While the public was glued to the news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the government quietly announced a brutal benefits freezeby Frances Ryan / November 29, 2017 / Leave a comment
Buried under the news of a wedding of privilege, the government quietly announced this week it’s about to make millions of low income families poorer.
That the benefits freeze—affecting benefits including tax credits, child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance, and universal credit—is set to last another 12 months from April – is an unsurprising but brutal development for a policy that’s turning out harsher than even its architects planned.
Because increases in inflation have been greater than expected, the freeze in benefits will see an estimated extra £0.9bn a year eroded in real terms from the budget by 2020 than ministers intended. That means a shop worker on housing benefit struggling to pay the rent or a single mum skipping meals because child benefit won’t stretch for the food bills anymore. By 2018-19, the Resolution Foundation estimate families could be up to £315 a year worse off as a result of the policy.
“Half of all families with children will be hit”
This would be bad enough if it was affecting a handful of people but the scale of this is staggering. Over the next year, 7.3 million children will be hit by this freeze—that’s half of all families with children. On top of this, 2.4 million disabled people will be affected.
Whilst the Conservative’s peddle the line that benefits “linked to the additional cost of disability” are exempt from the freeze, this is only true for some disability benefits: Employment and Support Allowance (Wrag) is frozen. That means thousands of people with severe disabilities, chronic sickness, and mental health problems who, by the government’s own definition, are too ill to have a chance at earning a wage are about to be left without enough money to eat for at least another year.
In many ways, the benefit freeze epitomises the Conservative’s flawed austerity politics of the last seven years. George Osborne claimed in 2014 as he launched the policy that freezing benefits would “make Britain fairer”—essentially by reducing social security as a way of ensuring those in employment would always be better off. But, of course, rather than Britain being divided into ‘benefit claimants’ and ‘workers,’ many employed people – caught in a trap of high rent and low wages—also rely on social…