Labour’s work and pensions spokesperson Jonathan Reynolds has rightly been criticised for failing to commit to any real substantive changes to the benefits system.
Too often, however, the left also has little positive to counterpose to the Tories’ appalling policies.
Below are some ideas which claimant and Department of Worker and Pensions worker activists have developed over the last few years. For some background on how the discussion which produced them began, see here.
Please send us responses (firstname.lastname@example.org) and use these kind of demands in the labour movement and in campaigning.
We want to replace the current mean and punitive benefit system with a welfare system explicitly committed to the following principles:
That the benefit system is not just a safety net but a mechanism for the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the working class. Especially the poorest, disabled people and those carrying out unpaid care work including as parents.
That the benefit system guarantees the universal right to decent housing, access to continuing education, access to free universal child care and a decent standard of living to all.
That the benefit system complements and supports union organisation and workers rights by not forcing people into un-unionised, casualised work, encourages union membership and provides access to the benefit system for those on strike.
To those ends we propose the following measures:
1. Abolition or dramatic shortening of the wait for the first Universal Credit payment; more frequent payments.
2. An end to benefit freezes/suppression; automatic uprating of benefits in line with inflation or earnings or a minimum amount, whichever is higher (like the basic state pension “triple lock”).
3. Reversal of all cuts and reductions in benefits; increases to a level where they can afford a comfortable, not minimum, income. The TUC’s figure for standard rate UC, £260 a week, is a good immediate demand. Abolish the lower rate for young people. Lower the “taper” through which people lose UC when they start to earn.
4. Entitlement conditions that are straightforward, inclusive and available to all, including migrants (scrap ‘No recourse to public funds’).
5. Payment of benefits for all children and dependents.
6. Abolition of all sanctions.
7. The scrapping of Work Capability and similar assessments.
8. Relevant health issues to be addressed using medical professionals with appropriate knowledge of individuals’ conditions and disabilities.
9. Delivery by adequate numbers of paid public servants, via networks accessible to everyone, including provision of face-to face support for all who need it.
10. Reversal of all DWP cuts and privatisation.
11. The right of different members of a household to divide the claiming of benefits.
12. Repeal of the longstanding Tory measure stopping access to benefits for workers on strike.