George Osborne obviously realises the importance of supporting families. That’s why every time he cuts family services he’s too scared to announce it.
First the Chancellor snuck out news of his £400m cut to priceless Early Intervention services on page 140 of a technical guidance document. Now he’s repeated the trick by cutting Maternity Pay for working mums, but forgetting to mention it in his Autumn Statement.
The cut to Early Intervention services is hypocritical, counterproductive and unjust. I fought hard against it.
As part of this campaign it was great to welcome Shadow Children & Families Minister Sharon Hodgson to Wembley Primary Children’s Centre.
Sharon praised “the fantastic facilities and the great work going on here – work which will pay dividends for years to come.” She also commented that “hundreds of Children’s Centres have already disappeared across the country since 2010 due to funding cuts made by Sarah Teather while she was still a Minister.”
It is pretty clear why Osborne tried to hide this brutal cut: everyone who hears about it is outraged.
But instead of listening, he has stepped up his attack on families.
Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits will be cut in real terms. From 2014 each will rise by 1%, while inflation is forecast to be around 2%. And that general inflation figure conceals ballooning prices of items young families particularly depend upon – notably childcare and housing.
Osborne didn’t have the guts to announce that Statutory Maternity Pay will also fall in real terms. Labour estimate that this will cost each family £180.
The Government like to claim that they are attacking welfare scroungers, but by definition the only people who receive Statutory Maternity Pay are those who have jobs.
This is not an attack on scroungers, this is an attack on working mums.
We do have a welfare problem in this country. A big one. But for all its sabre rattling, the Government is doing nothing about it.
The real scandal is in-work poverty.
It is an absolute disgrace that 60% of children in poverty live in a home where at least one parent works.
It is an utter lunacy that wages are so low that they have to be subsidised by the taxpayer through the benefits system.
Instead of grandstanding about scroungers and then cutting benefits for working people, the Government should bring the welfare bill down by raising the minimum wage to a level which people can actually live on.
And instead of slashing Early Intervention services, they should boost investment in Sure Start Children’s Centres. This would increase childcare capacity and help families to access employment advice – steps which would help people off benefits and into work.
George Osborne is too scared to admit it, but he is attacking working families. He is closing their Children’s Centres, cutting their benefits and doing nothing to address their core problems.
In Brent we are very proud to be doing the exact opposite.
We have a brand new programme of Early Intervention projects and are 100% committed to keeping all our Children’s Centres open for at least the next two years – no matter what the Government throws at us.
As Sharon Hodgson MP said on her visit, “It is only because the people of Brent have a Labour Council that they haven’t lost the services that are so important to local families.”