The truth is that it doesn’t really matter anymore. The end result of his policies will be the same whichever is the case. A result as tragic as it was predictable, as poverty not seen in generations returns to the UK.
The recent case of Tim Salter, who committed suicide after benefits were stopped due to the brutal Atos assessment regime, is far from the first death directly linked to welfare reforms. At the end of last month two suicides linked to Atos assessments were reported in just one week. Also reported just before Christmas was the death of Denis Jones, a disabled former soldier who died alone five weeks after his benefits were stopped. Whilst his death was recorded as natural causes a close friends has revealed the horrific circumstances he had been living in, telling the Bolton News that:
“He was dependent upon income support and without it he couldn’t heat his home or pay his electricity bill. He became dependent on food parcels and the generosity of friends but he was crushed under the pressure of it all.”
It is not just the growing number of deaths linked to welfare reforms which gives a glimpse of the terrifying future many of the poorest now face. The use of foodbanks has rocketed over recent months, even prompting a parliamentary debate from the ever opportunistic Labour Party. But all of the main political parties, and the Lib Dems, are committed to the demolition of social security, they are merely quibbling about the details. This is why the largest cause of hunger in the UK – benefit sanctions which can leave people with no money at all for up to three years – have barely been mentioned by any politician. The reason for this is that Labour are every bit as committed to benefit sanctions as Iain Duncan Smith. They started it after all. Things will not magically and suddenly be alright if the Labour Party manage to win the next election.
The appalling truth is that the entire political class seems to have started believing everything they read in the Daily Mail. The lurid tales of benefit scroungers have been assumed to be a fair representation of the social security system instead of the warped delusions of the swivel-eyed right.
The impression has been given that welfare in the UK is so generous that vicious cuts can be made without anyone getting hurt. Politicians and right wing newspapers alike have created the fabrications that claimants are living in the lap of luxury, sick or disabled people are probably faking it and that there is a plentiful supply of jobs and cheap housing for those who choose to look. The reality – which is that those dependent on benefits were already living in desperate poverty even before the cuts – has been completely ignored in the savage chase to blame the poor for the economic crisis created by the rich.
Over the next year, as bungled welfare reforms take place in the most casual and haphazard manner possible, we are set to see the outcome of this manufactured contempt for the poor – and it really has only just begun. Many people are dependent on discretionary housing payments to meet the shortfall in their income due to the benefit cap or bedroom tax. These payments will run out soon. The number of benefit claims sanctioned is likely to soar even further as ever more ludicrous conditionality is invented to claim the pittance of Jobseekers Allowance. Reform of Disability Living Allowance, which will see around a fifth of disabled people lose benefits, has barely even begun. The Atos assessments will continue, and even those judged unable to work may still face workfare. Possibly hundreds of thousands of claimants face court action due to Council Tax benefit reform. Housing Benefit caps are fast making many cities completely unaffordable for the poor. And next April, as food prices, fuel bills, fares and rents continue to soar, all claimants, including many of the poorest pensioners, will face a real terms cut in benefits.
The only question that now remains is just how bad are things likely to get? How many people will lose their homes, how many thousands, or millions, of children will go hungry? How many more heartbreaking deaths will occur like the ones we heard about throughout December?
Iain Duncan Smith either doesn’t care or is truly deluded about the consequences of making the poorest even poorer. Despite talk of austerity, the rest of the cabinet seem to think that money falls from the sky, which it does if you happen to be George Osborne or David Cameron. No-one in this Government, and few in Parliament, seem to have any understanding that money actually runs out if you happen to be poor. To take away the last few pounds that someone needs to survive will not just make them hungry, desperate and depressed but could be a death sentence.
This inhumanity, in one of the richest countries in the world, must be brought to an immediate end. A massive escalation in the fight against all welfare reforms is the only way to achieve that.
If things seem bleak that’s because they are. But Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are as bodged as they are brutal. Without the connivance of charities, functioning welfare-to-work companies, employers, health and social security professionals, housing associations and local councils, all of his policies could turn to dust. There are many places to inflict pressure or just fuck shit up. Every weakness in this Government’s plans must be exploited to the full, and new vulnerabilities uncovered. And every time we find one we should be ramming a spanner in the works, until things start to break.
Stay strong next year, as healthy as you can, and most of all stay alive. Do not give these bastards what they want.
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