Maternity pay and other key benefits at risk, leaked document reveals

By Savi Hensman
May 6, 2015

Statutory maternity pay may be axed, and incapacity benefit and housing benefit for under-25s removed if the Conservatives return to power. The Guardian has revealed details of possible further ‘welfare’ cuts set out in leaked documents.

Civil servants were asked to draw up proposals on how to avoid a breach of a welfare spending cap brought in by the government. Though these are not definite plans, Whitehall officials indicated that “very/highly/extremely controversial” cuts might be required since there was “not much low-hanging fruit left”.

Options laid out in the DWP documents include requiring employers to contribute more to the cost of statutory maternity pay or abolishing this altogether, forcing single parents on income support to seek work when their youngest child is just three (the current age is five).

Other possible measures include even harsher fit-for-work tests for people with serious illnesses, an increase in bedroom tax for some types of renters and barring under-25s from claiming incapacity benefit or housing benefit.

Earlier in the election campaign, leaders of the Conservatives – the dominant party in the Coalition government – announced a further £12 billion cut in benefits. But they have refused to say how this will be achieved.

Proposals leaked to the BBC included depriving numerous carers of any allowance, and axing jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA) for many people.

Measures of this kind would seriously affect millions of people and place a heavy strain on many communities. Even those not directly affected might be called on to help out relatives and friends.

It is possible that the level of cuts might be even higher than predicted. The government’s previous economic calculations have proved wildly inaccurate.

The Labour opposition have not been particularly vigorous in defending the rights of those targeted so far. But they do not intend to introduce cuts on this scale and would be reluctant to offend voters on middle incomes, who have already experienced stagnant or falling wages in real terms.

Other centre or left-wing parties have also made clear their unwillingness to bring in further large-scale social security cuts.

Further ‘benefit’ cuts would have a harsh impact not only on long-term unemployed and disabled people but also numerous others. People across the UK must decide if this is the kind of society they want.

* More on the election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

-----

© Savitri Hensman is a widely-published Christian commentator of politics, religion, welfare and allied topics. An Ekklesia associate, she works in the care and equalities sector.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.