Boris Johnson has finally published the Conservative manifesto amid a stink of embarrassment – and, for benefit claimants, a hard slap of insult.
Mr Johnson offers just one promise to benefit claimants – to reduce the frequency of Personal Independence Payment reassessments – and I don’t believe it.
If Tories target a disabled person to lose their benefit, they will find an excuse to do so. Scheduled reassessments may be cut – but Mrs Mike has been threatened with random reassessments on many occasions, triggered by any reason the DWP could cook up.
The end to the freeze on working-age benefits is not a new policy; it has been set to happen in 2020 since it was introduced.
Universal Credit goes untouched, despite being possibly the biggest catastrophe to hit vulnerable people in the UK since the welfare state was introduced in the 1940s.
Mr Johnson has promised to continue impoverishing people from the moment they are forced to claim the benefit, with a five-week wait that we know pushes people towards starvation and homelessness as they struggle to pay the bills and stay out of the food bank.
(Tories think food banks are fantastic, by the way – except when they want to pretend Labour is responsible for their proliferation.)
Beyond that, the Tory manifesto offers nothing else but a vague promise to “do more to make sure” UC works.
Hang on! I’ve heard that before, somewhere! Isn’t it what the DWP says, every time the news reports a Universal Credit-related death?
Bang! Someone dies. The Tory-run DWP says, “We promise to learn the lesson.”
Boom! Another one bites the dust. The Tory-run DWP says, “We will do more to make sure UC works.”
There is only one conclusion to be had:
Universal Credit will never work for its claimants.
And as far as the Conservatives are concerned, it works best when it is killing people.
But what of other aspects of the benefit system? Here’s a quick rundown:
The Conservatives with NOT end the cruelty of the Bedroom Tax, nor do they have any intention of increasing the Local Housing Allowance to protect people against the threat of eviction.
The Conservatives will NOT end the so-called “digital barrier” that obstructs people who have trouble coping with computers and the internet from claiming benefits. They like putting obstacles before the poor.
The Conservatives will NOT end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments.
The Conservatives will NOT end Work Capability Assessments, or PIP assessments.
The Conservatives will NOT end their cruel sanction regime.
The Conservatives will NOT scrap the benefit cap.
The Conservatives will NOT end the two-child limit on benefits and scrap the so-called ‘rape clause’. They like humiliating women who have already been violated.
The Conservatives will NOT try to ensure that women are no longer forced to stay in abusive relationships by the system by paying the child element of benefits to the primary carer.
Still, the Liberal Democrat offer is little better.
Jo Swinson is quite happy to keep Universal Credit. She thinks reducing the wait from five weeks to five days might help – apart from that, she offers nothing to anybody apart from the self-employed, to whom a Lib Dem government (that will not happen, of course) would be “more supportive” – whatever that means.
Other Liberal Democrat offers are just plain vague. What do they mean when they say they’ll abolish Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) and replace them with “a new system that is run by local authorities and based on real-world tests”? Does anybody know?
How will Ms Swinson “enshrine in law the government’s responsibility to ensure that existing and new public policy is audited for its impact on food security”?
These are brutal times. People need hard promises, not meaningless mummery.
In fairness, the Liberal Democrats do make a few good, hard promises. But another party has made the same promises and does have a realistic chance of forming a government and making them real: Labour.
Yes, it’s great that the Lib Dems would like to end the two-child limit on benefits, end the benefit cap, abolish the Bedroom Tax and increase local housing allowance, reverse cuts to Employment and Support Allowance for people in the Work-Related Activity Group, and reinstate the Independent Living Fund.
But you can be sure that the only way the Liberal Democrats will get into government in December is in coalition with another party; having already ruled out allying with Labour, that means Ms Swinson’s only option is the Conservatives, and the Tories will never allow any measures to relieve the pressure on the poor.
A Labour government would actually do those things.
And Labour would cancel Universal Credit and replace it with a system that is a genuine benefit for people claiming it.
Labour would dissolve the DWP and replace it with a revamped Department for Social Security, ending the environment of suspicion and persecution that was instilled by Iain Duncan Smith and replacing it with support for those in need.
(This Writer worked in the old DSS, before it was rolled into the DWP. The automatic assumption there was that claimants were telling the truth about their situation, about their disabilities, and about their needs – not that they are lying, as is the claim now. It was a better place to work, and it was better for the claimants too.)
But you know Labour’s offer – it’s all right here.
Boris Johnson’s manifesto shows an intention to continue the cruel Conservatism we’ve endured for nearly 10 years.
Let’s take this opportunity to tell him where he can stuff it.
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