THE Tory pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is a man on a mission – a mission to drive the unemployed, low paid and youth into the gutter and keep them there by the iron boot of the state.
This determination to create a climate of fear amongst every worker has become blindingly obvious over the issue of the ‘Universal Credit’ scheme, the centrepiece of Smith’s welfare reform programme.
The Universal Credit, due to be imposed in October 2013, has been hailed as a mere simplification of the benefit system with one monthly benefit payment replacing the six benefits people are currently entitled to claim, which include Jobseekers allowance and Housing Benefit.
But, as the implementation date draws near, panic is setting in as the full implications of Smith’s plan become apparent to organisations working with the homeless and unemployed or low paid.
Seventy organisations wrote to the parliamentary select committee with a whole host of worries that these reforms will drive people into poverty and homelessness.
Not least of these concerns is the fact that the entire system relies on a new, untested national computer system which, in the unlikely event that it actually works unlike every other government IT system, relies upon benefit claimants using the internet to make a claim for their monthly payment.
Given that the vast majority of people in social housing who rely on the old housing benefit system have no access to the internet, and that public libraries, which in the past have provided computers for public use along with free internet training, are being closed down en mass, hundreds of thousands will be literally unable to even make a claim.
The move from fortnightly to monthly payments will have the effect of driving families into the arms of the ‘pay day’ lenders who charge thousands of per cent interest for short-term loans and who make their millions preying on the poor and by trapping them in an ever-growing cycle of debt.
Part-time workers are also being targeted by this benefit massacre.
Anyone working part-time who doesn’t apply ‘frequently’ enough for full-time work faces losing benefit entitlement.
Their money can be stopped if they don’t attend for interviews for full-time work within 48 hours of being directed by the Job Centre, or not taking a job with more hours within 90 minutes travel from their home.
With part-time work at a record high of 8.12 million this represents a massive attack on workers and their families.
With the cap on Universal Credit set at £500 a week per household for all benefits, and with rents for private accommodation in cities like London easily reaching £450 a week, homelessness is set to reach massive levels as the unemployed and low paid find it impossible to live.
Already, the number of homeless families forced to live in emergency bed and breakfast accommodation has increased by 44% in the past year as a direct result of the coalition policy of capping housing benefit. This further cap, from which those in B&Bs will not be exempt, will result in hundreds of thousands of families being forced onto the streets.
With all Housing Benefit being stopped for under 25 year-olds, and severely cut for those under 35, the immediate prospect is for millions of homeless on the streets in 21st century Britain.
The Labour Party have called for the welfare reforms to be delayed by a year to enable Smith and the government to sort out the problems.
This is reformism at its most treacherous. Only a workers government with socialist policies will provide housing and jobs for all. There is nothing to sort out or save in these reforms, they must be thrown out along with the government that is trying to implement them.