Three-quarters of welfare changes will hit hard-pressed workers

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Three-quarters of the cuts to social security announced since the election are affecting people in work in some way, with a quarter of the cuts specifically targeting low-paid workers, according to a new report published today (Monday) by the TUC.

The TUC report – Keeping up with the Cuts – lists the 43 social security cuts introduced since the election, summarises and comments on each, and indentifies the main losers.

Keeping up with the Cuts finds that low-paid workers are the main losers from 10 of the 43 changes, which include freezes and cuts to tax credits, and changes to Universal Credit that will reduce its value over time for working families.

A further 24 cuts either are or will affect workers in some way, bringing the total number of reforms that are likely to hit working people to 34 – which is three-quarters of all the welfare cuts that have been announced since 2010. These include cuts in the value of child tax credits, housing benefit and benefits that have hit disabled workers.

Disabled people are the main losers from six different welfare cuts, including the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independent Payments which – according to government estimates – will lead to 450,000 people losing any entitlement to support.

Other groups targeted by the government’s long list of welfare cuts include:

  • low-income savers (scrapping of the Saving Gateway)
  • tenants (introduction of the bedroom tax)
  • mothers and babies (abolition of the Sure Start Maternity Grant for second and subsequent children)
  • children (three-year freeze in child benefit).

The report shows that while the government likes to portray so-called ‘scroungers’ as the main target of its welfare reforms, the reality is very different with low-paid workers among the hardest hit, says the TUC.

Even among the out-of-work claimants, most of those affected by the cuts will have paid into the system for years before accidents at work or redundancy left them needing to make short-term benefit claims, says the TUC.

The TUC believes that the combination of social security cuts and real wage falls is fuelling a rise in working poverty. Recent research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that the majority of the 13 million people living in poverty in Britain today are now in families where one or more people are in work.

The TUC believes that the targeting of disabled people, babies, children and mothers in welfare cuts also exposes the lie that the government’s reforms are about making work pay. There is nothing fair about cutting support for these groups in order to pay for tax cuts for the richest one per cent, says the TUC.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For all the government’s rhetoric about targeting scroungers, the truth is that welfare cuts are hurting low-paid working families more than anyone else.

“Far from making work pay, cruel cuts in social security are making work pay less for Britain’s low-income families.

“The government think that its tough rhetoric on welfare is a vote winner, but as more people learn that the changes are hurting hard-working people that support will fall away.

“What Britain really needs is a social security system which provides a proper safety net for those who have fallen ill, been injured or lost a job through no fault of their own.

“We also need welfare reforms that support people back into a proper job, rather than punishing them if they can only find low-paid work or need to pay for childcare.”


- Keeping up with the Cuts is available at

- The JRF research is available at

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