As we wait to see the extent of the next government onslaught on welfare payments in the chancellor's autumn statement this Wednesday, Ruth Patrick looks at some alternatives to invigorate the economy. Do you agree with these suggestions?
As he attempts to negotiate a settlement with his coalition partners and find the right soundbite and optimistic message to describe the current state of the economy, George Osborne is also reportedly seeking up to £10 billion of further savings from the welfare budget. Since entering office in 2010, the government has already announced cuts to welfare equivalent to savings of £18 billion a year by 2014-15.
The impact of these cuts is already being felt, with disabled people disproportionately affected, and expecting to be yet more so as Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments are introduced from next year.
While the chancellor will be hoping to avert a re-run of the car crash that was the April 2012 budget, marked by u-turns on caravans and pasties, observers are rightly worried that further cuts to an already stretched welfare budget can only mean yet another shambolic situation.
Until Wednesday we will not know how or if Osborne will manage to shave even more off the benefit bill, but press speculation makes for pretty grim reading.
There is the possibility of the government freezing (or at least reducing) the rate at which benefits increase which is an effective way to ensure that the poorest get poorer relative to the rest of the population. Listen to Iain Duncan Smith and there’s the recurring suggestion that state support for large families should also stop.
Whatever cost-cutting options the chancellor announces this week, we can feel fairly certain that they are part of an overall approach that seems dead set on pushing the poorest further into penury and feeding into a public climate that is increasingly hostile towards those reliant on benefits for all or most of their income.
A better, braver chancellor would create a real plan for growth by spending and investing in job creation and reducing rather than widening divisions between the rich and poor.
The activist Kaliya Franklin says that instead of scrapping the Independent Living Fund, cutting local authority social care and reducing the money available to disabled people to purchase the support they need by excluding at least half a million sick and disabled people from eligibility for Personal Independence Payments, the government could make savings by giving disabled people more money.
"I would take a holistic approach by using available funding such as money for the Work Programme and Access to Work to create individually designed, tailored support solutions which disabled people can design for themselves, saving money by making their own decisions and removing the power from bureaucrats. If the individual has power over their own budget it means that money is spent primarily in their local community which is a boost to the economy."
According to Linda Burnip, from Disabled People Against Cuts, there are two issues that should be addressed in order to stimulate consumer demand and kickstart the economy.
"There should be the introduction of a living wage for all in work and, for those not in work, a minimum income guarantee to provide an income high enough to allow spending on items other than just the basic essentials. Secondly, we face one of the biggest housing crises this country has ever seen, with massive increases in homelessness projected which will cost billions of pounds. We also have mass unemployment of construction workers so there should be an immediate house building programme to provide accessible and affordable homes for all. Coupled with house building, we need the re-introduction of rent controls which is the only way Housing Benefit bills will ever be reduced. It is landlords and not tenants who benefit from the high costs of housing."
Neil Coyle, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Disability Rights UK, added that he would welcome more investment in the Access to Work scheme.