Real Life Reform has just released its fourth report into the impact of the various welfare reforms. It is grim reading and if you aren’t already angry about the botched way in which the reforms have been slapped into place, you should be. Fuck, I’m that pissed I’ve done a second blog in two days #firstworldproblems. But in all seriousness the harrowing statistics brought forth in this latest release highlight the monumental gap between the expectation of the reforms by those who are bringing them into play and the reality on the ground.
Here’s some of the highlights from the report:
- Debt payments have doubled
- Nearly a quarter of those surveyed owned money to loans sharks or payday lenders
- 12.5% have used a food bank at least once in the last 3 months
What should be utterly shocking is that people are spending less on food i.e. going hungry to put the heating on, or living in cold houses to be able to afford to eat. This is 21st Century Great Britain, and people are having to make choices that should not exist. However they do exist and as such the horror of the situation needs to be told. Austerity Bites by Mara O’Hara has already highlighted many of the impacts of the reforms, and the linked mass reduction in government funding up and down the country. Real Life Reform’s Report hammers home the same messages of anger, despair and desperation. All brought on because of an ideology that trumps the notion of individualism, of people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps of the power of the market above all else. All well and good when you are white middle class male from a well to do background but sometimes state assistance isn’t just a helping hand it is a god damn lifeline.
I have never understood why those so removed from the realities of deep engrained poverty feel that they have a unique position on how to turn it around. I have been in the dire straights that the individuals looked at by Real Life Reform have been in. Counting every penny, turning down drinks with your friends, not going to the gym or even playing 5 a side footy with your mates because you can’t afford it. Not buying Christmas presents, stressing about every food shop. These things may sound trivial bit in the midst of it they occupy most of your thinking capacity and drive home the sadness that comes with the social isolation associated of having sod all in the bank. Let me get this straight poverty is not fun, it is not a choice. It is dark, depressing and soul wrenching set of circumstances. Particularly if like me you were working at the time. I cannot explain the shear pressure that you go under when trying to make sure you have little pleasures like the heating on for an hour in the morning and an hour at night or being able to have pint (literally just one) with friends. Poverty porn like Benefits Street, like How to Get a Council House don’t show the other side of having f@#k all money, if they did they would be lot more shocking, but for the right reasons.
I am lucky, I have a great family, awesome mates and a good job. Like many people my experience of poverty was a temporary one. It could however return, and part of the reason why I so strongly support more social housing and a proper safety net is that I might need it one day. As Mary O’Hara argues state support isn’t about dependency, it is about opportunity, about giving those who have been dealt a beat down from life another chance. The combined impact of the reforms is taking away that support and bizarrely far from removing itself from the lives of its citizens (as per neo-liberal doctrine) under the Coalition the state is evermore encroaching on our lives. With things like the claimant commitment and attempting to force the ‘workshy’ into work placements seemingly at odds with letting the individual make their own choices. Being tough to the poor may play well to the crowd in the home counties but often the state of play is different to how it is imagined. Peoples’ lives are more complex than we would like to think.
Please take this report and show it to all and sundry. I have written before that ignorance breeds contempt and mistrust towards the unknown. Opinion polls have consistently shown that when given greater information the general public is actually rather sympathetic to those on the margins and in receipts of benefits. It is our job to ensure that they are kept well informed. Keep up the good work Real Life Reform, I’m just sorry that there is a need for you to do so.
You can get Real Life Reform’s full report from here or go to http://www.lyha.co.uk/documents/Real_Life_Reform_Report_No4_July_2014.pdf.