.
But the system is running years late. And it has been used as a veil to disguise deep cuts, meaning that payments under Universal Credit will be much lower than the pre-2010 levels of support people received under the current system.
A new sanctions regime has pushed Jobcentres towards a culture of harassment, not help.
Sanctions are financial punishments that remove a person’s benefit payment for weeks, or even years.
The number of claimants being sanctioned has rocketed under a new system brought in by Iain Duncan Smith. This includes the sanctioning of many more disabled people than were sanctioned under any previous government.
And the length of sanctions has increased too. A first sanction is now four weeks long, and sanctions can now be up to a maximum of three years.
There is also worrying evidence that sanctions are being used unfairly, with claimants who are trying their best being sanctioned for ridiculous reasons, such as being late for an appointment they had not been told about, not job searching on Christmas Day or cancelling an appointment to attend a close family funeral.
A survey of Jobcentre Plus advisers in 2014 found that 23 per cent said they had been given targets for sanction referrals, and 81per cent said they had been set an expectation for sanction referrals.
The cross-party Work and Pensions Committee of MPs has called for an urgent review of the failing sanctions regime.
Please take action and sign a petition to the next Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who will take office after the election, asking them to immediately establish the review called for by the Committee.
Another action of the Saving Our Safety Net campaign is calling for the government to rethink its plans for a five-week wait for new benefit claimants. A further rule change is adding to the problem and making it a wait of at least six weeks.