Today saw a rise in unemployment the first time in six months. A reminder, for those that may need it, that the worst is yet to come.
For the past six months the UK has been subject to a series of hard-hitting, front-loaded spending cuts. The reason for these cuts, the ConDemNation consistently like to remind us, is the huge deficit that the previous administration left behind. Does anyone really believe that any more? Recent opinion polls certainly suggest otherwise. With each and every “austerity measure” introduced by the ideological Tories and the pathetically submissive Liberal Democrats, the government is being shown up for what it really is- a group of wealthy self-interested individuals looking after their own type.
The purse strings are being pulled tighter and tighter, and guess who’s feeling the squeeze the hardest? I’ve give you a clue, it’s not the people who put us in this mess and it’s not the people who can afford to pay someone to find the loopholes in the tax system. It’s certainly not the property developers or the landlords who have made housing unaffordable. No, as usual – it’s the people at the bottom of the chain.
Most worryingly, and most sickeningly, there seems to be a targeted attack on the most vulnerable in society. Fuelled by the misleading propaganda published prior to the election, the DWP started as they mean to go on by ruthlessly attacking those claiming any form of benefit. The reassessment process for claimants of ESA is nothing short of deceitful. For those that are unaware, the reassessment form consists of a number of multiple choice questions, with a final option of providing an alternative answer. The answers provided are given scores from 0-15, but that isn’t the end of the story. To score enough points to continue to be eligible for ESA, clients must provide additional details but this is not stated as part of the procedure. This is a direct effect of employing a private company on a contract with payment heavily dependant on outcomes.
This past weekend I stared open mouthed at the television as I sat through a promotional video from the Liberal Democrats. Interestingly, I couldn’t find the video online anywhere. The video stated the Liberal Democrats’ “clear commitment ” to disabled people. This following on the heels of the announcement in the comprehensive spending review that the mobility aspect of the disability living allowance will be removed for people in state-funded care homes. This decision means that 60,000 of the most vulnerable people in society will be unable to perform everyday activities such as going shopping, visiting friends and family and enjoying the occasional day out. The cut is vicious and unnecessary and straight out of the Thatcher play book.
The number of people I have encountered recently through my work that are suffering both mentally and physically as a result of being forced to give up ESA and sign on for JSA is nothing short of frightening. Of course, in line with this our lovely government are significantly cutting mental health services that are already over-subscribed.
As I write this I am watching Newsnight and hearing that 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds are unemployed. The employer on the programme has stated that young people are unsure of how to apply for jobs and how to present themselves. Connexions was a great service providing those skills and that knowledge to young people, and guess what? Yes, you’ve guessed it. Funding was cut and now there is no specific support available for young people.
The delay in rolling out the new “all-singing, all-dancing” work programme is seriously restricting the services available to the unemployed. I can only presume that the ConDemNation are deliberately delaying the programme so that people are so relieved when it finally arrives that they will sign up gratefully for anything.
None of the austerity measures make sense. To recover from the recession the economy needs to be stimulated, yet the increase in unemployment, the rise in VAT, the cuts to benefits and the reduction of services will all affect the spending power of the public. The poorest will once again bare the brunt of the cuts and there is no movement on tackling the £15billion cost of tax avoidance each year (that’s 15 times more than the cost of benefit fraud and error in case you were unaware). Not that we should be surprised, of course. Our very own chancellor positively encourages tax avoidance while Tory peers are becoming quite the masters of it. But hey, we’re all in it together, right?
The effects of cuts to the public sector are starting to show as unemployment figures rise. The government continues to suggest that the private sector will replace the jobs, but with an under-stimulated economy and business not exactly booming in the high street, how do they suggest that the sector will fund these jobs?
A very clever manoeuvre by the ConDemNation has been to rename the Third Sector as the Community and Voluntary Sector. What’s so clever about that? Well, in doing so they have shifted the concept of social enterprise into the private sector. And with the talk of converting various departments of the NHS and other government bodies into social enterprises…. can you see where this is going? Though the jobs may be lost from the public sector, by aligning social enterprise with the private sector the jobs will in theory be “created” as the transition occurs. And let’s be frank – the Tory use of the term “social enterprise” itself is nothing less than an abuse.
Finally, the changes to social housing and housing benefit. In September it was reported that 82,000 families could be made homeless in London alone. You may say that £400 per week per property is a more than generous allowance and if I’m honest I would be tempted to agree. However, while demand exceeds supply, landlords will continue to charge extortionate rents. So surely the government will do the logical thing in this situation and increase the supply of available social housing, yes? Absolutely. And how have they gone about it? By announcing time-limited occupancies. Of course, the cost of social housing is increasing to 80% of private sector prices too. So, err… hang on a minute, wasn’t this previously called “affordable housing”? Let me just think this through:
More people moved out of social housing into the private rented sector = more demand
More demand = increased strain on supply
Demand exceeding supply = higher private rents
Social (“affordable”) housing linked to private rent = affordable housing becomes more expensive
Less affordable housing = increased homelessness
Increased homelessness = higher crime rate, increased strain on overworked mental health services, more cost to taxpayer
And this is without even considering the effects on families. With the cost of property at an all-time high and mortgages not as openly available as they were three years ago, the prospect of a life-long family home for those on modest incomes is all but gone. The cost of moving house every couple of years will also take its toll.
There is so much more that I could talk about – student fees, Big Society, LibDem lies… but that will have to wait for another day.
So far all we have seen is the selfish actions of a selfish government, hiding their Thatcherite ideology under a blanket of deceit. Sadly, the ruthlessness of the the ConDemNation shows no sign of slowing any time soon, and the most vulnerable will continue to suffer.