Unemployment fell by 5,000 in the 3 months to April according to the latest official figures from the Office For National Statistics (ONS) released on Wednesday.
David Cameron told the Commons:
“They show employment, the number of people in work in our country, going up, they show unemployment going down and the claimant count, the number of people claiming unemployment benefit, has fallen for the seventh month in a row.”
Millions will be unable to share the Prime Minister’s optimism.
Half-a-million people, more than 5 times the number that can fill Wembley Stadium have been helped by food banks.
Still, 950,000 of young people aged between 16 and 24, more than a fifth, are locked out of work, education and training.
And for those in work, the picture is not the rosy one that Cameron paints.
There are record numbers, more than 8 million people working part-time. Of those at least 1.4 million people are seeking more hours. This is likely to increase when Universal Credit (UC), currently being piloted in Tameside, is rolled out in October.
The Government claims that UC will simplify the benefits system by rolling Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit and Tax Credits into one payment to a single person in the household.
Universal Credit will be anything but simple or fair:
- Paying benefits to a single person in the household is ” likely to affect women disproportionately” according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
- All claims will be made online. This has serious implications for many who do not have access and for data privacy, for more on this read Johnny Void
- There will no longer be the option to have payments made directly to landlords, and the payments will be made monthly rather weekly or fortnightly. Councils and landlords are already preparing for arrears to soar when UC is introduced.
- Part-timers that claim UC will have to prove that they are seeking more hours or better pay or otherwise they will be sanctioned.
A report written by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) for the TUC on Universal Credit estimates that 60% of households will be worse off with disabled workers being hit the hardest – disabled people will lose up to £3,000 per year.
With no sight of an end to the economic crisis and with around 2.5 million chasing less than half-a-million vacancies, it should not be surprising that employers have been able to control wage demands.
The fact that there has been an “unprecedented” fall in wages exposes the Tory lie that the welfare state has been feathering the nests of the idle and that hard-working people should not have to fund the “lifestyles of people on benefits”.
In reality, the welfare state has been providing subsidies to employers that either pay less than what their employees can live on, or in the case of apprentices – less than the national minimum wage, or in the case of interns or volunteers trying to build a decent CV and jobseekers forced onto workfare schemes – nothing at all.
The benefit system has also been incredibly generous to landlords that have been charging exorbitant rents secure in the knowledge that their unemployed, sick or low-paid tenants will have their rent covered by housing benefit.
The benefit cap is penalising the poor for high rents that are a creation of a property market that for decades has made massive profits from the failure of successive administrations to build council housing on a scale that is required.
Already we are seeing the beginning of an exodus from our cities, particularly from London as councils and social landlords shunt families, whose rent will barely be covered by the weekly £500 cap, 100s of miles away to places such as Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke and Wigan.
That’s why we need to take every single opportunity to build resistance to the Tory assault.
This coming Saturday’s People’s Assembly at Westminster Central Hall will be a fantastic opportunity to discuss a strategy to defeat the attacks.
Along with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Defend Council Housing (DCH), Right To Work has been very much part of the initiative that has led to the formation of the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation and there are a number of actions that been called in the coming weeks and months:
Tuesday 25th June - Don’t Evict Us From Our Homes – Housing 2013 conference, Manchester
Thursday 27th June - Protest the Lord of the Spare Bedroom – Housing Conference, Manchester
Saturday 27th July – National Day of Action Against the Bedroom Tax