Thanks to Dee and Claire from Winvisible for their informed, detailed, and horrifying account of the Welfare Reform Bill 2009 at the September Camden Green Party meeting.
Among the worst aspects they highlighted were:
Clause 1 – the requirements that claimants who have been unemployed for more than two years “work for their benefit” – that is, for £1.73/hour – thus undercutting the minimum wage, which would drive all wages down.
Clause 2 – Parents of disabled children under seven are exempt from being forced into “work-related activity” – yet for many with children older than that, caring for the children may well be a fulltime activity, and one that is very valuable to the community. More broadly, they noted that while carers unwaged work saves the government £87bn annually, they have not been exempted from job seeking under the bill, although there are vague promises that some softening of the rules will be made for them in the rules used to apply it.
The fact that women fleeing domestic violence will not have access to Income Support (which is being abolished), but will be treated as job seekers after only three months away from the violent home. The fear is that if traumatised women are unable to meet requirements for “work-focused meetings”, they could lose benefits and be forced back into the violent home.
Dee and Claire noted that the bill would be coming back for the report stage in the Lords from October 22, and lobbying work between now and then would be valuable. They also supported Early Day Motion 1609, which opposes the abolition of Income Support.
Dee and Claire also spoke the charging of people living on basic benefits for social care. They spoke about the work Winvisible has done with the Campaign Against Care Charges to help people living on benefits who were being left with a choice between essential services and food.
It was a powerful, disturbing session, and thanks very much to Dee and Claire for their time – and for all of their campaigning efforts.