As a member of the EU, the UK must legally abide by European Social Charter. The ESC safeguards a persons right to, amongst other things, an adequate level Social Security provision from their country of residence.
Iain Duncan Smith’s changes to the benefits system under the Welfare Reform Act 2012 were assessed in a report by the Council of Europe here and states the following:
The Committee holds that even if the minimum levels of short term and long term incapacity
benefits, state pension and job seeker’s allowance may satisfy the requirements of the
European Code of Social Security, they are manifestly inadequate in the meaning of Article
12§1 of the Charter as they fall below 40% of the Eurostat median equivalised income.
In order to meet the legally binding requirement to provide adequate social security, Jobseekers Allowance has to be increased from £67 per week to £137. Incapacity Benefits would have to be increased from £71/£94 per week to somewhere in the region of £142/£188 per week for short term and long term respectively.
Well, I wouldn’t have expected anything else from such a heartless person. Why the need for bodyguards to meet with the disabled Mr Smith? Why the need for water canons? But I digress….
Here’s the quote in context:
This government has made great strides in fixing the welfare system so that spending is brought under control. It’s lunacy for the Council of Europe to suggest welfare payments need to increase when we paid out £204bn in benefits and pensions last year alone.
Fixing? Whatever you say Iain.
The fact is, the findings are legally binding. Not something that has to be merely taken in to account as the DWP said over the issue. It matters not how little this government has given to those so dearly in need, when what has been given, falls so far below what has been deemed acceptable.
The report has been met by cries from Smith’s fellow Tories.
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said:
The Government can no longer stand by. They have got to say, “We’re sick to the back teeth of this interference, we’re going to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights”.
I find this statement very telling. Especially considering Mr Cameron’s thoughts on leaving the EU. You have to ask yourself why he would do such a thing? You can bet that the erosion of human rights that the EU supposedly offers us has a great deal to do with it.
Whether these legally binding mere recommendations will amount to anything remains to be seen, but hopefully a legal challenge or two is fired at the current government, and we’ll see how it plays out. The situation is likely to be discussed further in Strassburg and it should be of note that this is not the first ESC report that has criticised the UK’s social security policies. Per the report:
In its previous conclusion the Committee held that the minimum levels of Statutory Sick Pay,
Short Term Incapacity Benefits and contributory Jobseeker’s Allowance for single person were
This doesn’t give me a great deal of hope that any kind of enforcement action will be taken by ESC against the UK, but you never know.
I leave you with the report’s conclusion:
The Committee concludes that the situation in United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article
12§1 of the Charter on the ground that:
- The minimum levels of short-term and long-term incapacity benefit is manifestly inadequate;
- The minimum level of state pension is manifestly inadequate;
- The minimum level of job seeker’s allowance is manifestly inadequate.