Why defend the welfare state

Frances O'GradyBritish society is based on fairness and opportunity for all. the bedrock of that is state-funded support in hard times. Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, warns this is under threat as never before.

We are rightly proud of our welfare state. It gives us the NHS, state pensions and a safety net if we fall on hard times. We pay in when we work so we, and those we care for, get help if we lose a job, have an accident or get ill.

The welfare state helps make work pay with benefits and tax credits for the low-paid, and supports the cost of raising a family by giving mothers child benefit. But this safety net is under attack. Nothing shows this better than government’s latest plans to make people who lose their job wait at least five weeks before they get a benefit cheque. However hard you have worked, however much you have contributed, ministers want to make you wait more than a month before you get help.

Five weeks is a long time to go without any cash. You can miss a mortgage or rent payment, and even run out of money for food.
And people made redundant want to get on with looking for a new job, not spend their time trying to make ends meet and worrying about feeding their kids. Wonga and the other rip-off payday lenders will be rubbing their hands.

There is nothing wrong with being tough on benefit fraud. While the sums and scale may be tiny compared to tax evasion, cheating undermines the decent social security system that any of us may need. But for all its tough talk, the government hasn’t reduced fraud – not least because they’ve axed thousands of staff responsible for making the system work.
Instead our national insurance system is being eaten away. What has happened are cuts in the value of child benefit, cuts in help for low-paid workers, harsh sanctions for claimants who have done nothing wrong, the bedroom tax, and even cruel delays in giving help to workers diagnosed with terminal cancer.

This is why the TUC and Britain’s unions are saving our safety net. Join with us to fight the five-week wait. Spread the word in your workplace and community. Campaign to defend a decent welfare state.

 Universal Credit: Solving the problem of delay in benefit paymentsThis short report looks at what changes are taking place to the welfare system, the preparedness of the DWP to deal with complications in the migration to Universal Credit and examples of hardship that are already caused by benefit delay. It concludes by setting out a number of recommendations.

Download Universal Credit: Solving the problem of delay in benefit payments [PDF]



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