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
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
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

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam