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.”

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
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

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution