No fairytale ending for Osborne’s welfare reforms
April’s a ‘big month for benefits’, said the DWP tweet. It almost made it sound like rollover week on the National Lottery.
But there’ll be no big, bumper bonanza for people on benefits. This is when the much talked about government reforms of the welfare state really start to kick in.
Today sees the under occupancy charge come into play – or what’s become known as, much to the distaste of the government – the ‘bedroom tax’.
The new council tax support system also becomes official and will see many hundreds of thousands of tenants, who were considered too poor to pay council tax, facing a bill for the first time.
There’s a raft of others measures on their way this month too: changes to Disability Living Allowance, the benefit rise cap and an end to the old crisis loans.
It is about cutting the welfare bill – or at least stopping it from rising so steeply – but it is also, critically, the big push in the government’s battle against the scourge of worklessness and benefit dependency they believe is blighting Britain.
This is the moment when they may finally get George Osborne’s famed ‘scrounger’, idling in bed with the curtains drawn all day, up and off his backside and into work.
It’s not a sophisticated plan – make benefits harder to get, and less generous once you get them, and people will see that work is the way forward.
But the millions who will begin to pay more, or get less, this month don’t all fit the carefully, drawn idler of Mr Osborne’s imagination.
How will the reforms go down with the seven million people in work, whose tax credits won’t rise in line with inflation?
Or the two million households – some of the poorest in Britain – who’ll face a bill for council tax for the first time – people who simply can’t get work or can’t get work which pays enough.
Or those working couples who may be forced to move out of expensive parts of the country – leaving their work and their children’s schools behind them – because housing benefit now won’t cover their rent?
No one minds the idea of ‘feckless, idlers’ being forced to turn off day time telly and look for work – you only need to look at the polls to know that – but when it’s ‘hard-working families’ (the other main characters in Mr Osborne’s modern fairytale) that is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a different story.
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