One big lie has dominated the Tory debate on welfare and the chancellor was only too happy to repeat it yesterday. Twice in his speech he claimed that both young people or families are “better off on benefits than they would be in work.”
This crude attempt at divide and rule has become a Tory mantra ever since this Government weren’t elected. And it’s not true.
A person under 25 working for the minimum wage for 37 hours a week receives a net salary of £204.36. Jobseekers Allowance for those under 25 is £56.25. The maximum available Housing Benefit for someone under 25 in Birmingham (for example) is £55.
This means that a young person in work, in almost all areas of the UK, is almost twice as well off as someone on unemployment benefits. Even in expensive Kensington & Chelsea the maximum Housing Benefit payment to those under 25 without children is £123.50. This is an exception due to the staggering cost of properties in a London borough which also has it’s share of children growing up in poverty. However a young person working in this borough (on minimum wage) is entitled to £30.49 a week in Housing Benefit. Or at least they were. George Osborne plans to change this.
The situation for working families with children is equally clear. Sadly even some workers at the lower end of the pay scale have bought into the relentless bullshit and bemoaned how they would be better off on benefits. They wouldn’t. No-one is. This is another lie and it’s time to nail it once and for all.
A single parent with two children living in Birmingham and renting in the private sector would receive maximum possible benefits of £348.14 (over a third of this would be in Housing Benefit payments which go to landlords). A single parent working on minimum wage for 37 hours a week, in otherwise the exact same circumstances, would receive a total of £445.86 in net wages and in work benefits.*
It’s important to note both these calculations are based on the minimum wage. As wages rise Housing Benefit is reduced at a tapered rate, meaning the difference between a better off earner and someone on benefits becomes even greater.
In work benefits are now under attack like never before. Working Tax Credits have already been stripped away for parents working part time. Housing Benefit has been subject to caps and set at a lower rate whilst for those under 25, whether in or out of work, it is seemingly to be abolished completely. Disability Living Allowance which pays for vital care and equipment for working and non working disabled people alike is to be cut by a fifth. Part time or self-employed workers who do not earn enough and depend on some in work benefits could face workfare when Universal Credit is introduced next year.
George Osborne may pretend to aim his cuts at the mythical feckless but this hides another quite different agenda. Osborne is attacking not just benefit claimants, but low waged workers. His contempt for the poor goes far beyond the tabloid rhetoric aimed at so called scroungers. If you aren’t rich, he’s not interested. As Osborne himself said in his speech:
“Whether it’s the owner of the corner shop staying open until midnight to support their family.
Or the teacher prepared to defy her union and stay late to take the after-school club.
Or the commuter who leaves home before the children are up, and comes back long after they have gone to bed, because they want a better life for them.
Or the pensioner, who has saved all their life, and doesn’t want to spend it all as they want to pass something on to their children.
Or the entrepreneur who doesn’t cash out and pack up, but devotes their flair and energy to building the next success story.
They are all part of one nation – one nation working together to get on.
That is the nation we represent.
These are the people I serve as Chancellor.”
Not bus drivers, or classroom assistants or call centre workers. Not pensioners who’ve worked their whole lives and are dependent on Housing Benefit to keep a roof over their heads. Unusually for tory scum, not even the poor bastards getting limbs shot off whilst earning a pittance in Afghanistan.
Instead small business owners, large business owners and middle class commuters who can afford to not only pay huge rail fares but live in the leafy commuter belt (and when did neglecting your children become an aspiration?). Or rich pensioners like George Osborne’s dad who hoard their money away so their wealth and privilege is passed onto the squirming vermin they’ve spawned. And professional public sector workers. But only if they are prepared to scab.
These are the people George Osborne governs for. And no-one else.
*These figures represent claimants eligible for Job Seekers Allowance or Income Support, the two main out of work benefits. They include Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefits, Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (for those in work). They do not include the sickness or disability benefit Employment Support Allowance (ESA). A single parent with two kids qualifying for the support group for ESA – meaning a person assessed as being unable to ever work again or someone being treated for cancer – would receive a total of £396.99 a week in benefits compared to £445.86 total income for someone in minimum wage work.