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Wales will not stand for benefit cuts that will push many more households into poverty

Wales will not stand for benefit cuts that will push many more households into poverty

(Alamy)

4 min read

Rocketing mortgage rates, soaring inflation and a near collapse in pensions brought on by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor’s reckless economic plans – all in less than 30 days of assuming office.

But just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, Truss has now signalled she will cut welfare to pay for her ideological tax cuts. We in Wales are standing up to this cruelty.

Refusing to uprate benefits in line with inflation would be a direct attack on the poorest, including many disabled people and larger families who are reliant on social security to cover the basic costs of living. And it is a direct attack also on those who are in work, on poverty wages and who depend on tax credits to achieve a minimum decent standard of living for their families.

Our social safety net is not a luxury which can be cut away during tough times

This attack is not an aberration, but the logic of successive Westminster governments who have slashed the welfare state, imposing cruel policies such as the two-child limit and the bedroom tax.

The value of benefits has been eroded over decades, where they are now less than 15 per cent of average weekly earnings, compared to 25 per cent in the 1980s.

As for new benefit sanctions for part time workers, low-income households experience the highest level of inflation and have seen the real terms value of their benefits eroded throughout the year.

This begs the question as to why these cost pressures haven’t already driven these people to look for extra work and whether cracking the whip of further sanctions will do anything but drive them into further poverty?

Rather than peddling the false myth of a country full of layabouts, let’s assess the material reasons why people may not be able to work longer hours. That includes inadequate childcare, high transport costs and mental health issues.

People are exhausted from years of cuts and the legacy of the pandemic which means our social support systems need urgent investment not further cuts.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru is leading the way in providing investment. Through a cooperation agreement with the Welsh government, we have secured nearly £100 million to improve the availability of childcare, creating 3,000 new free childcare places for two-year-olds from April.

Free-school meals are also being rolled out to all primary school children in Wales thanks to Plaid Cymru, who convinced the Welsh Labour government to U-turn on this issue after years of campaigning.

There is more to be done, and we are calling for rents to be capped, public transport costs to be frozen and a ban on evictions this winter.

Despite being described as the “dysfunctional duo” by the Tory Secretary of State for Wales, Plaid Cymru, in partnership with Welsh Labour, are in fact putting more money in people’s pockets while the Tories take it away.

There is only so much that can be done when we are fighting against the Westminster controlled benefit system.

Having some limited powers over welfare would enable us to shield Welsh communities more, such as in Scotland where they have introduced the Scottish Child Payment, and uprated devolved benefits by a higher rate than Westminster in April of this year.

Our social safety net is not a luxury which can be cut away during tough times. It is the foundation for any modern civilised society and on the back of which economic resilience is built.

Westminster has attacked this safety net consistently. Tying tax credits and benefit increase to stagnant wages rather than to need as indicated by inflation shows this government’s fundamental hostility to the founding principles of our welfare state. It forebodes other changes which I fear they plan which will destroy the principle of equal and universal provision for all according to need rather than the ability to pay.

These are dangerous times for us all, particularly those who depend on social security, on the health and education services.

We must now demand the tools to create a strong social security system and decent public services for Wales, made in Wales.

 

Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon and work and pensions spokesperson.

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