Ronnie Campbell MP: Hard times ahead for struggling families

Ronnie Campbell MP'Picture by Jane Coltman
Ronnie Campbell MP'Picture by Jane Coltman

Struggling families and the poor and the needy across the north east will feel the pinch even more from this month, thanks to the latest Tory raid on benefits.

They will pay a share of the £1.7bn savings the Treasury has now put into effect.

Measures include cuts to child and working tax credits, housing benefit and incapacity benefits, changes to universal credit (UC), and reform of support paid to bereaved families.

Together, these account for about 14 per cent of the roughly £12bn of welfare cuts announced by then Chancellor George Osborne in his 2015 budget, so worse is to come.

Some changes affect new claimants only so in coming years benefit claimants in the same circumstances – the same earnings, housing costs and number of children – will receive differing awards, depending on when and where they started their claim. That is not only unfair, but will spark an avalanche of complaints and appeals.

An analysis by the House of Commons library shows what hard-pressed families have to look forward to. It studied the impact on a lone parent working 35 hours a week on the national living wage (NLW) with three children.

Support paid to families through tax credits and UC will be limited for new claims and births from now, with equivalent changes being made to housing benefit.

In 2017-18 the child element within child tax credits and UC is worth £2,780 per annum per child. But families who start claiming tax credits or UC from April 2017 will no longer be eligible for the family element, worth £545 pa.

Lone parents without housing costs experienced the largest reduction in work allowance, from £8,808 in 2015-16 to £4,764 in 2016-17.

From last week a claimant’s UC award will be reduced by 63p for every £1 of net earning in excess of their work allowance, as opposed to 65p.

Why does the Government seem hell-bent on increasing the misery of low-income families? To pay for the tax breaks to the super-rich, that’s why.