Opinion

We must take control of welfare to protect our people against a callous UK Government

19 Nov 2017 4 minutes Read
Picture by Stu (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Sian Gwenllian, Assembly Member for Arfon

As an AM, I have seen first-hand the frightening effects that stripping people of more and more benefits can have.

Over the coming months, my office is getting ready for a surge in people coming to Hywel Williams MP and myself for support as Universal Credit is rolled out more widely by the UK Government.

To date, the rollout of Universal Credit has wreaked chaos on people’s lives. Debt, evictions and food bank usage have increased in the areas where Universal Credit has been trialled.

Rolling out the system more widely is likely to create more hardship for people already living in difficult situations. It is likely to lead to more homelessness and increased costs for health and social services.

The rate of withholding or denying payments is higher than with the current system. I have heard horrific accounts of people having their payments denied.

One claimant missed his signing-on appointment because his brother had died unexpectedly, whilst another missed his because his wife had a miscarriage.

These are horror stories created by a callous government in Westminster because they are intent on forcing through unnecessary changes and cuts instead of protecting the people that they are elected to serve. And the Tories are intent on pressing ahead regardless.

Here in Wales, we have already begun to see the devastation the Universal Credit system can cause. We know that Wales will be worse affected than other regions of the UK because more people here claim benefits.

We don’t know yet the scale of the impact but in Flintshire, which has been a part of Universal Credit rollout since April 2017, we have had an early indication after the Citizens Advice Bureau printed its findings.

In Flintshire, 341 people have contacted the CAB for support, and 61% of those are women. Their data shows that 46% of those people are disabled or have a long-term health condition. This gives us a valuable insight into the ruthless and cruel nature of this policy.

Humane

If we are to protect the people of Wales from the worst of these effects then we must devolve administrative control of some parts of the welfare system to Wales.

This would allow Welsh Government to alter the frequency of payments, end the culture of sanctions and long waits, and ensure that payments could go to individuals instead of to households.

This has already happened in Scotland, where the SNP government has changed the frequency of payments from monthly to fortnightly; the housing components are paid directly to landlords and ministers are required to give assistance to people entitled to help.

This means that actions can now be taken behind the scenes to tackle the culture of sanctions.

The money for administering elements of welfare previously dealt with by the UK was transferred directly to Scotland as part of the block grant, so there were no extra costs.

Plaid Cymru believes the Labour Welsh Government should be negotiating for such a settlement for Wales. That way we could protect Welsh citizens against the worst elements of cruel Tory reforms.

The only way we can protect people from this is to start creating a more humane system here in Wales, as they have begun to do in Scotland.

The Labour government in Cardiff Bay should be negotiating for such a settlement for Wales. They should be demanding devolution over payment flexibilities and the housing element of Universal Credit, and aiming to secure a fiscal framework that can accommodate the devolution of these elements of social security.

If the Labour government in Cardiff Bay is serious about delivering for the people of Wales then it can fight for these elements. Anything short of that is just letting the Tories do their worst.

14 Comments
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Capitalist and Welshnash
Capitalist and Welshnash
3 years ago

”the housing components are paid directly to landlords” Now that is innovation and progress. If it has been tested in Scotland and if it helps both people in need and those who make their living off of renting to people, we need this in Wales because it will not be an attack upon the poor and it will not be a tax upon aspiration. It will help everyone. Universal credit is bad for business. It will increase crime and homelessness to levels which run our high street shops into the ground. Sian Gwenllïan, we urgently need direct payments to landlords.… Read more »

Edeyrn
Edeyrn
3 years ago

The UK style of Landlordism itself is considered across many parts of Western Europe…I find it hard to shed a tear for monopolies of landlords raking in huge amounts each year and living off the exploitation of the poor……

Edeyrn
Edeyrn
3 years ago
Reply to  Edeyrn

considered backwards and not progressive**

Capitalist and Welshnash
Capitalist and Welshnash
3 years ago
Reply to  Edeyrn

Progressive and Regressive are words used to promote an ideology by framing your opponents as morally wrong somehow. And by using such words in an argument you are implying hatred fostered by a blinker-eye attitude, because there is not anything we are ‘progressing’ towards. We all have differing opinions. There is no end to which humanity is ‘progressing’.

I support devolving Welsh welfare because we should manage our own affairs and take responsibility for ourselves.

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
3 years ago

We can now judge the thinking at the top of Plaid Cymru. Now that they’ve taken to writing for Nation.Cymru. Hywel Williams on Brexit – agree with every word, but why are the Menai and the Taff not on fire?! Leanne on the subject of justice – sorry, hopelessly compromised and limited. Now we have Sian Gwenllian AM saying “..we must devolve administrative control of some parts of the welfare system to Wales.” Oh dear, where to start? Tone – flaccid. “We must devolve….” No Wales cannot devolve. Only the English dominated House of Commons can devolve by law. Or… Read more »

Trailorboy
Trailorboy
3 years ago

I agree this is not very aspirational or inspiring. Its about as interesting as a very junior middle manager asking the boss for a few more responsibilities to help tidy up his office while he pops off for a round of golf.

Leia
3 years ago

You can’t fix loads of other things unless you have control of welfare.

You can’t fix education without control of welfare because poverty has a massive correlation with school success.

You can’t fix health without control of welfare because poverty has a massive correlation with general health.

You can’t fix crime, the economy, equality ANYTHING without control of welfare.

Having welfare as a reserved power almost singlehandly prevents us, long term, from improving our lot!

Red Dragon Jim
Red Dragon Jim
3 years ago

Do you support the Tory Govt Universal Credit policy?

Do you want Wales to have the powers over welfare that the SNP has secured for Scotland?

Reading your comment it isn’t obvious.

Jim Dunckley
Jim Dunckley
3 years ago

Agree with Jonathan Edwards here. Labour have created a system of welfare dependency in wales. It’s one of the key reasons we have such an apathetic political culture here. Go back to the 1930s when people (for better or worse) had to organise amongst themselves. We had a self-organised working class movement up to WW2 and the biggest mistake we ever made was handing power over to the British Government and the British Trade Unions. With our industrial base destroyed what we have left is a dependent, fearful and emasculated Welsh Working Class. You cannot built a mass movement for… Read more »

Red Dragon Jim
Red Dragon Jim
3 years ago
Reply to  Jim Dunckley

If Universal Credit is hammering people then it should be modified or stopped. Simple as that. Sian Gwenllian proposes a way of doing so, in line with what the SNP has done in Scotland through partial devolution of welfare.

Dependency exists but no humane politician should allow dependency to translate into hunger, homelessness or kids having their life chances harmed.

Tame Frontiersman
Tame Frontiersman
3 years ago

My first priority for an independent Wales would be to get people off welfare and into productive, well-paid, meaningful work.

If anyone is arguing for welfare responsibilities to be devolved to Cardiff, ensure that there is a funding formula sufficient to take into account Wales’ needs AND that the by-product isn’t that Wales ends up with more and more of London’s unwanted poor.

It seems ridiculous verging on obscene that private land landlords can get their buy- to-let mortgages paid by the state or the poor while generation rent can’t get a mortgage and a foot on the property ladder.

sianiflewog
sianiflewog
3 years ago

Sian Gwenllian: diolch am dynny sylw i broblem anferth. i can’t say too much coz i’m in the middle of a appeal agiants a very unfair interpretation of the UC regulations. If the government gets its way, Ian Drunk on p**s’s assertion that work must be seen to pay will all be to c**k. i assumed that when mr drunken p**s suggested the above, the new UC would encourage people to go out to find work. As it stands, my advice is that if you are thinking of temporary work if you are unemployed, then don’t. You will be worse… Read more »

Red Dragon Jim
Red Dragon Jim
3 years ago
Reply to  sianiflewog

See, many people don’t realise what you are going through. They see it as “dependency” when actually individuals are being failed by the system.

Welfare states are normal across Europe. It is not “dependency” but a commonly available safety net. But they have to be fought for!

Red Dragon Jim
Red Dragon Jim
3 years ago

This seems like a healthy debate around welfare. I think the points about “this is what I’d do in an independent Wales” are missing the point because the SNP has got pre-independence welfare powers. The SNP hasn’t just said “we won’t do anything on welfare until we get independence”, they have already started reforming it prior to independence being achieved. Their agenda is to blunt the worst effects of the Tory Universal Credit policy. They are using partial control of welfare to change how the payments are made, and alter other aspects. This doesn’t mean they are supporting Labour or… Read more »

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