The first cuts were not the deepest

FIGHT! take action and support those affected by the savage Tory cuts. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

FIGHT! take action and support those affected by the savage Tory cuts. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Sandra Webster, SSP national co-spokesperson While all other parties promised at least to slow down the rate of austerity, and while the SSP’s manifesto was a people’s one, at the heart of the Tories election pledge was to make at least £12billion cuts to benefits. Softened up by a media onslaught which portrays the poor as scroungers, this pledge is popular with many who voted Tory—we all need a scapegoat. The first full Tory cabinet in 18 years met for the first time this week, with Cameron announcing they were the party of the workers—rhetoric not that far removed from the Labour Party pledging their support for hard working families.

Away from the headlines though, the DWP report that, with a benefit system already pared to the bone, further cuts are going to impact on those who may have voted Tory. Of course, the most vulnerable will always suffer.

Within hours of the election result, the DWP announced the closure of a scheme that supported people with disabilities into work. We know that benefit sanctions will continue, with more and more people having to rely on food banks.

Iain Duncan Smith has hinted at a form of food stamps where those not in work will be given a pre-paid card to buy food. Universal Credit will continue to be rolled out. Already in Edinburgh, it arrives in Glasgow in June.

DLA will be replaced by Personal Independence Payment with different criteria which makes it more difficult to get the financial support the long term sick and disabled rely on to lead an ordinary life. These cuts will not make up the £12billion promised and it is those in work who will be most affected.

Further cuts to tax credits are to be expected. An end to entitlement to statutory maternity pay has been leaked in the press, as has further limitations to child benefit.

Carers Allowance, a universal benefit, may only be payable to those in receipt of Universal Credit, and PIP may only be payable to one member of a family even if multiple members have a disability. Let’s be fair to the Tories though—they will deliver what they have promised, and more.

These ideological cuts will be watched over proudly by Iain Duncan Smith and newly-appointed Priti Patel who is on record of supporting the death penalty. We may miss Esther McVey who lost her Merseyside seat.

Many find hope that the new SNP MPs with their anti-austerity promises will be able to protect us in Scotland from the worst excesses of Tory policy. After all, disability benefits have been devolved to Holyrood by the Smith Commission.

But as the first Tory cabinet meets, top priority will be given to the further dismantling of the welfare state and ensuring “benefit units”—as Iain Duncan Smith has referred to families in receipt of benefits—are most impacted on.

When powers are devolved, PIP and Universal Credit will be rolled out leaving the Scottish Government with what may prove to be an impossible task in setting things right.

Another five years of Tory misrule awaits us, and all the finest speeches against austerity will offer no protection. This is a rallying call to begin to offer support and hope. Be armed with the information. People need to fight benefit sanctions and be successful in claiming benefits.

Remember, austerity affects not only those out of work or in low paid work but in all of the public sector. The cuts will impact on teachers, nurses, council workers and civil servants.

We need to plan how to take action and support those affected. Only then can we hope to defeat the disgraceful Tory rhetoric. The first cuts were not the deepest but this time they will truly bite us all.

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