The “Welfare Cap” mistake – An open letter to Ed Miliband

Wayne Blackburn /   June 29, 2015 at 8:38 PM 1,306 views

Dear Mr. Miliband, I write today with a real sense of sadness, following the Parliamentary Party’s decision to support the so-called “Welfare Cap” put forward by this Government in the Budget on 19th March, 2014. I joined the Labour Party last September, following the pledges at the Party Conference that the Labour Party would abolish the Bedroom Tax and sack Atos from the Work Capability Assessment. I had considered these measures particularly important due to the misery and hardship they have been causing – in no small part to my own family. The decision to join was not an easy one, indeed I had struggled with it for several months before I finally felt I could “take the plunge”. I felt, however, that I could now believe that the Labour Party had “turned a corner” on social security and were willing to stand up for claimants where they hadn’t done in the past. Today, I am questioning whether I made the correct decision. I believe very strongly in Social Security – I hate the term “welfare” – and the “safety net” it provides to millions of people. As a disabled man who has struggled over the past few years, I am immensely grateful to that safety net, without which I, and my wife, would not have survived. That safety net, however, is being steadily eroded by this Coalition and those of us who have to live with it are being demonised by the daily rhetoric coming from politicians from all parties. The “welfare cap” can only add to this erosion of the safety net and increase the demonisation of claimants. Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, has already stated that it will push low income families into poverty, saying, “Capping only the few benefits selected by ministers means it will be the poor, sick and disabled who face having their support cut… A cap which deliberately targets support for the working poor and has little room for manoeuvre could put even greater pressure on low income families.” She, of course, is not the only person voicing concern. Save The Children believe the cap will push 345,000 children into poverty in four years. Is that really something the Labour party should be supporting? What Labour should be doing is leading the conversation on social security, not allowing the Conservatives to dictate the debate and us fall into their traps. We should be pointing out the facts on social security instead of being afraid of the name calling from Osborne and Cameron. Diane Abbott – who was one of the 13 Labour members who proudly voted against the cap last week – listed the following on her blog: “The public thinks that 41% of the benefits bill goes to the unemployed. In fact, it is only 3% of the benefits bill. The public thinks that 27% of benefits are claimed fraudulently. In fact, only 0.7% is so claimed. The truth is that 80% of the people who claim jobseekers allowance—those so-called “Benefits Street” layabouts—only claim it for less than a year.” The misconceptions surrounding social security need to be challenged, and Labour could lead the way on this. The website In Actual Fact is a fantastic resource for sample facts against the current rhetoric, and one I would highly recommend. Labour can do much more in tackling these misconceptions, and I believe very strongly Mr. Miliband that you could lead the way in this battle. Ms. Abbott went on to say, “This benefits cap is arbitrary and bears no relationship to need, as our benefits system should. It does not allow for changing circumstances—rents going up and population rising—and will make inequality harder to tackle.” I could not agree with her more. And George Osborne has already proved that the cap is a disaster waiting to happen, by being on course to spend £13 billion more on social security than he had originally planned. Surely that just goes to show how unworkable a policy this really is? I had a Twitter “conversation” with John McTernan in the last few days, who stated to me that “Tougher on welfare is where Labour voters want us to be.” Perhaps it is, but is that really surprising given the public’s misconceptions surrounding social security? Once again, we must show the reality to the public, not the lies and misinformation being pushed by the Coalition. I joined Labour because I wanted to make a difference, and I still do. Despite my health problems I have ambitions to go into politics at local and national level, but to do so I will not change my views and I certainly will not go silent over these issues. With the rise of Left Unity – a group I am watching with great interest – the voices of those on the “Left” are, thankfully, increasing, and I intend to be one of those voices. I truly hope that those voices on the Left can continue to be heard within Labour – the last thing this Party needs is a return to “New Labour”. Yours sincerely, Wayne Blackburn Courtesy of Wayne Blackburn at crazybladeuk

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