Benefits: Fair or foul, Osborne keeps welfare down

Autumn Statement

Most state benefits will rise by only 1 per cent over the next three years to save £3.7bn in a new round of welfare cuts. The Chancellor was accused of demonising claimants as “feckless” and “scroungers” as he contrasted them with “strivers” who worked hard.

George Osborne said that out-of- work benefits had risen by 20 per cent since 2007, twice as much as earnings. “That’s not fair to working people who pay the taxes that fund them,” he said. “Fairness is about being fair to the person who leaves home every morning to go out to work and sees their neighbour still asleep, living a life on benefits.”

From next April, jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance for the sick, income support and tax credits will increase by 1 per cent for three years.

Payments for the disabled and carers will not be affected because that was seen as too politically explosive after the Paralympic Games. They will continue to rise in line with the consumer prices index, and will go up by 2.2 per cent in April.

The basic state pension, protected by a separate formula, will rise by 2.5 per cent in April to £110.15 a week for a single pensioner.

The Liberal Democrats blocked Mr Osborne’s initial proposal for a total freeze on most benefits. But they backed below-inflation rises on the grounds that public sector pay rises had also been capped at 1 per cent.

But Labour and pressure groups warned that most of those affected were not the unemployed but people in work whose wages were topped up by the state – including 3.7m people on child tax credit and 2.5m on working tax credit.

The think-tank the Resolution Foundation said 60 per cent of those hit by the latest squeeze were in work. Gavin Kelly, its chief executive, said: “The majority of the cuts made to benefits and tax credits announced  today will come from working households – it’s completely wrong to say that today was all about helping so-called strivers.”

The below-inflation benefit rises will require legislation, and the Conservatives were quick to challenge Labour to say whether its MPs would back the measure in a key vote in the new year. Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, attacked the move as “really unfair”. Labour officials accused Mr Osborne of setting a “trap” for Labour in the hope of presenting it as “soft” on benefit cuts if it opposed the proposal.

Groups representing families condemned the decision to break the link between benefits and inflation. Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “Yet again, it is children from impoverished families  who are unfairly suffering most under the government’s austerity measures. The Chancellor has ensured a bleaker and bleaker future for Britain’s poorest families.

“Families most in need will not only lose out on as much as £140 next year and despair to see their benefits increase by a meagre 1 per cent over three years, but the safety net for the poorest could be weakened forever if new legislation on uprating goes ahead.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The bottom line is that the decisions taken by the Chancellor will plunge tens of thousands more children into poverty whether their parents are working, unemployed, sick or disabled.”

Case study: Child benefit freeze is a blow as we often have to go without

Imogen Dangerfield, 39, is a charity worker. She lives with her partner and their  17-month-old son in Ipswich.

I wasn’t impressed by the fact child benefit won’t increase until 2014. My partner and I aren’t destitute by any means, but we often have to go without things other people take for granted, and we’ve started buying from the value range at supermarkets. Having a child is expensive, and nappies and childcare costs a fortune. The prices of vegetables have shot up, but more than anything it’s the energy bill that makes life more difficult. We never have any savings left at the end of  the month.

“George Osborne talks about how he wants to help people who work, but I worked out that I’m only just better off working than staying home. I earn £11,000 and my partner gets £25,000, and apparently that means we’re too rich to get tax credits. But that’s not the case. Whenever I hear someone say: “Oh, we have to go on holiday in Spain this year,” I think: “Wouldn’t that be nice!” My partner works in the public sector, so on top of everything we’ve had to deal with a pay freeze, and now  he will have to pay more into his pension.”

Case study: We fear things will go from bad to even worse

Beth Greene, 57, from Livingston in Scotland, is deafblind. She used to run a cleaning contract business before becoming disabled

“I have no hearing, only 20 per cent vision left and I live alone in a three-bedroom house. But even the most socially isolated and dependent people live in fear of further hardship.

“Disability benefits will be increased in line with inflation, but that doesn’t compensate for everything that has come before. People with serious disabilities still face losing their disability living allowance after wrongly being found fit to work. I fail to see the justification of forcing the severely disabled to undergo assessment from doctors who in many cases have little or no knowledge of a specific issue.

“The benefit budget to the unemployed has been cut by $4bn, and inevitably some of that burden will fall on the most vulnerable. There is also the worry of support and care. I receive only three hours of care a week, despite the fact I’m housebound and dependent on a third party to make all my phone calls, my appointments and do my shopping.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star