Gazette – May 2013

Lots of people are talking about welfare reform at the moment. Those on benefits are demonised by some of the English papers as workshy scroungers living off the backs of everyone else. Indeed, the UK government tell us that they want to help hardworking families rather than those who don’t work.

I know that people sometimes get angry at those they believe are playing the system. People who could work but don’t bother to look for work. People who misuse blue badges when there is little wrong with them. These concerns are understandable, but what’s being proposed now is going too far in the other direction.

You’ll ask me why I say that and I’ll explain. I now see people who are very ill being told they have to work. I now see people who are full time carers for relatives being told that they have to stop doing that and work, despite the fact that they save the state millions through their unpaid care work. I’ve seen the DWP demand that someone unable to walk and disabled from birth who has to be looked after 24 hours a day told that they have to come down to the Jobcentre or lose benefits.

The UK government hasn’t told you that two thirds of the people who will lose their benefits are actually in work. Their pay is topped up by benefits because it’s so low. These “scroungers” will now be hit hard while the highest earners have a tax cut. How are they supposed to live? They already have jobs.

Worst of all, we have the bedroom tax. People will have to pay more money in rent if they’re living in a house that’s judged to be too big for them. No matter that they might have lived there for years. No matter that they might have to move miles to get somewhere smaller.

It doesn’t even matter to the UK government that there aren’t enough smaller properties for them to move into. There are 1700 people in Bridgend who are on the waiting list for one bedroom properties. Only 100 become available every year. That means that at least 1600 people will have to pay more, or be thrown out of their houses. Single people, widows, disabled people, the elderly.

I don’t buy the argument that the country can’t afford it. It can afford tax cuts for the richest but apparently it can’t afford to keep a roof over the heads of some of the most vulnerable people in society. Also, not paying out benefits is a saving for the UK Treasury, but when people become homeless they become the financial responsibility of local authorities and the Welsh Government. So a saving for London is an extra expense for Bridgend and for Wales.

People deserve better.