It’s nearly two years to the day that my old dear dropped dead. Having only very recently spoken to her, and not too long after she had been given the all clear following a battle with cancer, it was a bit of a shock. I’m not one for crying, or showing much emotion apart from anger, that day I shed bucket loads. Regressing back to the scared pre-teen kid, uncertain of what the hell would happen next. My parents had been planning how to spend their semi-retirement, a camper-van purchase (much to my embarrassment) was in the pipeline. This was not how it was supposed to be.
The old bat had many, many positive facets, often described by mates as a whirlwind I simply referred to her as ‘momma Goodrich’. Despite being a white middle class woman under 5’5″ she always seemed to have the presence of a powerful Afro-American matriarch. Being the mum of 4 lads this was probably a good thing. What I will remember her most for is her compassion and her energy. I’ve never met anyone who has come close to her relentless drive and passion. Never have I met anyone so willing to help others. Her faith, deep and strong but not rigid (she saw the Bible as a moral guide, not a set in stone rulebook) played a role, but she was forever helping those who needed it. I’ve lost count of the people she helped with HR matters (her speciality), how many of my friends she pointed in the right direction over CVs or disciplinary action.
In stark contrast, what we have seen time and time again since the election of the Coalition Government is policies that lack this most basic facet of human nature, of compassion, of empathy. A couple of weeks ago David Cameron lauded a ‘family test’ to be used when devising legislation. It was a quite frankly breathtaking statement, completely and utterly ignoring the irony of the fact that many of the policies enacted under his stewardship have done so much to undermine the family. The bedroom tax and the benefit cap have had severe repercussions for families up and down the country. But because they are not the Tory core the Blue Brigade don’t give a crap. Austerity hits the poor hardest, the most vulnerable hardest. Those most likely not to vote, hardest. And in the run up to a general election those at the bottom who don’t vote, don’t count.
The Guardian (yes I read the Guardian, no I don’t wear socks with sandals) recently published an article highlighting the difficulties facing local authorities in undertaking their statutory duties around homelessness. Central Government and Local Government cuts are meaning already overworked, unfunded staff are feeling the squeeze even further. And bizarrely Councils are having to shed out so much wonga housing homeless people that it makes more financial sense to buy property and then let it out. The scale of the increase in homelessness is equally striking, equally horrific. Other reports highlight the increase in food-banks and the rise in cases of rickets and malnutrition. We are a developed country in the 21st Century, how the fuck is malnutrition an issue!?
Austerity is fine and well on paper, on the balance-sheet, in Whitehall. Unfortunately, like any ideology, when it hits a little thing called life everything goes out the proverbial window. We have a cabinet of which 36% went to private schools, 59% were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge. They are a group of people who’s only idea of what being poor is comes from gogglebox tv programmes like Benefit Street. Compassion doesn’t enter into the equation because they can’t get their head round the fundamental situation. Worse is yet to come, 60% of the austerity measures aren’t due to hit until post 2015. This is not going to get better any time soon. But you can make small differences with small bits of compassion. Simple things, buy the big issue, invest time, money and effort into organisations like Shelter, Crisis, Refuge. Write to your local MP, be vocal in your criticism. Hell, even write a blog. Do not sit idle. Compassion is a proactive trait as much as a positive one. As Michala Rudman stated in her blog for #UKHousingFast, do all the good you can, by all the means you can.