New Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb would have faced possible homelessness and desperate poverty as a child if the benefit reforms he is introducing had been in place.
Savage new rules due to come into force in Autumn will slash social security to £20,000 a year for parents unable to work due to unemployment, sickness, disability* or caring responsibilities. This will leave many struggling families with just a few pounds a week to feed their children after eye-watering rents have been paid. According to Crabb the caps on benefits are necessary to avoid ‘sky high’ payments and will incentivise single parents – even those with newly born babies – to get a job. Yet the people who will suffer most from this cut will be lone parents just like his own mother.
Crabb has been all too happy to drag his family’s traumatic past into the spotlight when it serves his political needs. He has spoken at length of the poverty his mother suffered when – in his words – she became “welfare dependent”. In an interview with The Spectator he even admits to truanting from school so he could work on a farm to buy some trainers. This was around the time his hero Margaret Thatcher claimed that “people who are living in need are fully and properly provided for”. So fuck knows what he’s complaining about. Perhaps he thinks children should have to work on farms so they can afford shoes.
Crabb says he was just 8 years old when his mother left a violent relationship with his father and took him and his two brothers to Scotland where they stayed in a spare room in his grandparent’s council property. Of course this was before the Bedroom Tax intended to stop council tenants from having an extra room that extended families or grandchildren could stay in. And this is far from the only protection that Crabb’s mother relied on that has been brutally dismantled by the current Tory government.
After returning from Scotland, Crabb’s mother was able to secure a council property in Haverdfordwest, the area of Pembrokeshire they had previously fled from. Today chronic social housing shortages would leave Crabb’s mother abandoned to the far more expensive and insecure private rented sector – assuming she wasn’t forced into homelessness and sub-standard temporary accommodation.
The Tory government has already slashed housing benefit payments for private sector tenants by introducing a four year freeze on payments regardless of how much rents rise. They also introduced new rules to ensure that housing benefits would only cover the cheapest 30% of properties in the local area. Whilst rents in Haverfordwest are far lower than many parts of the UK, a search of one of the largest property websites reveals there are only two 3 bedroom flats in the area which have rents low enough to be met by the £120.83 a week housing benefit rate for the town.
Her problems would not end there. According to the government’s recommended benefits calculator an unemployed lone parent with three children would currently be entitled to £413 a week (plus Council Tax Support) in Haverfordwest . This is too much according to Crabb who seems to be relishing the chance to lower the benefit cap to just £384.55 a week. That’s nearly £30 quid a week Crabb is taking from people just like his own mother.
This is the reality of the modern Tory Party. They are only too happy to take when it suits them. Look at the number of Oxbridge MPs whose elite university education was paid for by the tax payer. But they don’t want anyone else to have it. The horrifying truth is that it is people exactly like Crabb’s mother who have been attacked over and over again by vicous social security reforms. That doesn’t mean life wasn’t bleak in the 1980s for those on benefits. But the toxic combination of housing shortages, benefit sanctions, workfare and successive cuts, caps and freezes to child benefits mean that many lone parents today face complete destitution. And it’s about to get much worse.
If even mid size families in low rent South Wales are to be hit by the cap, the situation in many cities will be even more dire. A family with three kids in Bristol – assuming they can find a property at the local housing allowance rate – will be left with just over £200 a week. In Brighton they will have just £154 a week. In Hackney, in spite of the cap being slightly higher in London, they will be left with £88 – just £2.50 per person per day. This will be Stephen Crabb’s legacy. The re-introduction of poverty not seen in generations into the UK.
*The government are claming disabled people are exempt from the cap. This is a lie, only the most severely disabled people are exempt. Many claimants, including those with serious conditions such as cancer, MS or Parkinson’s Disease will be affected.
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