— This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post —
The cuts have already come.
That “slow pace of welfare cuts” announced in the budget? Not true. Especially for child tax credits.
Child Tax Credits – you know, the one David Cameron and George Osbourne promised they wouldn’t cut right before the election. The BBC still has the footage of the leader’s debate where the Prime Minister lied. There are still articles online on many sites where both David Cameron and George Osborne promise they won’t and go on to say “that would be the wrong thing to do.”
Do you remember around the election that the Conservative’s favourite phrase was “hard working families”? I interviewed a woman named Dawn from Devon who has a husband, two kids, and their own business. They’re go-getters, small business owners, they’re a hard working family who had been investing any spare money into their kids’ Child Trust Funds, and both kids are under 10.
They’ve worked hard at that business for over 10 years and in 2010 it looked like they were just about able to buy a family home.
Dawn said, ‘As soon as the Coalition came in, the rug was pulled out from under us.’ They never did get that family home. That didn’t stop them from working hard – they’re a proud family, deservedly so – but that fact is typical of hard-working families.
Here’s the stark reality of what a new Conservative majority government means for Dawn’s kids:
Previous Child Tax Credit per week: £85.72
New Child Tax Credit per week: £32.01
Their family faces a monthly cut of £214.84.
An annual cut of 2578.08.
Dawn gave me those figures direct from her bank account.
Those aren’t notional, those aren’t the theoretical “slow pace of welfare cuts” announced in the budget – those are numbers which means Dawn’s family are one medium-sized emergency away from not being able to eat. Those are the numbers they face right now.
Their circumstances haven’t changed, they’ve just had the difference between okay and in-poverty taken away from them. That £32.01 per week for 2 young kids is the new reality of Child Tax Credits.
Dawn’s a strong woman. She said, ‘We’ll be alright so long as we don’t get ill”. If they miss any single part of their work, they face paying rent and not eating properly or eating and not paying rent. That isn’t helped by any long-term contract they draw up with a local authority being rewritten by national government decree within months of the Local Authority signing it – a situation Dawn’s business has faced just recently.
That situation isn’t a one-off either.
A family I talked to from Mid Wales – a single mother of three who is a carer and driver who asked not to be named – said they’d had to fight for months to ensure their circumstances were clear to the Department for Work & Pensions [DWP]. The DWP had informed her that all her children were now in work. In reality, all her children are in full time education and one in secondary school hasn’t even taken her GCSEs yet. She’s talked about it with her kids and they’re understanding – they’ve gone without before, they’ll do it again. She’s still afraid she’ll have to fight again and go hungry in that fight.
These aren’t possible cuts, these are cases of cruelty.
This isn’t a “tough decision”, this is enforced poverty.
The Irritable Bowel Syndrome that is Iain Duncan Smith, alongside Geroge Osbourne, wrote in The Guardian in February an article titled “The Conservatives’ child poverty plan tackles poverty at source”. If, by that, they meant making the poor too hungry to riot or a hard working family being stuck in a perpetual cycle of being too ill to work so they couldn’t complain then, yes, the Conservatives are tackling poverty at its source, by increasing it to a level of such Victorian cruelty, people will pretend it’s not there.
The recent figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing that there’s been the first child poverty increase in ten years is indicative of what’s to come: a further, deeper increase in child poverty as the cuts come harder and faster.
Is it any wonder why the Conservatives want to redefine poverty?
If you’re not alarmed by this, don’t worry.
You should be but don’t worry – there will be plenty more where this came from.