I may be the only Plaid Cymru Member of the European Parliament but I am one of a team of Plaid politicians that work together at all levels for the Welsh national interest: council, Assembly, Westminster and European. I was particularly proud last week at the work of my MP colleague Hywel Williams. As an MP known for championing the interests of people in most need of support, he drew our attention to a very serious development.
While the eyes of the media in Wales are focussed elsewhere, the Conservative government in Westminster is cutting the financial support to people whose husband or wife dies and cutting tax credits and benefits for new claimers who have more than two children.
From last Thursday, the 6th of April, parents with school-age children who lose a spouse will be given payments for just 18 months. Previously the payments continued until the youngest child left full-time education. The old system meant that bereaved parents would get a taxable benefit of about £112 a week while their children were in education. Now, the payments will be cut to £350 a month, with a limit of 18 months. To make things worse, this applies only to married people. For those who may have lived with a partner for years and who have children will get nothing. I know from experience in my own family how deeply unfair this is.
On the same day, changes to Universal Credit came into force, limiting the payment to the first two children in a family. A study conducted by the Child Poverty Action Group and Institute for Public Policy Research found that this will affect up to 850,000 families. The government’s argument is that no one on benefits should receive more money than someone in work. This may sound sensible, until you remember that most of the people claiming Universal Credit are actually in work, but on low pay.
How many times since the vote to leave the EU last June have we heard the Prime Minister claim that she works to build a country that “works for everyone, not just the privileged few”? These cuts show that the reality does not match the rhetoric.
The government is making cruel reforms to the benefit system. They show little care about the terrible impact this unjust policy change will have on families who are grieving.