2 July 2013

The recent spending review, informing us what the Tory Libdem government will spend and cut, included a particularly telling instance of a mean-spirited attack on people when they are down. At present if you become unemployed you have to wait three days before you can claim job seekers allowance. The Tory Libdem view is that you should wait seven days. See page 25 here and page 7 here.

The current three-days wait for job seekers allowance does not apply to linked benefits; presumably the seven-days wait will apply to all of the replacement universal credit.

If you have been in a well paid job, yes, you probably have some savings that can tide you over. However, many people in Cornwall and elsewhere have ill paid jobs with no opportunity to save. What do they do for a week with no money? Look to a voluntary food bank for help – see the latest on those in Cornwall here which shows that the foodbank for Camborne, Pool, and Redruth is now supplying a thousand meals a week. Perhaps look for a payday loan. Perhaps choose to eat rather than to heat. For people in and out of temporary work, it is another anxiety and dread. The Tory Libdems have ripped the long-standing safety net that keeps people from falling into destitution.

Charities that deal with the poor are clear. For example, Alison Garnham of Child Poverty Action has said that the seven-days wait “will leave more families and children cold and hungry”. Zacchaeus 2000 has said that it takes “money from the pockets of the nation’s poorest at the time they need support most of all”. Immiseration is a morally unacceptable approach by the Tory Libdem government to people who have just lost their job.

Since the giravolta of the Liberal Democrats, their transformation into merely different Tories with their new mission to make life harder for those at the bottom, Labour has been the only place of hope for progressives but hope struggles. The shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said Labour is not opposed in principle to the extended wait and it might be a sensible way to save money and put a focus on job-seeking (interview on Radio 4, 27 June 2013).

Labour’s response to the seven-days wait is lamentable.