Category Archives: Poverty

Bin British Gas: Put Power in Public Hands! Take Action On May 12th

british-gas-protestA mass demonstration outside the annual AGM of British Gas has been called by Fuel Poverty Action Group on May 12th. Whilst many people are unable to properly heat their homes, British Gas made £571m in profit  last year.

Just staying alive in the UK is becoming ever more expensive as rents, fuel and food prices soar.  A low paid job now barely covers even the most basics needed for survival, whilst the safety net of the benefits system is being ripped away.  None of this is necessary or unavoidable.  Tesco workers get shit wages, whilst we pay extortionate prices for food, so that share holders and directors can make huge profits.  Pensioners are freezing in their homes so that energy company bosses can enjoy lavish lifestyles.

Virtually every last scrap of cash that passes through our hands ends up lining the pockets of the same rich who smear us as scroungers if we need benefits to survive, even if we manage to find a job.  Most of the time we spend working is not to earn ourselves what we need but to increase the huge profits made by those at the top – money we never see.  And they use that money to buy houses and flats that they rent back to us at eye-watering prices.  Then the greedy cunts complain if they have to pay some tax on the money they’ve fleeced.  Yet every single penny spent by the government is to maintain the system that keeps them rich, and us poor.

It’s time to make them feel uncomfortable for a change by confronting them wherever they gather.  The British Gas AGM is as good a place as any to start.  Join Fuel Poverty Action Group and others from 1pm on May 12th outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London, SW1P 3EE.

For the latest details keep an eye on: http://fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/

Join and share the facebook page for the event and please tweet, blog and spread the word!

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Housing Crisis, What Housing Crisis? Says Homelessness Charity Boss Jeremy Swain

killing-with-kindnessAn astonishing post from the boss of one of London’s largest housing charities shows how those paid a small fortune to represent homeless people are completely out of touch with the reality that their so-called ‘service users’ face.

Jeremy Swain is the boss of Thames Reach, one of the largest providers of emergency and temporary accommodation for single homeless people in London and the South East.  Recently he attended a meeting with Unemployment Minister Esther McVey, along with other highly paid charity chief executives and civil servants.

In his write up of this cosy affair you might have thought that the boss of a charity which works with the homeless people would tear into the Minister about the bedroom tax, the benefit cap or the current brutal benefit sanctioning regime. Possibly he might have mentioned that Boris Johnson’s housing strategy for London contains virtually no provision for desperately needed social housing.  He might even have offered a vicious condemnation of the current appalling policies aimed at people sleeping on the streets which amount to little more than police harassment of those without a home.  Surely at least he would mention soaring rents which are currently making much of the South East unaffordable for people on low incomes, or changes to housing benefits which force people under 35 to try and find a room in a shared house rather than self-contained accommodation.

But instead of this Jeremy writes on the Inside Housing website* that he is  concerned that parts of the homelessness industry “doggedly refuses to acknowledge successes” or makes it an “an article of faith that these are the worst of times” which may even “lead us into unquestioningly believing this to be true”.   There is no mention at all of the vicious welfare reforms which have already taken place, or of the carnage that is yet to come.

The latest rough sleeping figures show a shocking 37% leap in the number of people on the streets since this Government weren’t elected.  Statutory homelessness, which in practice largely means homeless families, remains at a relentlessly high level, despite changes to the law which means families can now be fobbed off into the expensive and insecure private sector rather than qualifying for social housing.  Jeremy is right that the number of families in temporary accommodation has fallen slightly since the obscene highs that were seen at times under the Labour Government.  But really, so fucking what.  As the Bedroom Tax begins to bite, and Discretionary Housing Payments run dry then things are set to get much worse, possibly even than we can yet imagine.

For those on low incomes, who are often in insecure housing to begin with, a crisis is taking place, but not one that will ever affect Jeremy’s pay packet.  Benefits are being stopped or sanctioned for the most trivial of reasons.  Atos assessments are driving people into both desperate poverty and ongoing despair.  Plans to strip Disability Living Allowance from a fifth of disabled people will only make things far worse, as will further cuts to housing benefits which will now shrink on an annual basis.  And throughout this onslaught a hate-filled campaign has emanated from the DWP and Esther McVey herself which has led to the most marginalised groups – exactly the type of people Thames Reach work with – being abused in both the national press and the streets.

The sad truth is that at heart Jeremy Swain and Esther McVey are both committed to the idea that poverty is a personal failing rather than a structural consequence of a capitalist economy.  That’s why Swain has remained obsessed with making Special Brew or cider more expensive, rather than tackling the causes of why so many people are drinking themselves to death.  Just like Iain Duncan Smith, Swain believes making poor people even poorer is the only way to bring them into line.

This is why he was also happy to lend Thames Reach’s name to the Killing With Kindness campaign which re-emerged last year and warned “well meaning people” not to give money to beggars because they might spend it on drugs.  In a breath-takingly nasty move, this campaign was launched over the Christmas period.  Give the money to us instead said Thames Reach, so Jeremy Swain can continue stuffing vol-au-vents down his neck and sucking up to murderous monsters like Esther McVey.  There’s a good living to be made from homeless people for charity chief executives after all.  And no need to derail the gravy train, and risk those lucrative Government contracts, by telling DWP ministers what you really think of their vile behaviour.

*you need to register to read it, but it’s free.

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A Quarter of Children Living With Both Birth Parents In Unhappy Homes Says Government

Conservative Party Annual ConferenceJust under a quarter of children living with both birth parents are growing up in unhappy homes the DWP have admitted this week.

24% of parents who are bringing up a child born to both of them say that their relationship is unhappy according to figures from the new Family Stability indicator (pdf). 

This set of bonkers statistics has been created as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s attempt to prove that lone parents, step and non-traditional families are one of the causes of poverty and unhappiness. In an embarrassment for the Secretary of State, the numbers actually show that many traditional families are utterly miserable.

IDS ignored this part of the report in a gushing press release last week when he claimed that “A quarter of a million more children were living with both their birth parents in 2012 compared with 2011″.

This represents a rise of 2%, although  little can be drawn from the conclusions of the survey which took place before most of the DWP’s welfare reforms had been implemented.  This hasn’t stopped IDS taking the credit, despite the authors of the report warning that: “Caution is advised in drawing conclusions on trends in the data based on differences between the two years reported on”.

Taking the figures at face value however, one trend does appear to be emerging.  The number of children under 1 year old living with both birth parents has fallen by 6%.  Many of the recent changes to social security, in particular the Benefit Cap, may make staying together a financial impossibility for parents in the lowest income households.  Whilst Iain Duncan Smith is squandering millions producing daft surveys in an effort to confirm his personal prejudices, his policies are almost certain to force some families apart.

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Bare-faced Lies, Bluff and Bullshit Are All Iain Duncan Smith Has Left As Millions Suffer

IDSThe list goes on and on.  The Public Accounts Committee, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Office for National Statistics, the National Audit Office, the Archbishop of Westminster, even the Tory dominated Policy Exchange and coalition partners the Lib Dems, all of these people are wrong or lying said the increasingly bewildered Iain Duncan Smith in a rare appearance on the Sunday Politics this morning (starts at 13.20).

Much of the interview concentrated on the launch of Universal Credit, which has seen just a few thousand people start on the new benefit and tens of millions squandered due to bungled IT systems.  It is difficult to know for sure just how badly the launch of Universal Credit is going wrong, but IDS did admit that the new system will now not be fully in place until 2018.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith can bullshit his way out of awkward questions on the launch of Universal Credit – mainly because no-one, including him, knows what the fuck’s really going on behind the scenes – he quickly resorted to outright lies when asked about other benefit reforms.

The Work Programme is working according to the Secretary of State, despite the appalling performance figures which are getting steadily worse as time goes on*.  IDS then lied that the companies running the scheme don’t get paid until someone has been in work continuously for six months.  In truth providers receive an up front start fee for everyone who joins the Work Programme. Long term unemployment is falling he then claimed, yet the most recent figures from the ONS show that the number of people who have been out of work for over two years is up 9000 from a year earlier.  He then bluffed that the scheme was better than any programme run by the Labour Government, which would hardly be a ringing endorsement even if it were true, and it isn’t.

On the Bedroom Tax IDS pretended that he didn’t mean it when he hauled the family of a disabled child through the appeal courts in an effort to overturn a ruling on a spare bedroom.  Astonishingly he said he now agreed with the court decision that he spent our money appealing against.  He then claimed that the courts had backed the Government on all the decisions  relating to disabled adults facing the Bedroom Tax, completely ignoring a string of recent benefit tribunal decisions where local authorities lost bedroom tax cases.

On Housing Benefit overall, he lambasted the amount spent on the benefit under Labour whilst avoiding the stark fact that the number of people needing to claim for help with their rent hit an all time high last Summer.  The Housing Benefit bill will only get bigger as less people qualify for social housing under new rules, and even those who have them are forced into the private sector due to the Bedroom Tax.

When quizzed about Tory think-tank the Policy Exchange’s recent mild criticism of benefit sanctions, IDS claimed they’d  got their figures wrong.  In perhaps his most bare-faced lie, he blustered that people who have had benefits sanctioned can ‘immediately’ and ‘straight away’ get a payment from the Hardship Fund.  In truth most claimants have to wait 15 days before Hardship Payments are available (PDF – ref: 35300) and even then not everyone qualifies for this meagre support .  He then claimed the DWP had a billion pounds to support people facing benefit sanctions, including Crisis Loans.  He seems to have forgotten that he abolished Crisis Loans in April last year.

Finally IDS was asked about child poverty, which he repeatedly claimed was falling despite an enormous fucking graph behind his head which showed the exact opposite.  According to IDS this discrepancy is because the IFS, who produced the figures, measure poverty according to the “marginal income line” – in other words how much money someone has.  In future child poverty will be measured according to Iain Duncan Smith’s ever changing personal prejudices.  He says he will produce new figures showing that the number of poor children is actually falling just as soon as he can be bothered to make them up.

Iain Duncan Smith is now barely even pretending to tell the truth as his welfare reforms unravel in every direction.  It is a pitiful sight to watch, but the impact of his delusions are tragic.  People are dying because of Iain Duncan Smith.  Families are becoming homeless and children going hungry, whilst sick and disabled people are being driven to despair.  Rarely has one man’s arrogance caused so much suffering.  There is no more damning indictment of our so-called democracy then a dishonest and callous fool like Iain Duncan Smith being able to claw his way to power over millions of lives.

*the most recent Work Programme figures were sneaked out in the Christmas break and I didn’t have the time to cover them.  They showed that the steady decline in the number of successful job outcomes is continuing.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Support The Focus E15 Mothers Fighting For Their Children’s Future

focus-e15The appalling treatment of a group of homeless single mums at the hands of Newham Council shows beyond doubt that the modern Labour Party are no friends of the poor.

The young mothers are being evicted from the Focus E15 hostel in the Labour controlled borough after the Council announced plans to cut costs by closing the hostel.  This is the same council who recently spent an astonishing £111 million pounds on an office block complete with chandeliers costing almost £2000 each!

Despite this vast display of wealth, Newham Council has chosen to turn their backs on some of the borough’s poorest residents and has not even offered a council property to the mothers.  Instead they have been abandoned to the cut-throat private rental sector with the Council attempting to blackmail the mothers into accepting a private sector tenancy for just one year or facing no help with housing at all.

Eye-watering rents, along with vicious cuts to housing benefits, mean most of London is now unaffordable for low income households with children.  Grasping and out of control landlords demand huge sums of money up front to secure a tenancy, leaving finding a private sector rented property near impossible for Londoners on a low income.

The mothers rightly fear being socially cleansed from the capital as rents climb out of reach even in cheaper boroughs like Newham.  According to the website home.co.uk, the average rent for a two bedroom flat in Newham is £1,120 per calendar month.  The maximum available Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit) in Newham for a property that size is just £919.79 per month.

The mothers have launched a fierce fightback against this contemptible move by Newham Council, with a series of demonstrations, weekly info stalls and even an occupation of the council’s housing offices.  The Council’s response has been to ban journalists from public meetings and do everything they can to ignore the women’s demands.

The behaviour of Newham Council should shatter any lingering delusions that things will somehow be better if Labour manage to win the next election.  This is how Labour behave in power, attacking those with least whilst lining their own pockets at our expense.  Every child deserves a secure home to grow up in wherever they happen to be born.  The inspiring campaign by the E15 Focus Mums deserves huge support as they fight not just for homes for themselves but for all those who need them.

Only determined and sustained collective action can bring an end to the ongoing and vicious war on the poor being waged by all main political parties.  These young mothers, in one of the poorest areas of London, are showing the way, and we should all get behind them.

Please like and share the Focus E15 facebook page and visit often for the latest news on the campaign: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Focus-E15-Mothers/602860129757343

Read, sign and share the petition demanding the mother’s be given permanent social housing in London.

Visit Kate Belgrave’s blog for the latest coverage of the campaign and other stories highlighting the real and tragic impact of austerity on people’s lives.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Government Advisor Plots Two Tier NHS Waiting Lists For People In Work

billboard-poster-david-cameronA shocking proposal from a so-called expert at the Department of Health has suggested that people in work should be given priority for treatment in the NHS.

In a move which could hit pensioners, disabled people, lone parents and unemployed people, government advisor Dame Carol Black has said: “I personally think we should perhaps be more honest and debate more fully if we would prioritise such patients if it was a question of getting them back to work.” 

In other words if you are currently without a job, for any reason, then forget about accessing healthcare as you are pushed down to the bottom of NHS waiting lists.  Black’s comments even seem to suggest that the sicker you are, and the less likely to be able to go back to work, then the longer you might have to wait for NHS treatment.

Dame Carol Black made the comments – which were first reported on the Work, Savings and Benefits website – at the recent Health and Wellbeing 2014 conference.  She was joined at the conference by DWP chief medical adviser Dr Bill Gunnyeon who according to the website agreed that there is: “an issue about what priority we give to health related interventions for people of working age”.

Whilst these suggestions are a long way from becoming Government policy – yet – they offer a chilling vision of current thinking behind the scenes about the future of the NHS.  There is to be no humanity or compassion under neo-liberalism.  Stop making money for the bosses and fall out of the workplace and you might as well be dead as far as these scum are concerned.

HT: @anitabellows12

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Policy Exchange Plot Smart Cards And Doubling The Length of Some Benefit Sanctions

guy-miscampbell

Barely out of school, the Policy Exchange’s Guy Miscampbell has probably never done a real day’s work in his life.

In a humiliating blow to Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, even the Policy Exchange have condemned the current mass use of benefit sanctions, whilst predictably calling for an even harsher regime.

A report published this week by the Tory think tank, and authored by Guy Miscampbell*, proposes that claimants should be given ‘yellow cards’ the first time they have benefits sanctioned for a lower level offence.  This would mean a smart-card with benefit preloaded onto it which could be used to monitor and control claimant’s spending.  The Policy Exchange admit the technology does not really exist to achieve this, however they think it’s a jolly good idea all the same.  As well as this claimants should be forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday, not to look for work as you might think,  but as a means of “punishing non-compliant behaviour” – the real reason for benefit sanctions.

This will only apply to lower level sanctions, the ones you get for being late for a  meeting or not turning up to a Work Programme appointment you were never told about.  The length of these new ‘non-financial’ sanctions should be doubled according to the bonkers think-tank.  The shame alone of being given a ‘Yellow Card’ by the Jobcentre will turn unemployed people into compliant little bunnies endlessly carrying out irksome and pointless ‘work related activity’ as a condition of receiving meagre benefits.

This will not be enough however to deter “undeserving claimants” say the Policy Exchange who want to double the length of the financial sanctions which will be used should someone slip up again after being given a Yellow Card.  It is often the most marginalised claimants who receive multiple sanctions – those battling addiction, homeless people, people with physical or mental health conditions or those with low levels of literacy or who speak English as a second language.  These are the undeserving claimants who will face even greater impoverishment and harassment if the Policy Exchange get their way.

This report suggests that panic is setting in amongst the swivel-eyed right that the public may not support their war on the poor forever and therefore the DWP’s vicious welfare reforms may have to be spun in a different direction.  Buried beneath their fake concern however is a sanctions regime precision targeted at those likely to find it hardest to find a job and least likely to have much public sympathy for their plight.  Even the unworkable, and frankly fucking laughable Yellow Card system seems to be a cheap attempt to use public concern over the poverty to introduce some form of food-stamp style smart-card scheme into the benefits system.

It is significant though that for the first time the Policy Exchange feel the need to not only insist ‘conditionality’ in the benefit’s system is necessary, but to argue concessions should be made to ensure this view prevails.  It comes at a time when an increasing number of people are calling for all benefit sanctions to be stopped without exceptions.  This is the only way to ensure a fair and humane welfare state, one which doesn’t grind people into the ground if they become unemployed, sick or disabled, but provides dignity and a genuine chance for people to get their lives back on track.

*If this the Policy Exchange report reads like it was written by some pampered little sixth former without a clue how people live in the real world then that’s because it more or less was.  22 year old Guy Miscampbell (pictured) left Durham University with a second class degree in 2012.  After four months as an intern he finally become an employee at the Policy Exchange just over a year ago.  According to his linkedin page this is the only job he has ever had.  And now this chinless little Tarquin thinks he has the knowledge or experience to propose changes to social security that could potentially affect millions of people.

He’s on twitter @guymiscampbell.

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More Workfare, More Sanctions, Iain Duncan Smith’s Brutal and Barmy Plan To End Child Poverty

Iain-Duncan-Smith415The Government’s latest child poverty strategy is a blueprint for pushing already struggling single parents into financial destitution with benefit sanctions and workfare.

This year’s five reasons for child poverty are predictably unemployment, along with low levels of qualifications, single parent families, having more than three children and ill health.  Such is Iain Duncan Smith’s desperation to blame children being poor on anything other than not having enough money that this is his fourth re-definition of poverty in just three years.  Previous reasons for poverty, which included step-parents, mothers with mental health problems, being disabled, and of course drugs, no longer make the top five.

The main thrust of the latest strategy is to tackle what is repeatedly referred to as ‘worklessness’ – as if raising children requires no effort at all.  The measures to combat this great social ill – which can mean parents spending time raising their young children instead of working for Tesco – are unpaid work and benefit sanctions.

Lone parents are to face Jobcentre harassment from the time their child is three, with the possibility of mandatory training.  Parents of older children leaving the Work Programme will be sent on the same woefully misnamed ‘Help To Work’ scheme that single unemployed people are to face from April.  For many this will mean workfare, as they are forced to attend Community Work Placements.  Others will be forced to attend the Jobcentre everyday, where they will not doubt spend most of the day in a queue rather than actually looking for a job.

One slip, such as a missed meeting, or being late for ‘work related activity’,  will result in a benefit sanction – one of the real reasons why so many children are living in desperate poverty  Alongside these increased conditions for claiming benefits Iain Duncan Smith is still pretending that Universal Credit will not only happen (stop laughing) but will also magically lift 300,000 children out of poverty overnight.  Mostly this will be done by threatening part time and low paid workers with in-work benefits being stopped if they fail to spend every waking hour they aren’t at work looking for a better paid job.

There is barely anything in this child poverty strategy for children and parents themselves.  Plans to give free school meals to all infant school children had already been announced and simply represents one of increasingly meagre scraps thrown down from the top table to stop Nick Clegg crying at Cabinet Meetings.  Alongside some tinkering with utility bills – which will merely save a handful of families a few pence – other measures for destitute families include keeping down the cost of petrol and building more affordable homes – like the ones built in Stratford last year which charge £323 in rent a week for a two bedroom flat.

Measures to strengthen the minimum wage, also hinted at in the document, have already been torpedoed by the pitiful 3% increase announced this week.  At a time when prices of essentials such as food and fuel are still soaring, in-work benefits, such as Housing Benefits and Tax Credits, will still only rise by 1% this year, a move which the Government themselves admit will drive a further 200,000 children into poverty.  Every poor family will get a little bit poorer from April this year.

In a humiliating blow for Iain Duncan Smith, none of the measures in this strategy will actually mean anything.  The Secretary of State, along with the Lib Dems, had hoped to rewrite the rules by enshrining new definitions of child poverty as official targets.  George Osborne – who couldn’t give a fuck about hungry children but does seem to understand that the main reason for poverty is not having enough money – has recognised this for the bollocks it is and put the brakes on. This will be no relief to struggling parents as the Treasury draws up ever more vicious ways to cut the incomes of the poor.

The lowest income households are now trapped between the wild delusions of the messianic Work and Pensions Secretary and the cut-throat brutality of the Chancellor.  Osborne’s only interest is stealing enough money from the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich.  Iain Duncan Smith seems  convinced his backwards strategy to blame unemployment on unemployed people and poverty on the poor will magically create enough well paid jobs for everyone to do overnight.  Even the Bedroom Tax and the Benefit Cap – two of the most vicious cuts to social security – will help bring down child poverty according to this latest strategy. Businesses are also to be encouraged to offer more Work Experience places, as if forced unpaid work will somehow put food on the table.

It would be laughable if it weren’t real and you almost couldn’t make it up.  But the real tragedy is that Iain Duncan Smith is making things up, with little regard for either the evidence or the suffering he has already caused.  There will be more poor children because of Iain Duncan Smith, possibly up to a million more.  One man’s arrogance did this, and that must never be forgotten as the social costs of this onslaught resonate throughout future decades.

The strategy is now open to consultation and can be read at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/child-poverty-a-draft-strategy

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What The Fuck Does David Cameron Know About Poverty?

cameron-toffThere are few things more vile than listening to a man born into a multi-million pound fortune lecturing the rest of us about whether people are really poor or not.

David Cameron’s pathetic tirade about poverty this week – during which he accused one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church of lying about the extent of vicious cuts to social security – was exactly what might be expected from an aloof, out of touch Prime Minister who’s never had to do a real day’s work in his life.

Cameron claims that Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols’ statement that the safety net of the welfare state has disappeared for many people is ‘just not true’.  After all, David Cameron doesn’t know any poor people and life in Chipping Norton is simply spiffing.  He goes on to say how lucky those unable to find a job are to be entitled to just over £70 a week, less than he probably spends on lunch.

What Cameron doesn’t say is that due to the raft of vicious cuts to other benefits, much of that £70 is now likely to be eaten away by the Bedroom Tax, Housing Benefit shortfalls or Council Tax bills.  In some cases these expenses could almost cut that money in half, and after utility bills and even modest debts there could be nothing at all left for food.

For those on out of work sickness or disability benefits, the situation is little better.  The extra £30 a week is unlikely to go far, and the additional costs of living with an illness or disability will soon eat it up.  As rent and bills soar, and benefits are pegged to rise below the rate of inflation, the safety-net has indeed disappeared.  There might be just about enough to pay the landlord, the utility companies and depending where you live Council Tax, but not enough for an adequate diet.  As for money for haircuts, clothes, travel fares, phone calls and all the other vital expenses which enable someone to successfully look for work, not a chance.

Approaching a million benefit claims were sanctioned in just one year the DWP reported this week.  That means people going with nothing at all in some cases, or if they are lucky enough to qualify for Hardship Payments, around £40 a week.  Sanctions can now last up to three years.  The horrifying toll this takes on individuals has been well documented by charities, foodbanks and by thousands of claimants themselves online.  In a move of breath-taking cruelty, even these meagre payments are to be converted to loans under Universal Credit, trapping claimants in debt, potentially for years.

Benefits delays, which could mean waits of up to six months for some disability benefits, also leave people with nothing at all.  Once Crisis Loans provided a scant, but vital emergency service for those whose claims were held up, often due to DWP bungling.  These small loans, which were repayable and barely cost the tax payer a penny, were scrapped as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.  Short Term Benefit Advances are still available, but the DWP is doing everything it can to hide that fact from claimants.  If a claim is held up due to an honest mistake made by a claimant, then they now face a fine of £50 on top of their wait for benefits.

David Cameron was right about one thing in his spittle-flecked rant this week.  The changes to benefits are not about saving money.  Social Security spending is rising, and measures like the Bedroom Tax, Benefit Cap and the closure of the Independent Living Fund for the most severely disabled people are likely to cost the country far more in the long run.  The social costs of this onslaught, which is set to push millions more children into poverty, will be felt for generations.

Billions is being handed out to the private sector to bully and harass the poorest and in some cases the most vulnerable people in the country.  Whether by humiliating and constant health assessments or forcing people into unpaid work for hours on end, it is no longer enough for this Government just to make the poor destitute, they must be endlessly abused.  Those who had nothing to begin with are now the human sacrifices of austerity, designed to distract from the financial crimes of the rich.

The harder the odds are stacked against you, the harder this Government will kick you.  It is people with mental health conditions, severe illnesses or disabilities, struggling single parents, people battling addiction, those fleeing domestic violence or people who have grown up in care who are facing the full force of this Government’s war on the poor.

This is the twisted morality Cameron speaks of when he pretends he is doing all this to help the poor.  He knows there will never be enough jobs for everyone and that capitalism – and the huge profits made from it by the obscenely rich – depend on unemployment to keep wages down.   David Cameron believes the poor should be punished as a lesson to everyone else.  Work hard, take a pay cut  and do what your boss tells you, or it could be you being abused, impoverished and harassed.

It is the morality of the school bully and it is a contemptible.  David Cameron won the lottery on the day he was born.  Yet still him and his band of braying toffs steal away what little poor people have to survive on, and then tell them their hunger is all in their imagination.  It is the rich out of control and increasingly even some of the rich and powerful themselves are realising that.  But it will only be bloody class vengeance, not Bishops, which can hold these arrogant toffs to account for the suffering they have caused.

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Winning The Argument On Welfare Means Never Giving An Inch To The Likes Of Katie Hopkins

katie-hopkinsWith the constant stream of benefit bashing stories in the national press it is often easy to believe that the argument is over – the public no longer support a social security system and the poor are despised.

Yet this over-simplifies people’s attitudes towards social security which in truth are varied and complex.  The most recent British Societal Attitudes survey shows that support for the welfare state is strong – 81% of people believe it is the Government’s responsibility to provide housing for those who need it, whilst 59% say that unemployed people should be provided with a decent standard of living.

This seems to contrast sharply with the hate-fest on social media which has accompanied Channel 4′s recent poverty porn production Benefits Street.  But an analysis of 5000 tweets posted during the second episode of the series (which is well worth reading) reveals that the picture is far from one-sided.

Predictably the analysis found many of the tweets were jokes, often aimed at the people featured in the show.  Whilst these may seem politically charged, especially in context of the current war on the poor, they should not be seen as indicating any deeply held political views.  Unpleasant and sexist jokes about one of the character’s breasts  – which made up 2% of tweets – do not necessarily indicate hostility towards the system of social security.  Neither in truth do remarks about the participants being scruffy (4.9% of tweets).

The episode of Benefits Street under discussion featured a group of Romanian immigrants and unsurprisingly this was a hot topic of discussion on social media.  As the analysis points out, this seems to have been a crude attempt by the programme makers to set up an increasingly familiar narrative of hard working immigrants versus lazy Brits.  This is a handy comparison for the right, allowing them to not just to use it as an argument to clamp down on benefits, but also to introduce ever more draconian immigration laws.

6% of the tweets fell into this trap, which fails to recognise the bleak reality that there are plenty of people in Romania and elsewhere like Fungi – the long term alcoholic featured in the show.  They are generally not the types to trek across Europe looking for a job.

Only 26 tweets out of 5000 made throughout the programme were found to contain threats of violence towards the participants of Benefits Street – although there’s no doubt that tweets like those below are hard to forget or ignore:

benefits-street-tweet1benefits-street-tweets2benefits-street-tweets3Depressingly only 2.8% of tweets expressed any sympathy for the residents of Benefits Street, although this may be more to do with the way the programme was edited than anything else.  This fact was not lost on many posting on social media  – 9.7% of tweets were critical of the company behind the show, Love Productions.

An even larger number of people tweeted what the analysis calls ‘balancing statements’, meaning comments designed to point out the reality of life on benefits along with criticism of this Government’s welfare reforms.  A further 6.7% of tweets were hostile towards politicians, predominantly Tories and often referencing the MP’s expenses scandal.  2.8% of people mentioned the Royal Family, the UK’s biggest benefit scroungers, whilst 3.4% of tweets focused on tax avoidance.

benefits-street-tweetsgraphAs the graph shows, the reaction to Benefits Street was far more nuanced then an initial glance at twitter would suggest.  The problem is that it’s the offensive, nasty or threatening comments which leap out.  A bit like Katie Hopkins and Edwina Currie on Channel Five’s Big Benefits Row this week, those who shout the loudest, and say the most outrageous things, set the tone of the debate about social security.  But they are not the majority.  Far from it.

What we should learn from this is that attempting to appeal to the braying anti-benefits mob with watered down demands and tacit acknowledgements of their ‘point of view’ is the path to surrender.  Calling for an end to bad benefit sanctions only, or for watered down workfare, only strengthens the hand of those who wish to eradicate social security completely.  As the mainstream left creeps closer to the right, the right bounds further away, taunting the liberal apologists to keep up.

We should not concede an inch to swivel-eyed monsters like Katie Hopkins and Edwina Curry and there is no need to.  Few people would disagree with the arguments that underpin the case for social security – that no-one should go hungry in one of the richest countries in the world, that everyone deserves a home they can afford, that disabled people should have financial support to live independent lives, that every mother is a working mother and perhaps most crucially of all – that there are no fucking jobs anyway.

Those are the arguments that everyone interested in saving the welfare state must make, not only loudly, but with pride.  And this means questioning capitalism, which will never provide a job for everyone and at the very least asking what are we going to do about that (it’s probably a touch optimistic to expect Citizens Advice or Shelter to call for violent revolution …  yet).

As poverty not seen in generations begins to emerge in the UK, then it is only by going back to basics that we will win the argument.  Charities, trade unions and Labour Party activists who are too timid to do that should get out of the fucking way.  The argument about the future of social security is really only just getting started.  When people see the carnage in the wake of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms and the wider impact of austerity across Europe, then space will open up for radical demands.  It is happening already.  A compliant left, ever ready to compromise and sell out its values, will only prepare the ground for failure.  People are not stupid and they are not heartless, no matter how much this Government wishes they were.  And nobody really wants to be like Katie Hopkins.

Read the full analysis of the Benefits Streets tweets at: http://davidrobertshaw.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/the-great-british-hate-off/

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