A final belated report from Green Party conference last week. I chaired the session on “Benefit cuts: how the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer the most”, organised by Green Party national disability spokesperson Alan Wheatley, with speakers Claire Glasman, from Winvisible, Kim Sparrow from Single Mothers’ Self-Defence and Sarah Bukasa from the All-Africa Women’s Group, so I didn’t get time to write a lot of notes, but a few points that were particularly striking…
* We were told that Job Centres have been given strict rules on sanctioning – each week they have to sanction 6% of recipients of jobseekers’ allowance, and with 50 completely cut their benefit.
* One third of all adults who are on the autistic spectrum are living without income, from employment or benefits, of any kind.
* Private, for-profit providers are being paid £62,000 for each long-term unemployed person they are able to get into work, irrespective of how long-term or appropriate that work is.
* People fleeing domestic violence have just one month to try to get their life back on track, then they are on job seekers’ allowance, and expected to meet all of its rules about applications etc, on £62 a week, when they may have been left with no household goods, furniture, housing etc…
* The worst (legally) paid people in the country are carers, who must be looking after people who need at least 35 hours of care a week (and it is often much, much more) for the princely sum of £53.90 a week.
* 37% of people applying for employment support allowance, the replacement for incapacity benefit, drop out before their assessment before the private supplier ATOS is completed. No research has been conducted on what happens to them. Undoubtedly some have recovered, but anecdotal evidence suggests many have been so horrified/damaged/frightened by the experience that they are simply not getting benefits to which they should be entitled, but instead are, in the words of campaigners “begging, shoplifting, or living with their families with no income”.