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‘It’s no fun being on benefits’: the reality of welfare reform

16/10/2015

WallBetween 2010 and 2015, the coalition government cut welfare spending by £15 billion. With George Osborne’s July budget pledging to cut welfare again, this time by £12 billion over only two years, it’s time to pay attention to what the huge cuts already made have meant for the people of our community.

Launched today, the report ‘It’s no fun being on benefits’ tells the stories of Islington residents affected by the last round of welfare reforms. As the title suggests, people don’t find living on benefits a ‘soft option’. Cllr. Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance and Performance at Islington Council, said: ‘Their stories show that unemployment and poverty rarely come about because people do not want to work. On the contrary, a strong work ethic runs through our community.’ But many are not in a position to work – Islington Law Centre has an 85% success rate for appeals when people with physical and mental health problems and disabilities have initially been judged fit for work. And many others struggle with the sheer competition for jobs.

The report lays bare the shame that people feel and the misery they endure when relying on benefits. One woman won an appeal against her benefit sanction – but her money was stopped in the meantime, leaving her ‘living off of fresh air’ and having to visit the food bank and borrow money from friends for sanitary pads. Another kept her benefits secret: ‘I haven’t really told my family…I just don’t want [them] to know I’ve failed in it so badly.’

Jeremy Corbyn, in his capacity as MP for North Islington, wasn’t able to attend the launch, but sent a message of support: JC

 

‘The report to be launched this evening will highlight our concerns for workless people and those dependent on benefits. The detailed case studies may be used to inform politicians and decision-makers, as well as campaigns against the ongoing cuts that are so unfairly aimed at our inner city communities.’

 

Three local voluntary and community organisations, Every Voice, Islington Community Network and Advising Islington Together, worked together to create the report. Chris Taylor, from the Islington Community Network, said: ‘The stories in this report demonstrate the severe hardship caused for some people by the scale and speed of welfare reform. Voluntary sector groups are working hard to catch people who fall through the gaps and get them back on their feet. We want to show the council and other public sector partners where welfare reform is failing people, so that together we do as much as we can to help them.’

Read the report here

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