Guest article: MP Emily Thornberry on “disgraceful” welfare reform

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry - Credit: Archant

Islington South and Finsbury MP is on committee scrutinising new bill

Round two in the battle over welfare reform kicked off last week, and as a member of the committee which is scrutinising the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill line-by-line, I’ve been fighting in the trenches.

This disgraceful piece of legislation abolishes targets for reducing child poverty, cuts benefits for disabled people and forces single mothers to look for work even when there’s no childcare available for them.

The Bill also lowers the overall cap on the amount a family can receive in benefits to £23,000 per year – the latest in a series of Tory policies which undermine the character of mixed communities like Islington by effectively forcing people on low incomes to move away.

People always say that one the best reasons to live in Islington is its diversity, with people from all over the world and every type of background, rich or poor, living side by side. The benefit cap, which was first introduced by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition in 2013, was an attack on our community.

By cutting the amount of housing benefit paid to low income families living in homes where rents are high, through no fault of their own, the benefit cap had a disproportionately harsh impact in central London.

The inevitable result was that people either cut back on basic essentials, finding themselves with less money to feed and clothe their children, and many of my constituents have told me that that’s exactly what they’ve had to do. Often the only alternative has been for people to move out of Islington altogether in search of cheaper housing. The new, lower level of the benefit cap is likely to force these families to move out of London altogether.

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I am determined not to let the Tories get away with this without a fight. Committee stage provides the chance for MPs to put down amendments to legislation, and I have already tabled more than a dozen amendments to the Bill. My amendments are about the benefit cap, but they are also about exposing the flawed logic of welfare cuts.

I look forward to continuing to put forward these arguments in the weeks ahead. The fight on this Bill is just getting started.