Gordon Brown called the government’s decision to cut universal credit by £ 20 a week as the most “socially divisive and morally indefensible” policy he has witnessed in British politics, saying it was being pursued with open disregard for it. its impact.
In an impassioned commentary for the Guardian, the former prime minister said next month’s cut showed ministers had in fact given up any pretext to try to tackle poverty, calling it “vindictive even beyond that. austerity ”.
“I have never seen a government act so ruthlessly and with so little concern for the consequences of its actions on the poorest in our society,” Brown wrote.
“The ministers have not published any studies to explain their cut; offered no justification, for example, for falling poverty figures (they are in fact rising); and offered only one pretext, a disposable claim of the Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, that benefit recipients could simply work more.
Charities and others have warned that removing the £ 20 ‘statement’ of weekly UC payments, introduced due to the coronavirus crisis, would push hundreds of thousands of families into poverty, with conditions exacerbated by factors such as rising fuel costs.
“There is, of course, never a good time to cut Social Security benefits,” Brown wrote. “But with the world hanging on the brink of an economic precipice, the price of basic commodities – food and energy – threatening to skyrocket and 30,000 cases of Covid-19 a day, lives and livelihoods are still in play, at this point, the government’s planned £ 20 per week cut to universal credit in October seems more economically illogical, socially confrontational and morally indefensible than anything I have witnessed in the politics of this country .
A total of £ 20 a week was “often the difference between having breakfast and starting the day hungry,” said Brown, citing the efforts of footballer and anti-poverty activist Marcus Rashford. “Energy poverty will force a choice between eating and heating. “
The welfare state, he added, “no longer even tried to respect” its founding principles of abolishing misery, misery, disease, ignorance and idleness.
He wrote: “Social Security, as promised at the time, will no longer remove the fear – and the shame – of need. I can tell ministers from experience that hope is destroyed in the places they never deign to visit and that there is despair in the faces they never see.
Rather than level up, Brown wrote, the government was “doubling down on a losing formula that makes no economic sense.”
He called for an end to the more punitive aspects of the social security system, such as the small amounts adults can earn before their UC payments are lowered, the wait for payments and the two-child limit for many. benefits.
“Twenty years ago, we promised to end child poverty within a generation,” Brown wrote. “Now all we can do is offer charity to avoid poverty.
“Rashford spoke for millions of people when he said his community had few material possessions, but what they lacked in money they had out of compassion for one another. And that is what they will now have to rely on: the poor having to come to the aid of the poorest; and all people of conscience and decency, from local businesses to national charities, are mobilizing to fill the void of empathy and moral fiber that this government has opened. “