Welfare and Work
All UK citizens should be able to rely on the welfare system as a safety net. We believe the current system is failing and needs to be revitalised. A successful welfare system reaches everyone in need. Punitive measures on those who try to exploit the system hurt the needy. We would introduce measures to prevent people receiving unfair blocks on benefits.
We would remove the benefit cap: either someone is eligible for benefit, or they are not. All criteria for eligibility should be considered independently of each other.
People under 25 receive a lower level of Job Seekers Allowance, and people under 35 receive a lower level of housing benefit than older people. We would end age discrimination in the benefits system; everyone who is no longer in full-time education and who has not yet reached retirement age should receive equal benefits.
The “Bedroom Tax” (a reduction in housing benefit for a house considered to be under-occupied) puts extraordinary pressure on new benefits claimants to give up established homes, at a time when they are at their most vulnerable; it has caused disruption to both landlords and tenants alike. We would revoke the “Bedroom Tax”, and restore full housing benefit to those in need.
“Workfare” forces people on benefits to do unpaid work for private businesses, or face sanctions; this system has resulted in private employers exploiting free labour. We would replace Workfare with employment in a government-backed enterprise scheme. This would allow people to earn money, gain training and acquire experience without being exploited by private companies for profit.
We recognise that many people who are starting or returning to employment are also being exploited for free labour. Internships are typically full-time jobs, yet interns often go unpaid. We would ensure that providers of internships are required to pay the National Minimum Wage.
The National Minimum Wage (NMW) itself is severely lacking; a full-time job at NMW does not meet the basic cost of living in the UK. People in work should not suffer poverty; we would raise the minimum wage to match the Living Wage Foundation’s recommendation, and keep NMW in line with the basic cost of living in the UK.
Trade unions provide a way for workers’ interests to be represented and defended. Trade union powers, including workers’ right to strike to protest unfair work conditions, have been eroded under the coalition government. We would restore the power of trade unions, by reducing the strike notice period to 7 days, and revoking the 50% turnout requirement for a strike vote.
Work should not prevent people from starting a family; the UK government’s Shared Parental Leave program starts in April this year, and makes leave fairer. However, it does not take into account some situations that may affect families - including families with three or more parents (e.g. via parental responsibility agreements). We would extend this system to include all parents in a family.