A letter written by Scottish Ministers to Iain Duncan Smith reveals one of the often overlooked consequences of the savage cuts to social security.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Alex Neil claim that the brutally flawed Work Capability Assessment used to determine eligibility for sickness and disability benefits is creating a “workload problem” for GPs. This follows a recent letter signed by over 25 doctors and health professionals warning that the process is not only “cruel” but has also led to “significant adverse events such as self-harm and suicides which many of us have witnessed”.
It will not just be the NHS which begins to creak under the strain of welfare reforms, as millions of people are driven into destitution and a benefits regime which is increasingly designed to punish the poor. As pointed out yesterday, when Universal Credit is fully introduced, parents of teenagers may find themselves expected to work, or attend workfare for many of the hours their children are not in school. Leaving possibly hundreds of thousands of teenagers to wander the streets could create an explosion of anti-social behaviour, bullying and crime. Benefit sanctions, as one leading homelessness charity has already warned, could lead to people being forced to beg and steal to survive.
The impact on policing, courts and prisons could be astronomical as parents are no longer permitted to care for their children and are sent on workfare instead. The cost to the communities we live in, and to those children themselves, can not even begin to be measured.
Street homelessness is rising sharply, and the bedroom tax, benefit cap and housing benefit cuts can only add to that. A think tank recently warned that one in four children will be living in poverty by 2020 as a direct result of changes to benefits. Iain Duncan Smith’s crass attempts to redefine poverty as a personal failing rather than an economic disaster will not change the consequences of creating a society in which a quarter of young people are near destitute.
One of architects of welfare reform, Chris Grayling, once alleged that an area of Manchester was akin to the fictional representation of Baltimore in the television series The Wire. Baltimore has a horrifically high murder rate and the show depicts a flourishing drugs trade which all to often fills the vacuum in the absence of socialised protection for the poorest. Grayling couldn’t have been more wrong about Manchester, yet this Government seem intent on making that absurd comparison come true.
The UK did not have an overly generous welfare system despite the claims made by all three political parties. The main reason the social security system became so complicated is years of thinly designed cuts, bodges, anti-fraud initiatives and endless schemes aimed at trying to cure people of unemployment. The reason the social security is so expensive is largely down to the astronomical costs involved simply in keeping a roof over your head in the UK.
The last Tory Government launched an all out assault on social housing – with the end result being soaring private sector rents and a rocketing housing benefit bill. Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless experiment with welfare goes far beyond what even Thatcher would have dared suggest.
Those on benefits, whether in or out of work are now seeing their incomes decimated, and it’s only going to get worse. No-one can truly know the social consequences of the changes that are taking place, which are all too often hidden under the cover of relentless propaganda claiming that the poorest people in the country are secretly living it up at the tax payers expense.
In truth this country already had poverty that should shame any nation as rich as the UK even before these changes to social security. But even that may pail into insignificance compared to what is to come. One thing is surely beyond doubt however. Whatever is left of society after these reforms are fully implemented, it will be expensive for all of us.
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