According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, 93 people needed hospital treatment for malnutrition in 2012, compared to just 30 in 2008. These tragic cases could represent the tip of the iceberg says Councillor Lisa Mulherin, warning that the number of hospital admissions: “tells us something about the changes to the welfare system, wage stagnation and the way fuel prices have gone up out of all proportion with people’s pay.”
A shocking 27,000 people across Leeds were estimated to be suffering from or at risk of clinical nutrition said health professionals in the city last year.
Appalling the situation is likely to become far worse as a wave of cuts to benefits begins to bite. The Bedroom Tax is just a few months old and 9000 households in Leeds are estimated to be affected. Changes to Council Tax Benefit mean claimants in the city will now have to pay a weekly sum out of their already meagre incomes. The re-assessment of people on sickness benefits is still far from complete and many people are still to face having benefits slashed due to being found ‘fit for work’. When reforms to Disability Living Allowance finally take hold around a fifth of disabled people are expected to lose this vital benefit.
The pain doesn’t even end there. George Osborne’s benefit uprating bill represents a real term cut in almost all benefits, pegging annual rises far below inflation at just 1%. The poorest people in the country are set to be made steadily poorer over the next few years. The rise in benefit claims being sanctioned for not meeting ever more draconian conditions for claiming out of work benefits is leading to horrific suffering, and the number of people affected is rising sharply.
A recent report by Citizens Advice found that 70% of claimants serving sanctions were forced to cut down on food, with some people reporting having to beg or go through bins to find something to eat. For those with health conditions the situation is even more acute. One person told Citizens Advice that during a sanction: “We couldn’t afford a meal each day so often didn’t eat for days on end. I suffer with hypoglycaemia and need to eat, so this left me with many black outs, confusion, incredibly weak and sick.”
According to callous Ministers in the DWP, this kind of desperate poverty will ‘incentivise’ people to find work. Yet even if the Government’s manufactured unemployment figures are taken at face value, the miniscule rise in jobs has not been seen across the whole of the UK and certainly not in many northern cities like Leeds. The number of unemployed people in Yorkshire rose by 4000 in the last three months.
Forcing unemployed people to the brink of starvation will not create a single job. Yet still Iain Duncan Smith tries to foist the blame for poverty and unemployment onto the poor and unemployed. Rarely has any modern Government shown such cruel indifference to the suffering of their poorest people. That this kind of state-inflicted poverty is happening in one of the richest countries in the world should be a global scandal.
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