Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed the Conservative Party’s pledge to find £10bn of welfare savings by the first full year of the next Parliament, despite warnings from charities and housing providers.
Much was made of Mr Osborne’s speech before he took to the stage at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, after he co-authored an article with Iain Duncan Smith stating their “united front” in cutting further on welfare.
The chancellor told delegates today: “In government this Party is achieving something invaluable.
“We are destroying the left-wing myth that the success of a public service is measured only by how many pounds we spend on it not by whether it heals our sick or educates our children or makes our streets safe.
“This is because we are doing it carefully and doing it right.
“And if we want to go on doing that, and limit the cuts to departments, then we will have to find greater savings in the welfare bill.
“£10bn of welfare savings by the first full year of the next Parliament.”
In a nod to the party’s previously floated plans for cutting the automatic right for under 25s to claim housing benefit and restricting automatic benefit increases for unemployed claimants having children, he said: “How can we justify giving flats to young people who have never worked, when working people twice their age are still living with their parents because they can’t afford their first home?
“How can we justify a system where people in work have to consider the full financial costs of having another child, whilst those who are out of work don’t?”
National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said housing benefit is a “crucial safety net” that should be decided on the needs of the individual, not simply their age.
He said the best way for the Government to keep the housing benefit bill down is to focus on increasing the supply of housing.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warned against capping benefits for unemployed families having more children.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said: “With this abhorrent proposal, the chancellor is saying that some children will be marked out from birth as second class citizens with their lives worth less than others.
“We were told it would be those with the broadest shoulders who have the greatest burden, but the richest are getting tax cuts and it is those with the narrowest shoulders, our poorest children, who are being made to pay the price.
“It ignores the fact that most unemployed parents are going through a revolving door in and out of work due to lack of job security. We need to address the growing problems of short-term and insecure jobs and the crisis of high youth unemployment instead of punishing people for their deprivation.
“The chancellor is utterly wrong to claim that families out of work are better off having more children. If a family without work has another child, the shortfall relative to a family’s minimum need increases and parents must make even more sacrifices to meet their children’s needs. But working families do better because on top of wages they can get in-work benefits like tax credits and housing benefit.”
Family Action said the Tories were “scraping the barrel” for welfare cuts which don’t make economic sense.
Rhian Beynon, head of policy and campaigns, said: “Many families are struggling to make ends meet, heat their homes and put food on the table. Plans to curb child tax credit and below inflation rises in welfare support will put further pressure on family finances which are already in meltdown. George Osborne is scraping the barrel for cuts that do not make good economic sense. Removing housing benefit from under 25s will make it even more difficult for hard pressed young people to find employment and move on. It is not the answer. Neither is punishing children because a parent is out of work. There is already a Welfare Cap coming in which places limitations on benefits for large families. These further cuts to the welfare budget could spell disaster for the children and families we support.”