Tag Archives: child poverty

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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Benefit Cap Based On Bare-Faced Lie

DWP statistics reveal that the benefit cap, set at £500 a week for families, was based on a bare-faced lie.

It has repeatedly been claimed that the cap – which was introduced in some parts of London earlier in the year and is now being rolled out across the UK –  was to ensure that no-one on benefits receives more than an equivalent family on the average wage.  This move echoed the Victorian principle of ‘less eligibility’, the idea used to justify the workhouse which insisted that the life of anybody out of work must be ‘less eligible’ – meaning more shit – than the life of the lowest paid labourer.

Yet just released DWP statistics on the average UK wage show that the benefit cap was set far below the average income for families.*

According to the DWP, the average income for a family with children is £670 a week.  This is made up of £600 in earnings with an additional income of £70 which presumably comes from Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits.

The Benefit Cap has been set at not far from £200 a week less than the average wage that Cameron talks of in the above tweet.  Which means David Cameron is a lying bastard.

Over 200,000 children now face homelessness due to this lie.

*In fact the cap is set below the amount a family with two working parents both on minimum wage would receive in most cases firmly establishing the principle of less eligibility.  A family with two children in which one parent works 35 hours a week and another 24, both on minimum wage and paying £250 in rent a week, would receive a joint income of around £612 a week made up of wages and in work benefits.

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Over 8000 Children Face Homelessness Due To Benefit Cap … And It’s Barely Even Begun

homeless kidsOver 8000 children are staring homelessness in the face this Summer due to the vicious benefit cap which punishes parents for the astronomical rents charged by landlords.

Recently released statistics show that 1,621 families in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Haringey and Enfield have had benefits cut by over £50 a week meaning homelessness is virtually inevitable.  A further thousand have lost up to £50 a week, which combined with other benefit changes means many of them will also also be unable to pay the rent.

Most of those having benefits capped are larger families and statistics show over 8000 children will be affected.  Families are likely to be forced into temporary, and often more expensive, accommodation to await relocation elsewhere in the UK.  According to the DWP themselves families are expected to head for the seaside towns in South East England or the Home Counties.  A recently released report by London Councils (PDF) warned that the previously introduced cap on Housing Benefits may be responsible for rent rises in outer London boroughs as the social cleansing of central London pushes up demand for rented properties to the outskirts.

The statistics were released in the week that it was revealed bungling DWP officials are spending £1.3 million a month administering the cap.  A rough analysis of the figures suggests it is saving about a million a month so far.  That saving alone is likely to be wiped out by the cost of temporarily housing these homeless families, without the social costs of these lives destroyed or the impact on local services wherever they eventually end up.

This Government is spending money to make children homeless.  Children who will not understand why they have to leave the house or flat they may have grown up in and move into a single room in a dismal B&B or hostel.  Why they have to leave not just school but friends, grandparents, and other family members.  Why they can no longer see a separated parent, or why mum cannot afford the astronomical public transport fares for them to maintain relationships with extended family members.  The impact of homelessness followed by relocation on these children will be devastating and remain with them for a lifetime.

Tragically these 8000 children are just the beginning.  The four boroughs in the pilot area already represent some of the cheapest rental areas in London.  Between now and October the cap is being introduced nationwide.  According to the Government 200,000 children are set to be affected.

Even then the cleansing of London and other Southern cities will continue as rents soar and Housing Benefit rises are pegged at 1%.  Women who find themselves pregnant at some point in the future will also be hit and face a choice between homelessness or abortion.

The Benefit Cap means the safety net of the welfare state has disappeared for families in London and the cost of that will be 200,000 childhoods destroyed.  As rents rise in other cities a similar exodus is likely to occur whilst for some very large families there will be nowhere cheap enough to go.

Whilst the Tories sing this brutal policy from the rooftops children will go hungry and homeless as the Government takes revenge on their so-called feckless parents.  And feckless means widows, disabled people, women fleeing domestic violence or parents unable to find a full time job that also allows them to also adequately care for young children or even new born babies.  These children do not know that they are benefit scrounging scum.  And when they see their mother’s crying as much loved family homes are abandoned they will not be able to comprehend the cruelty that has brought those tears.

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Iain Duncan Smith On Drugs Is Just Another Workfare Racket

george-osborne-cocaineIn a major embarrassment for the cocaine addled cabinet, hapless Iain Duncan Smith is set to turn his attention to drug users in his warped attempt to redefine child poverty.

Early last year it was mothers with mental health problems and disabled people who were to blame for child poverty, then it was step-parents and non-traditional families.  IDS is hoping it’s third time lucky with his latest definition and has resorted to blaming the old Tory scapegoat of drug users.  This is based on a DWP survey in which three quarters of people said that having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol was a ‘very important’ factor in child poverty.

This has led the bungling Secretary of State to declare that parental addiction is the reason so many children are poor in the UK.  IDS seems to think this is evidence based policy.  In fact the survey says he is doing little more than playing Family Fortunes with children’s lives.

Even his own figures don’t back up his wild claims.  In a speech to Kids Company this week, IDS stated that 100,000 people are “claiming sickness benefits whose illness is primarily down to their drug or alcohol addiction.”

Of these he blustered that a “staggering 23,000” have been on sickness benefits for a decade.  Which in a population of over 60,000,000, isn’t actually that many.

What the cringe-making old pub bore doesn’t mention is that an illness which is primarily down to drug or alcohol addiction could mean anything from late stage cirrhosis to hepatitis, HIV or diabetes.  Many people who misuse drugs and alcohol also have unrelated conditions, whilst a Dual Diagnosis – which means someone suffering from a mental health condition and misusing substances – is all too common.

IDS also fails to tell us how many of those 100,000 people actually have children.  All his figures suggest is that parental drug or alcohol abuse is clearly not the reason why millions of children are growing up in poverty.

Predictably the answer to this problem is more money for welfare-to-work companies.  IDS is launching two pilots – one to increase payments to Work Programme providers who find someone with a substance misuse problem a job for two years – and another to harness “the existing knowledge of treatment experts, in tandem with that of Work Programme providers.”

It is inevitable that workfare and benefit sanctions will be at the heart of any new schemes.  This is only likely to make a bad situation worse.  Parents with genuine substance misuse problems will be even more fearful to seek help from drug or alcohol charities and treatment providers.  Already many parents who use drugs are scared to ask for support due to the threat of Social Services intervention or even prosecution.  Now benefit sanctions are likely to be added to that list.

And no doubt endless cash will be wasted on people who have foolishly admitted to Work Programme contractors that they smoke the odd spliff at the weekend.  With enhanced payments on offer to grasping welfare-to-work companies, the incentive to declare as many people as possible ‘problem’ drug or alcohol users will be too lucrative to ignore.

And so a new Work Programme gravy train is born as poverty pimps and charities begin the furtive scramble for yet more tax payer’s cash.

And in the meantime families who are poor because they haven’t got any fucking money, which is what poor means, will be abandoned to food banks, loan sharks and hunger.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Iain Duncan Smith Plots China Style Family Planning Rules

Economically forced abortions or adoption could become the norm for low income families if Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to further slash benefits for larger families go ahead.

The latest crazy scheme, coming on top of the soon to be introduced benefits cap for families, is to stop additional benefits being paid when a family has more than two children.

In a garbled interview on the Today Programme this morning, the Work and Pensions Secretary appeared not to know how many families would be affected by these plans or whether the changes would save any money.  Instead the idea was presented as a moral crusade to stop the poor from breeding.

He failed to distinguish whether these new rules would apply to unemployed families, those on sickness or disability benefits, or those in work, but on low wages.  Under Universal Credit all those on any form of benefit are to face the same conditionality rules, unless all adults in a household are earning the equivalent of 35 hours at minimum wage.

Under the family planning policies in China  parents can be fined for having more than one child.  This has led to thousands of children abandoned to grow up in state institutions, soaring abortion rates and horrific child poverty.   The one child policy has been steadily watered down in China over the years, yet Iain Duncan Smith is now planning similar economic penalties for mothers who become pregnant in the UK.

Like so much of this Government’s attacks, it will be women and children themselves who will bear the brunt of these moralistic cost cutting measures.  Women who are widowed, divorced or separated will be forced into extreme poverty along with their children, should they happen to exceed the government approved family size.  Women who have an unplanned pregnancy will now be forced to choose between bringing a child up in poverty or abortion.  Those who have multiple births may be forced into choosing which of their babies to give away for adoption.

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans amount to a denial of nature.  In his tiny mind all pregnancies are meticulously planned and everybody lives in cosy two parent families whose circumstances never change.  As anyone in the real world knows, this kind of chocolate box existence is not the reality for many people.

It is unsurprising, if perverse that an old fashioned patriarch like Iain Duncan Smith should seek to destroy the lives of women and children first.  Don’t expect any chivalry from this dated old clown.

It will be children themselves who pay the highest price for these constant attacks on the families with least.  Children who are already growing up in poverty will see household incomes further slashed, if their impoverished parents are able to keep hold of a household.  Up to 50,000 families in London alone could be made homeless when the benefit cap is introduced next April.  But even this is not enough for Iain Duncan Smith.  Tough on babies, tough on the causes of babies appears to the new direction of this toff Government.

How Universal Credit Will Create A Latchkey Generation of Hungry Children

The Tory Government’s war on women is to escalate even further when Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal new welfare regime begins in 2014.

The new Universal Credit scheme will replace Child Tax Credits and Income Support for both working and non-working parents alike.  The scheme is intended to ‘make work pay’, however in reality few will be better off than they are under the current system.  Already Universal Credit, which was intended to simplify the benefits system, is mired in complexity and running both behind schedule and over budget.  The vast computer database behind the scheme was originally planned to be in place by 2013, however recent reports reveal that date has now been pushed back to mid 2014.

A generation of latchkey kids, living in unprecedented poverty, will be one of the consequences of the new regime which will treat parents with older children exactly the same way it treats those with no childcare responsibilities  at all.

Universal Credit is under-pinned by a ‘claimant commitment’ which means that claimants will find themselves at risk of benefit sanctions or workfare if they are unable to find work for 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.  Part time workers will be forced to leave work at the drop of a hat to attend interviews for full time work, whilst self-employed claimants will face in-work benefit cuts if they fail to earn enough money in any given month.

It will be the treatment of single and low earning parents which is perhaps one of the cruellest aspects of the draconian new measures which will see children punished for the perceived sins of their parents and parents punished should they put their children’s interests before those of the Jobcentre.

Single mums whose children are over the age of 13 will be expected to work up to 35 hours a week.  Under the new rules, they will also be expected to travel up to 90 minutes to and from work.  This will mean that a single parents in a 9 to 5 job could find themselves having to leave the house at 7.30 am and not return until half past six in the evening.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith talks of truancy being one of the defining factors in increasing child poverty, he intends to take young people’s parents away at precisely the time they need to be getting the kids up for school.

Some childcare support is available under the scheme, but for those on low incomes, forced to spend a fortune on fares to get to work and back, it will prove to be unaffordable.  Only 70% of childcare costs are to be met under the new regime.

Once again the toff Government reveal they know nothing of the lives of those on low income.  No doubt ministers will point to the hard working middle classes who commute into London and leave the kids with child minders to get to work.  What they won’t mention is that a season ticket for many commuters can cost well over £100 a week  It’s not laziness that stops minimum wage workers from travelling long distances to work.  It’s unaffordable rail prices that trap people in the area in which they live.

Single mums could be forced to abandon their children to take up work that barely covers transport and childcare costs.  If they refuse they will face sanctions.  If they refuse more than once they could find themselves facing sanctions for up to three years.

Jobcentre staff – or whoever replaces them in the new system, which is set to be ‘digital by default’  – are to be given some discretion is assessing what kind of work is suitable for parents.  Whilst travel time and costs may be a factor that can be considered, the current target based culture inflicted by managers on DWP staff mean there will be constant pressure on advisors to sanction claimants.  Already it is the most vulnerable who are at highest risk of sanctions.  Figures suggest that of the 10,000 sanctions handed out to sick and disabled people last year, almost half of those were aimed at people with a mental health condition.  The harsh reality is that vital benefits which put food in children’s bellies will be at the mercy of the whims of DWP management.

Sanctioning parent’s benefits on such a huge scale however will still be a new low for even the DWP.  Under the current system, out of work parents can be forced to attend ‘Work Focused Interviews’ once their children are in school.  Failure to attend these interviews can result in a sanction, however these are the only sanctions currently in place for parents.

This requirement is now to be extended to all those with a child over 1 year of age.  Once the child reaches school age then parents will be required to work during the hours whilst the child is at school.  When the child reaches 13 then the parents will be treated the same as any other childless claimant.

Parents will be subject to work related activity requirements, such as being sent on the Work Programme, or could be sent to carry out mandatory unpaid work  should Jobcentre staff decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  Parents will be expected to take any job offered immediately, and will also face sanctions for leaving a job, failing to attend workfare, or missing a back to work style interview with fraud ridden parasites like A4e.

Like now, those sanctioned will be able to make a claim for Hardship Payments.  However the ‘work related’ requirements will be carried over to Hardship Payment schemes, meaning even these can now be stripped leaving families with nothing at all to live on.  Even with these payments, the new rules state they will only be only be intended to meet immediate costs in relation to accommodation, heating, food and hygiene.  There is no mention of children’s clothes, toys, fares to school, household items and all of the endless other expenses that having kids can bring.

The nightmare scenario will see parents torn between providing adequate supervision and support for their children, or being sent to work from dusk till dawn 50 miles away for the meagre minimum wage.  Mums who cut down hours, or refuse full time work, perhaps because their teenage child is going through a rough time, will be stripped of benefits.  If they continue to refuse to abandon their children to the street, then they will not even qualify for Hardship Payments, meaning children going hungry and homelessness as rent goes unpaid.

Sanctioning parents on this scale is unprecedented in the history of the Welfare State and there has been little thought as to the consequences, both for the children affected and wider society.  A study carried out by the DWP themselves (PDF), based on the small number of parents sanctioned for not attending Work Focused Interviews makes for grim reading.  The report found that “the most common causes of a lone parent failing to attend (Work Focused Interviews) were centred on caring responsibilities, ill health and the customer simply forgetting.”

Despite the repeated slurs aimed at feckless  single parents the report found that: “there was no evidence of lone parents making an active decision to not
attend a Work Focused Interview.”

Perhaps of most concern is that the study found that those sanctioned had “demonstrated higher levels of ill health, both of themselves and of their children” and that a “greater prevalence of debt” was found amongst sanctioned parents.

Significantly the study also revealed:  “In response to the key research question of this project, this study has found that amongst the lone parents in this sample, the sanction regime has had negligible effects upon labour market behaviour.”

In other words sanctions don’t encourage parents to find work and simply increase the crippling financial pressures they already face.

Despite all this sanctions are to get longer, tougher and be extended to hundreds of thousands more claimants.  Hardship Payments are now to be recoverable, meaning that even once the sanction is over, benefit payments will continue to be reduced until they have been paid back.  With Hardship Payments covering soaring rents, this could leave some claimants thousands of pounds in debt to the Government, to add to the debts most of them already have.

It is not just single parents who will be affected by the ruthless new system.  Under the new rules, couple with children will both be expected to work up to 35 hours a week if they are only earning minimum wage.  Claimant conditionality for Universal Credit, which means the aforementioned workfare and sanctions regime, will only stop when both parents are earning minimum wage in full time jobs.  This grotesque economic discrimination will mean that if one partner earns twice the minimum wage then his partner can stay at home and look after the children without constant harassment from DWP busybodies.  However should one partner only earn minimum wage then the other will be expected to go out and work full time themselves.  The right for one parent to stay at home, whilst still in receipt of Universal Credit to top up family earning, will only be for those better off.  Once again this toff Government is punishing those simply because they are not able to earn a higher than minimum wage.

Whilst millions of parents are likely to be affected by the changes when Universal Credit is brought in, in practice it will be single mums, and mums in low income families, who will face the most insidious aspects of the scheme.  It will be their children who suffer the most hardship as lives and futures are devastated, all because of Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with forcing mothers into full time work.  It has already been admitted that Universal Credit probably won’t save any money.  It is simply an ideological attack, executed by rich men, on some of the most vulnerable and poorest families.

Swivel eyed right wingers have often claimed there is no real poverty in the UK because children don’t go hungry.  Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal and ignorant reforms will mean that in future crippling debt, hungry children, forced labour and teenagers left on their own devices to prowl the streets, will be enshrined in social legislation.

The draft regulation for Universal Credit have just been published and are open to consultation at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

Universal Credit, Self Employment and the Minimum Wage

Universal Credit’s Attack on Householders (and who really benefits)

How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit’s Attack On Volunteers

How Universal Credit Will Split Up Families

Poverty is Caused By The Rich Not The Poor

The Post Office is so crowded that the queue reaches out of the door.  All ages and all races stand patiently to await their turn with the harangued but always polite counter staff.  A couple of kids run in and out of the queue, playing harmlessly and drawing affectionate smiles from those waiting.

One man is holding up the queue, arguing furiously and desperately at the window.  His benefits haven’t arrived.  The clerk tries to explain patiently that it isn’t the Post Office’s fault, but he is more concerned with how he will eat that day.  Another older man, with his head half shaved, starts to emit a low tuneful moaning, as if praying to some imagined God.  As he grows progressively louder the prickles of annoyance can be felt amongst those around him.  This is not a place where people are afraid to speak up.  However since he is obviously not very well, his strange singing goes without comment.  There is a strong tolerance here amongst those of us who really are all in it together.

I’m relieved to see a smartly dressed woman, obviously on her lunch break, withdrawing six pounds in cash and then quickly leaving.  I’m glad I’m not the only one who has too little in the bank to use the cash point.  There is a strange kind of shame in standing in a queue for twenty minutes to take out the last couple of pounds in the bank.  It is relieved a little by not being the only one in that position.  The clerk doesn’t even raise an eyebrow as I ask for my three pounds.  I suppose it’s not uncommon.

In the supermarket immaculate young mums, more stylish in Primark and budget cosmetics than those from the leafy suburbs, push around Argos buggies as they check the price of every item of value food.  One woman is singing softly to her giggling toddler.  Almost everyone who passes them smiles at the happy little girl.  People chat at the check out.  There is no division between those serving and those being served.  The rain is a widespread source of disappointment.  That and the ever increasing prices.

The Big Issue seller, soaking wet as he is, wishes everyone a nice day as they leave the store.  Occasionally someone, who obviously doesn’t have much themselves, buys a copy.  Almost everyone returns his greeting.  Some people stop to stroke his dog.

Outside the charity shop are several bags of old clothes, left in the rain, which the store have so far failed to notice.  Already a small number of people cautiously begin examining the bags.  No-one pays them any heed as they sift through the now sodden clothing.

The Pound Shop is packed with people buying everything from boxes of cereal to  cheap shampoo.  I spot a toy I think my son might like, but on closer inspection, realise it would break like almost everything else they sell.  The shoppers in here are resourceful, examining every item in detail.  Some people in the queue have baskets piled high, others stand in line to purchase just a pack of baby wipes or box of cheap washing powder.

Just six months ago this soulless shop full of plastic tat was an indoor market.  The Council closed it quickly and ruthlessly, giving the stall holders barely any notice that their livelihoods were about to be destroyed.  Another piece of the community wrenched away to be replaced by corporate poverty pimps, staffing their shops with workfare and minimum wage casual jobs.

There’s a small crowd outside the Jobcentre, smoking and sharing cigarettes.  “There’s never any fucking jobs in there” says one disgruntled youth to his friend as he leaves.

Further down the road a young black boy has been stopped by police.  He barely looks sixteen.  He is obviously irritated, but stays calm.  I hang around outside the caf’, watching.  I’m not the only one.  People keep an eye on the police round here.  Everyone knows what they are like.

The pair of coppers is eventually joined by a van containing several more.  They don surgical gloves as they prepare to search the young boy in full view of the busy street.  He seems resigned to this.  It has no doubt happened many times before.  The boy stands defiantly as the men in uniform rifle his pockets and stick their hands down his trousers.  They find nothing.  He is sent on his way and the police fade away, laughing and joking amongst themselves.

I buy a cup of tea from the caf’, and sit outside to smoke even though it’s too cold really.  I’m so joined by two men, probably in their early fifties.   We talk about the football.  England managed a draw with France in the opening match of the European Cup.  This is roundly seen to be a good result, although there is no optimism about the tournament.  One of the guys starts winding up the Turkish Cafe owner who had been predicting a 3-1 victory to France.  The banter is good-natured, as the cafe owner concedes he lost a bet at the bookies on the result.  No-one mentions the Olympics, the Jubilee, or any of that crap.

One of the men leaves, with a bulging bag of clothes.  “I’ll get this started shall I?”, he says to the other.  I realise he is heading to the launderette next door and that they are sharing the machine.  At three and a half quid a time that makes a lot of sense.

There are problems around here for sure.  The main one being no-one’s got any money.There are a residual group of street drinkers, who look battered and twice the age they probably are.  No-one envies them.  Some of the kids round here can be a nightmare.  There is nowhere for them to go.  And there are villains, neglectful parents, drugs users and drug dealers, just like any corner of the UK.

But they are the minority.  There are few parents round here who would leave their eight year old child in the pub, forgotten in the haze of drink.  The drugs round here are no different to the ones that this country’s Prime Minister nearly got expelled for taking in the privileged corridors of Eton.  Unlike the Bullingdon boys of Oxford University, the vandal youth pay for their crimes with Community Service and prison, not platinum credit cards.

But there is more humanity and tolerance in this small part of London than the millionaires in Government could ever understand.  People with nothing look out for each other, speak to each other, care for each other and help each other in ways the grasping businessmen who sneer at the poor would consider completely alien.  Selfishness and greed are not virtues here.  Yet these are the people that odious government ministers blame for their own poverty, ignoring the fact that the thieves in the city have stolen the entire world.  Whether working for a pittance, or unemployed, whether single parents, disabled, unwell, or with poor mental health, people round here, and in thousands of other deprived areas of the country, survive despite the onslaught against the poor.

There is little round here that couldn’t be improved with more money.  The opposite is happening as libraries close, rents soar, wages stagnate and benefits are cut.  The very poorest pay everyday for the crimes of the rich.  Those who are in debt owe money to legal loan sharks, like the spiv who recently wrote a report advising the Government to make it easier to sack people.

The stream of lies that come from government – that the poor are poor because they are feckless or lazy – just reveals the cossetted world they were brought up in.  Their view of the very poorest is driven by poverty porn television shows or right wing tabloid newspapers rather than any direct experience of the people they would no doubt step over in the street.  They cut and cut and drive people further into homelessness, poverty and despair, but still we survive.

The poor are poor because the rich take more and more.  Greedy landlords push up rents whilst greedy bosses force down wages.   Unemployment and workfare is used to undermine the few improvements people have fought for.  Land is sold off to build yuppy flats no-one round here can afford, and supermarkets strangle the few remaining locally owned shops.  Whilst pensioners freeze in their homes and worry about surviving the winter, energy company bosses and hedge fund managers fly around in private jets paid for by profit stolen from those with almost nothing.  Sick and disabled people, many of whom may have worked hard for years, see benefits they were promised and had paid for, slashed to fund tax cuts for millionaires.  It was bankers, not benefit claimants, who broke the economy.

The ferocity of our children’s anger, as flawed and often tragic as it was, has already been displayed.  That rage is not confined to just the young.  Every pale faced shyster in Saville Row suit who lectures us about our lives from their suburban mansions only fuels the fire.  As the hundreds of thousands with nothing left to lose turn into millions, that rage may yet come to the front doors of the pampered elite.  One day we will take this world back.