It is good news that the Labour Party has committed to scrap Universal Credit. What is its policy beyond that? Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has mentioned a comprehensive review of the benefits system. We believe that the kind of approach and demands outlined in the following motion submitted to this year’s Labour Party conference (but not prioritised for discussion) indicate the direction Labour should go in. The motion is very short due to the word limit for conference motions, but the demands it outlines are clear.
• the 8 August ONS figures showing that improvement in life expectancy has virtually stopped.
• the 6 August Child Poverty Action Group report on how Universal Credit’s flaws are leading to low-income families arbitrarily losing as much as £258 a month
• the July Resolution Foundation figures showing the poorest third incomes fell last year, even before inflation.
The situation is shameful. We must reverse the drive, accelerating since 2010, to make welfare less and less about supporting those in need and more and more stingy, punitive and coercive. Neither Universal Credit nor the existing framework (JSA, ESA, etc) are good. We must redesign benefits in close consultation with recipients, workers and their organisations. This must be part of a wider anti-poverty program, with a goal that by the end of our first term foodbanks disappear.
We commit to
1. Ending the benefit freeze; uprating with inflation or earnings, whichever is higher.
2. Reversing all cuts/reductions; increasing benefits to afford a comfortable, not minimum, income.
3. Entitlement conditions that are straightforward, inclusive and available to all, including migrants (scrap ‘No recourse to public funds’).
4. Paying benefits for all children and dependents.
5. Abolishing all sanctions.
6. Scrapping Work Capability and similar assessments.
7. Relevant health issues being addressed using medical professionals with appropriate knowledge of individuals’ conditions and disabilities.
8. Delivery by paid public servants via networks accessible to everyone, including provision of face-toface support for all who need it. Reversing DWP cuts and privatisation.
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Does this policy approach imply a breach of the objective that all additional public investment under Labour will be for productive investment and growth and not for current expenditure?