Today’s shocking news that the number of people using foodbanks has trebled in just one year comes just months after many of Iain Duncan Smith’s most brutal welfare reforms were introduced.
According to The Trussell Trust over 350,000 people received emergency food from the charity between April and September 2013. This follows the introduction of the Bedroom Tax in April, the phased introduction of the Benefit Cap over the Summer and the demolition of the Social Fund which used to provide emergency loans and small grants to the destitute.
Alongside this a massive extension of workfare and benefit sanctions has taken place with both unemployed and sick or disabled claimants having money stopped for “seemingly illogical reasons” in the words of The Trussell Trust Executive Chairman Chris Mould.
Mould has called for an inquiry into hunger in the UK and insists this is not a time for pointing fingers but for finding solutions. But no solutions will be found until Iain Duncan Smith’s wrecking spree at the DWP comes to an end.
And that is why this is precisely the time for pointing fingers. Iain Duncan Smith’s messianic belief that he alone has the answers to poverty, along with his obsession that unemployed people are responsible for unemployment, has directly to led to the policies which are causing the present suffering.
Time and time again Iain Duncan Smith has been told that benefit sanctions do not ‘incentivise’ people to look harder for jobs. Benefit sanctions demolish people’s lives. For those left with nothing every second is spent worrying where the next meal will come from and there is simply no money for clothes, bus fares, hair cuts, stamps, phone calls and all the other things you need to be able to successfully look for a job.
Almost every organisation concerned with housing in the UK has warned that claimants hit by the Bedroom Tax or Benefit Cap cannot simply just move house. There is nowhere to move to, even if those already in poverty can afford the expense of moving. Instead claimants, often parents, have been left with a desperate choice between paying their rent or feeding their children.
Yet Iain Duncan Smith has chosen to ignore not just the so-called experts in the charity sector, or the views of claimants themselves, but the DWP’s own evidence that his policies are not working. Even his obsession with work is shown to be bogus. Work is not the best way out of poverty if that work is low paid and insecure. Half the people who visit foodbanks have jobs. And yet instead of confronting this reality, Iain Duncan Smith’s only answer is to use yet more benefit cuts and in-work benefit sanctions to try and force people to get better paid jobs.
And yet these jobs no more exist than a stock of housing exists to provide all those hit by the Bedroom Tax with a home. All of these vicious policies have been based on a myth, a delusion that there is a well paying full-time job for everyone if only people would pull their finger out.
The shocking truth is that if every single vacancy in the UK was filled by someone unemployed tomorrow, there would still be two million people looking for work. And that figure doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of people who are sick, disabled, or single parents who the Government are now forcing to compete in the jobs market under the threat of benefits being stopped or sanctioned. Neither does it include the millions strong army of part-time workers, people on zero hour contracts, or in precarious self-employment, who are all to be forced to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’ when Universal Credit is introduced.
Iain Duncan Smith often seems too foolish or naive to realise that all his reforms are achieving is a cut-throat competition for low paid work that will only ever benefit employers. The most dangerous thing of all about the Work and Pension’s Secretary is that he genuinely seems to believe his own bullshit. And throughout it all he has been egged on by toffs like David Cameron and George Osborne who know all too well what the real game plan is – and that is the destruction of the living standards of not just those unable to work, but every worker in the UK. They are not interested in the slightest in child poverty figures or the number of people using foodbanks. They are all too happy to have a few million people destitute as a warning to everyone else of what might happen if you don’t work hard, do what your boss tells you and take a pay cut every time a company director wants a new Jaguar.
But whatever his intentions were, it is Iain Duncan Smith who has been the architect of this brutal regime. It is Iain Duncan Smith who insists that more of the same will fix the problems he is creating. One man’s arrogance has led to hundreds of thousands of hungry children in one of the richest countries in the world. So let’s point the finger. Those families are queuing outside foodbanks because of the actions of just one man. And that man is Iain Duncan Smith. Let his name be spat with venom throughout history as he is remembered as the callous fool who brought homelessness, poverty and hunger not seen in generations back to the UK.
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