The Guardian’s latest opine (though a legitimate one) on the potential further cuts said to be drafted up by Whitehall rams home the point that those receiving state assistance are fair game politically. Regardless of the repercussions.
I am constantly amazed that those in a position of wealth, security and responsiblity continuously, and dishonestly, shun those below them. A significant undertone to the pre-election campaigns has been the denigration of those at the margins of society. Let me be clear these proposals (outlined below) are immoral, unworkable and will fail to deliver what is needed to help the economy recovery properly. They also forget that we are all a couple of missed pay cheques, a stroke, an accident, a bereavement away from being in the same position of many of those we help on a day-to-day basis.
In short the proposals include:
- Prevent the under 25s from claiming housing benefit and incapacity benefit (because of course no-one under 25 needs any state assistance)
- Increasing the bedroom tax (because that has worked so well so far)
- Freezing benefit payments across the board
- Stricter fit for work tests (because the current ones run so smoothly)
Whilst a neoliberal’s wet dream these potential changes are simply horrific. And if they are anywhere near as unsuccessful as the benefit cap, the bedroom tax v 1.0 and the already stricter fit for work tests they will cause havoc and poverty to those already struggling. They will not re-balance the economy, they will not drive up employment, they will fuck over those who least deserve a good kicking. They are a set of policies symptomatic of a political set that simply cannot, will not understand what it is like to be on the bread line.
I have been steadfast in my desire for our sector to be more proactive, more influential and to be more progressive in its efforts. Whilst much more work is needed to be done the momentum gained pre-election has been welcome. Housing is much higher up the agenda and those at both SHOUT and the Homes for Britain campaigns deserve credit for their efforts. We must however be broader in our remit. We must defend those who live in our homes, not just because it makes sense financially but because it is often the most vulnerable who have the least say.
David Backwith has recently written (well yesterday in-fact) that social workers must work with service users to understand and counter the detrimental impacts of austerity and poverty. I would argue we need to go further and fight with them, not just on their behalf, but actually together (not just like resident involvement in decision-making, real collaboration). Because otherwise these proposals will help shrink state support to some bizarre Victorian-esk level. And frankly the 19th century was a bit shit, so let’s not go back there.
Ultimately you judge a society by how it treats those at the margins, those at the bottom. I would rather be on the side that offered a hand up rather than a slap down. I believe as a sector we do a great, great amount of work to help communities and individuals that otherwise would be cast aside. It is time we did a bit more to stand up for them.