Further Tory welfare cuts spell disaster for UK’s most vulnerable – experts

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith. (Reuters/Phil Noble/Suzanne Plunkett)
As the Conservatives settle back into No. 10, pressure is mounting on the government to come clean on its austerity agenda, which includes £12 billion worth of yet-to-be clarified welfare cuts.

The government’s plans to plow ahead with further austerity have angered campaigners, trade unionists and academics who warn of the rise of abject poverty in Britain.

In a state increasingly characterized by zero-hours contracts, social cleansing, and drastic welfare reforms, they argue further austerity will impact heavily on Britain’s most vulnerable men, women and children.

READ MORE: 'The austerity delusion is dead, unless you’re British,’ says Paul Krugman

Reflecting on the scale of austerity Britons can expect in the run up to the general election, the Office of Budget Responsibility previously said the Tories’ cuts would propel the nation on a “roller-coaster ride.”

The controversial welfare reforms, embedded in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto, will be rolled out by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

In the wake of the Conservative Party’s cabinet reshuffle, Downing Street confirmed Duncan Smith will go ahead with his goal of “making work pay” and “reforming welfare” as Tories strive to slash £12 billion from welfare spending, and introduce changes to universal credit. This forms part of a broader framework of cuts, set to reach roughly £30 billion.

Chancellor George Osborne, who received the additional mantle of First Secretary of State from PM David Cameron on Friday, has expressed determination to eradicate Britain’s budgetary deficit by 2018-19.

In a bid to achieve this, he will impose £12 billion in welfare cuts, reduce daily government spending by £13 billion a year and supposedly drum up £5 billion from new anti-tax dodging measures.

Prior to Friday’s general election results, a slew of senior Conservatives believed the party would not implement the £12 billion in slashed welfare spending. Rather, they predicted the emergence of another coalition with the Liberal Democrats and thought the party would oppose them. Critics suggest this smoke-and-mirrors strategy will likely backfire on the government in coming months.

READ MORE: Emotional toxicity of austerity eroding mental health, say 400 experts

Early this week, PM David Cameron is expected to say the Conservatives will be running a budget surplus by 2020. As a result, both Osborne and Duncan Smith will be expected to unveil a detailed map for the proposed cuts.

Duncan Smith insists the cuts are feasible. However, critics maintain otherwise.

Duncan Smith says these spending targets will require a radical approach. He previously proposed that child benefit should be limited to the first two children in a family. However, this proposal has reportedly been rejected by Osborne over concerns the policy would be interpreted as a bid to cultivate smaller families.

During the general election campaign race, Cameron told voters child benefit would be rolled into universal credit under the government’s sweeping welfare reforms. Universal credit is a controversial scheme, designed under Duncan Smith’s guidance, which brings together six separate forms of state benefit.

Human rights and social justice campaigners in Britain have repeatedly warned spending cuts implemented since 2010 have dismantled the welfare state and impacted severely on the most vulnerable members of society.

READ MORE: Victorian Britain? Teachers feeding, clothing, & providing basic parenting to poor pupils

The crisis of growing poverty among Britons who have been impacted by these reforms has been laid bare by a series of damning studies published in recent months.

In April, hundreds of psychotherapists, counselors and mental health practitioners warned “malign” welfare changes are having a detrimental effect on Britons’ psychological and emotional wellbeing.

An open letter, published by the Guardian, said the “profoundly disturbing” implications for Britons wrought by the coalition’s austerity policies were largely ignored in the general election campaign.

The 400 signatories, from all corners of Britain, said the government’s welfare reforms have caused emotional and mental trauma to Britons – forcing families to relocate against their will and burdening disabled, ill and unemployed benefit claimants with an intimidating benefits regime.

Another report released on May 1 revealed teachers have taken to washing children’s clothes, feeding them packed lunches and offering youngsters haircuts as they warn of a resurgence of Victorian levels of poverty in the UK.