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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 17:05 GMT
Plaid Cymru: Pensions and welfare

Find out more about Plaid Cymru policy on pensions and welfare

Social security remains an economic issue dealt with at Westminster - but some elements of welfare policy - those which are within the remit of local authorities and education for instance - are dealt with by the Welsh Assembly.


GENERAL POLICIES

Plaid Cymru stands against the wealth disparity between the richest and poorer members of society.

"There is a huge gap between regions and social classes, with serious problems of social exclusion," the party's manifesto says.

"A large proportion of society has to toil to subsist on low salaries, and an unemployed or unable-to-work sub-class falls further behind the community at large."

Plaid Cymru would seek to "raise the poor out of poverty" through increasing benefits.

And, for claimants, it would reduce levels of means testing which have "caused stigma amongst many".

It also criticises the government's "heavy-handed attitude" towards combating false claims.

"In the efforts to keep costs down, there is firm evidence that claimants are kept in ignorance of the benefits due to them," the manifesto says.

Also, disability benefits should be reformed to provide additional help after retirement and winter fuel payments help to those under 60.

And the party would back the campaign for medical compensation to coal miners, including abolishing any clawback of awards though additional taxation.

A similar compensation scheme should be established for former slate quarrymen, the party says.


PENSIONS

Plaid Cymru's manifesto commits the party to re-establishing the link between pensions and earnings which was abolished by the Conservatives in 1980.

"The constant reduction in the level of the old age pension in comparison with average income has struck Wales particularly hard because we have a higher percentage of pensioners than the UK average."

And Plaid Cymru would make the pension available to all, avoiding the means testing process.

"Pensioners are still a long way from enjoying their share of the increased wealth of the country, and surveys suggest that three out of every five pensioners in Wales live either at poverty level or below it," the manifesto says.

"One of the main reasons for [pensioner] poverty is that thousands do not claim the means tested addition to the pension, and there lose 18.80 a week on average."

While not mentioned in the manifesto, the party has previously said it would raise the state pension to 90 a week for a single person and 135 for a couple.

And it has proposed a new system for adding to the state pension through additional contributions - a public sector scheme for low-paid workers and, for higher-paid private workers, a private sector scheme or large groups of workers in a mutual system, similar to the SERPS scheme that was phased out by the Conservatives.

It also wants the government to pay for the elderly in long-term residential care homes - a measure recently passed by the Scottish Parliament.


FAMILIES AND CHILDREN

Plaid Cymru would reduce means-testing and reduce the taper of Working Families Tax Credit and Housing Benefit which it argues is a disincentive for people to earn more.

It would also change the social fund, the money available to the poorest in society to buy essential items such as beds and cookers, to a grant rather than a repayable loan.

In general, it wants to boost the incomes of those in work through such measures as increasing the minimum wage to 5 per hour.


THE UNEMPLOYED

Plaid Cymru's manifesto decries Labour's failure, when giving power over interest rates to the Bank of England 1997, to force unemployment and regional prosperity differences to be taken into account.

"This has been a big blow for Wales," the document says.

The party, which is enthusiastic towards the euro, would ensure that achieving full employment was made an aim of the European Central Bank.

And it would revise the Working Families' Tax Credit, and review the level of earnings those on income support can receive, to encourage benefit claimants into employment.

Boosting incentives to work would help "break the social exclusion cycle and avoid a culture of dependency," the manifesto says.

Previously, the party has supported linking benefits to effective back-to-work training.

It has also proposed encouraging social enterprise and improved training in information technology to encourage job opportunities in Wales.

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