YOUR AM WRITES: South Wales East AM Jocelyn Davies
THE debate on welfare has hit the headlines in recent weeks, especially following Parliament’s decision to cap the rise in benefits to 1 per cent every year.
On the face of it, the UK government’s argument that benefits increases shouldn’t rise faster than wages appeared to strike a chord with some. But many are now seeing through the politics as the package of welfare cuts emerges.
From the outset, let’s not be fooled by Westminster’s game of smoke and mirrors.
The mythology of welfare has created a dangerous atmosphere.
For example, a recent poll discovered that people believe around 27 per cent of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently.
The real figure is in fact 0.7 per cent.
And what of the government’s big claim that welfare payments have risen faster than wages? In 1979, unemployment benefit was 22 per cent of average weekly earnings, today it’s around 15 per cent.
A closer look at the impact of the cap reveals an important story.
Sixty per cent of the whopping £3.7 billion cut will fall on the shoulders of those in work. People who get out of bed and do a day’s work for low wages. Money will be taken out of their pockets to fund the biggest chunk of the cuts.
In Gwent, this will have an especially profound effect because in four out of our five local authority areas more than 20 per cent of working-age households are in receipt of tax credits.
We face a scenario where struggling working families will be hit, which in turn will knock our already fragile local economies as working people have even less money in their pockets and as prices continue to rise.
What has also struck me recently, as people contact my office for help, is the impact changes will have on the most vulnerable; the disabled and the elderly.
Readers may have seen Paralympic hero Tanni Grey- Thomson on the news bulletins recently.
She described how changes to disability benefits mean people must now be unable to walk 50 metres rather than the previous criteria of 20 metres.
That’s income lost to disabled people despite still having the same disability as before.
Fifty thousand people throughout the UK overnight will become ineligible for support despite no change in their circumstances.
I won’t be engaging in Westminster’s political charade.
Instead I’d urge anyone who needs advice to get in touch with me.