Welfare reforms fail the Prime Minister’s new family test, says TUC

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The majority of social security cuts announced by the government will fall on working families, who will suffer twice the level of benefit losses as out of work families, according to a new report published today (22 August) by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The TUC-commissioned analysis of those affected by cuts in social security support – undertaken by Howard Reed of Landman Economics – looks at all the welfare changes announced during this Parliament. It finds that annual cuts to key benefits will reach £30.5 billion by 2016/2017.

Ministers frequently talk about how their welfare reforms target workless households. But the TUC analysis finds that most of the cuts will fall on working families, with working parents and their children facing the biggest cuts of all.

Working families will suffer a loss of social security support worth £17.9 billion a year by 2016/17, twice the level (£6.2 billion a year) experienced by out of work families.

Working families with children stand to lose the most – £11.7 billion a year. With out of work families with children losing a further £2.3 billion a year, the total cost of welfare cuts to families with children will be £14.1 billion a year by 2016/17.

The TUC analysis shows that three-quarters of all welfare cuts to people of working age will be on working families, with almost half hitting working families with children.

The government’s welfare reforms have already failed the Prime Minister’s new ‘family test’ in spectacular fashion, says the TUC, with working parents and their children billions of pounds worse off as a result.

The analysis also shows that the Prime Minister’s pre-election pledge to protect pensioner benefits has been broken, with pensioner families suffering a loss of benefit support worth £6.4 billibn a year by 2016/17.

The government’s most-mentioned welfare policy is the benefits cap – a policy that targets around 65,000 mainly workless households and is projected to save £500 million a year, says the TUC. But the impact of the benefits cap is dwarfed by cuts in support to working families and pensioners about which the government has been largely silent.

The biggest single area of welfare cuts announced has been the £13.8 billion worth of annual cuts to tax credits – over ninety per cent of which will hit working families. Those in work will also bear over 90 per cent of the cuts in child benefit, losing £3.4 billion a year by 2016/17.

The next biggest single welfare cut (at over £4bn a year) is the reduction in the value of Pension Credit, which will be borne almost entirely by pensioner families.

Many of the reductions in social security support are down to the Chancellor’s stealth cut to benefits, announced in June 2010, where the measure used to increase benefits every year was changed from RPI to the lower CPI measure. The move, combined with an unprecedented drop in earnings growth, is likely to reduce the value of the state pension for pensioner families by £1 billion a year by 2016/17, according to the analysis, in spite of the government’s triple lock guarantee.

The government says its biggest welfare reform of all – Universal Credit (UC) – will make work pay. But the analysis shows that once UC is finally rolled out it will lead to a further £5 billion of annual cuts – almost half of which will fall on pensioner families.

Universal Credit will be particularly harsh on unemployed men and women in their mid-60s, warns the TUC. New UC claimants of this age will no longer get Pension Credit and instead will receive less generous support, as well as being subject to the government’s new sanctions regime.

The TUC wants to see the government come clean on the full impact of its welfare reforms and to admit that working families are bearing the brunt of the cuts. It also wants the Chancellor to reverse his stealth cut to benefits uprating, which is reducing the value of support on which millions of families rely.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Ministers like to say that their welfare reforms target workshy scroungers and will get them back to work. But the fact is that the bulk of the cuts hit low-paid families already in work, as well as pensioners who have no way to make up the money lost as a result of the Chancellor’s social security axe.

“With nearly half the total cost of welfare changes falling on working families with children, the Prime Minister has already failed his own new family test, announced just this week.

“The government has been steadily chipping away at the social security safety net we all pay into and expect will support us when we need help.

“While many people may think that the recovery means the end of the squeeze on their social security support, the worse cuts are still to come. Under Universal Credit, out of work men and women in their mid-60s will be deemed workshy scroungers – unable to claim Pension Credit and facing sanctions for not taking up work they’re ill-equipped to do.

“This new nastier social security system is a world away from the support people expect having paid their national insurance contributions.”

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