COLUMN by Cllr Peter Lamb, Leader of the Labour Group, Crawley Borough Council: A warning - don’t be young, old or get ill

Too often when benefits are discussed it’s the most extreme cases which set the debate. Obviously this is a bit odd because the chances are if someone’s made it onto the front page of a national newspaper their case is the exception and not the norm.

Let’s be clear about this: it isn’t left-wing to support benefit theft or a system where some people could work but chose not to. But most people would agree we need a system where those who fall on hard times through no fault of their own get the support they need to get back on their feet. This is the system the Government is putting at risk.

It sensible to check occasionally if those on Disability Living Allowance are fit to go back to work.

But the Government’s assessments aren’t fit for purpose. They ignore the views of doctors, they ignore claimants’ medical histories, they ignore day-to-day variations in people’s health.

Even putting that aside, a labourer could be certified as fit to go back to work because his condition wouldn’t prevent him performing an office job. The fact he remains physically incapable of performing the only work he’s qualified for is completely ignored.

Meanwhile, jobseekers face criticism from ministers but the Government’s own figures prove the number of vacancies is only a fraction of the number of unemployed. Even if the location of jobs and jobseekers’ qualifications matched up perfectly, the vast majority would still be on the dole.

Around 25% of those on housing/council tax benefit in Crawley are already in work but the jobs don’t pay enough to meet the cost of living. They’re working hard to earn a living and the Government’s about to pull the rug out from under their feet.

It’s right that the public don’t want a system where people can simply choose not to work but that isn’t what the Government is changing.

They are removing the support people need to get back on their feet. What was said under the last Conservative Government remains true today: “I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.”