Britain needs a responsible and fair social security system that provides security when people lose their jobs or fall sick, and a decent income when they retire.
Under this Conservative-led Government, the increase in low-paid and insecure jobs has left working families more reliant on tax credits and housing benefit, pushing up the social security bill. This has cost the Exchequer £116.5 billion in lost tax revenue and higher social security spending – almost £4,000 for every taxpayer.
Louise has spoken to many residents who have shared with her their experiences of low paid and insecure work. Health workers in Ingleby Barwick whose pay value has been falling for five years, due to pay freezes and below-inflation rises under this government. Workers in Stockton and Thornaby who have to top up their low pay with tax credits, putting a strain on the benefits bill.
Under this Coalition Government, Job Centres are issuing draconian sanctions against benefit claimants for the smallest of reasons. Louise has met residents in Stockton South who have had all their money taken away for three months at a time, because they were a few minutes late for an appointment, failed to attend both of two interviews at the same time on the same day, went to the funeral of a close family member when they should have been signing on, and in one dreadful case, a young man with learning disabilities was punished because he didn’t write in a straight line on a form. Many of those sanctioned have children they need to feed. All of them are removed from the unemployed figures during the period of their sanction.
This is how Labour will make sure we have a responsible and fair social security system with the principle of contribution at the heart of it:
We will help people into jobs, and reward work and contribution
- We will not cut tax credits in the next Parliament, protecting the living standards of millions of families.
- We will do more to help unemployed people get the skills they need for work, testing jobseekers’ maths, English and IT skills within six weeks of them claiming benefits. They will be required to take up training where this will improve their chances of getting a job.
- There will be a guaranteed, paid job for all young people who have been out of work for one year,and for all those over 25 and out of work for two years. It will be a job that they have to take, or they will lose their benefits.
- We will pay a higher rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance to those who have paid in over the years, funded by asking people to contribute for longer before they receive the contributory benefit.
We will ensure the social security system treats disabled people with dignity
- We will abolish the cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax that’s hitting half a million families, two-thirds of whom are disabled or have a disabled family member.
- We will reform the Work Capability Assessment and focus it on the support disabled people need to get into work, with an independent scrutiny group of disabled people given a central role in monitoring it.
- We will commission a separate Work Support Programme for disabled people so that those who can work get the support they need.
- We will carry out a review into the sanctions regime, making sure that they are applied fairly and reasonably and do not punish people just because they don’t have a job.
We will ensure that everyone can look forward to a secure retirement, protecting pensioners’ living standards
- We will keep the triple-lock on the state pension so that pensioner incomes increase by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest. We have taken the tough decision to restrict winter fuel payments for the richest five per cent of pensioners, but we will guarantee there will be no additional changes to the winter fuel payments, free TV licences, or bus passes for pensioners.
- We will reform the pensions market so that pension providers put savers first, and protect consumers from retirement rip-offs.
- We will commission a replacement for the Work Programme at a more local level, working with local authorities to join up support for the long-term unemployed.
- We will require people coming to this country from the EU to pay into the system before drawing out, restricting access to benefits for at least two years.
We will control social security spending
- We will shift funding from benefit to bricks, allowing local authorities that negotiate rent reductions on behalf of tenants who are claiming housing benefit to retain some of the savings, on the condition that the money is invested in building homes.
- We will keep the Household Benefit Cap and ask the Social Security Advisory Committee to examine if it should be lower in some areas.
- We will cap structural social security spending as part of each spending review so that it is properly planned and controlled.
- We will pause and review the Universal Credit programme to ensure it is affordable and fit for purpose.
Even before the hateful bedroom tax was implemented Louise could see the writing on the bedroom wall; that is why she set up Labour Against the Bedroom Tax in February 2013. Read more on why Labour will abolish the Bedroom Tax here.