BROKEN CLOCK BRITAIN

poorWhen Iain Duncan Smith walked out of the Cabinet last year, his resignation letter seemed to confirm the suspicions many of us had long held regarding the old-school-tie cabal of Cameron and Osborne and the contempt with which they viewed outsiders – i.e. the majority of people in this country. But let us not attribute an abundance of heroic honesty to IDS; after all, he knew the EU Referendum was imminent and was already positioning himself towards his role in the campaign. Moreover, his post as Benefits Tsar in the Coalition had seen him inflict appallingly punitive punishments on those in society least capable of standing up to the regime he represented.

After justifiably carrying the can for a relentlessly visceral assault on the sick and the poor, IDS realised the shit that was poised to rain down on him following Osborne’s latest proposals to crush the same demographic and headed for the exit door before he could receive the blame for it. However, within a few months, Dave had fallen on his sword, Gideon had been banished to the backbenches, and Theresa May had moved into No.10, promising a Government that would cater for everybody with a compassion sorely absent from the administration of her predecessor.

The man who inherited the old IDS role in May’s team was Damian Green, which was something of an unenviable task considering how tarnished the job of Work and Pensions Secretary had become in the wake of the whole Atos affair. But despite an apparently promising start in which he appeared willing to address some of the worst crimes committed in the name of Austerity re the disabled, Green has reverted to Tory type by burying bad news when nobody was looking.

With Parliamentary business last week dominated by the ongoing Whitehall Farce between the Commons and the Lords on the subject of the Brexit Bill, Green sneaked through one of Gideon’s discredited proposals late Friday afternoon while the House wasn’t sitting; the proposal in question was the move to axe Housing Benefit for unemployed 18-21 year-olds, something initially unveiled in Osborne’s 2015 Budget and subsequently shelved due to vociferous opposition. How ingenious of the current Work and Pensions Secretary to announce this not in a grandstand press conference, but at a moment when he knew media attention was focused elsewhere in Westminster. Although the plan will be debated by MPs, the nature of the way in which the news was placed back on the agenda speaks volumes.

An estimated 11,000 under-22 year-olds will be affected by the move if it becomes official Government policy, no longer eligible for assistance with their rent should they require it. For all the Prime Minister’s hollow words about ‘a country that works for everyone’, this is a throwback to the worst elitist elements of the brief all-Conservative Cameron Government, whose appetite for reserving the sharpest edges of its scythe for those residing on the bottom rung of society’s ladder was no longer restricted by the Lib Dems. Not only does it have the potential to increase rather than reduce the plague of homelessness among the young, but it makes a mockery of any promised Government initiatives to tackle the problem.

As a pre-emptive strike, the DWP claims there will be exemptions to the new rules proposed – such as youngsters who cannot live in the family home due to the threat of domestic abuse, those with children, or those working at Minimum Wage level for at least 16 hours – but housing and homeless charities like Crisis and Shelter have condemned the move and labelled the exemptions inadequate, as has the National Landlords Association. Shadow Housing Minister John Healey says those targeted are ‘young people (who) are old enough to fight for their country, but in Theresa May’s Britain not old enough to get the same help with housing costs as everyone else.’

Yet again, it seems the coordinated demonisation of those who don’t slot into a favoured demographic such as the so-called ‘Jams’ is afoot, with a revival of that old chestnut, ‘preventing a life on benefits’ being tossed back into the ring as justification for the policy. It merely reinforces a lazy stereotype that fails to acknowledge the reality of needing a little leg-up in that tricky transitional phase between leaving home and making it on your own if you can’t raise a loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad. Few can afford to buy a house now, but this move even rules out renting.

Another exemption promised concerns any 18-21 year-old lucky enough to have been working six months prior to claiming Housing Benefit. Considering even the most soul-destroying of what are laughably called ‘careers’ – call-centre work, for example – are inundated with hundreds of applications from degree-heavy hopefuls when one poxy position becomes available, the likelihood of a youngster having found a job before applying for Housing Benefit is extremely limited, which is (of course) the point.

‘Vulnerable people will continue to be protected’ is the DWP’s response to criticism, but the phrase ‘will continue to be protected’ is troubling; it implies the DWP has already been protecting the vulnerable, which is debatable; and what does it define as protection – providing a sleeping-blanket for shop doorways during the winter months? And is not a jobless and potentially homeless teenager confronted by the consumer society and all its unattainable riches vulnerable? If so, this latest change to the benefits system will offer precious little protection to that particular class of the vulnerable.

Once more we are witness to the unnecessary punishment of individuals, each with their own unique set of circumstances, who are not in a position to fight their corner. The pavement and the food-bank – is that the legacy of the twenty-first century? Discarding so many members of society at such a young age is a short-sighted recipe for future disaster; today’s books may be balanced, but there seems to be little thought being given to tomorrow’s.

© The Editor

https://www.epubli.co.uk/shop/buch/48495#beschreibung

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16 thoughts on “BROKEN CLOCK BRITAIN

  1. “The measure of a civilisation is how it treats its weakest members.”
    “A society will be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

    These quotations, in various paraphrasings, have been attributed to everyone from Ghandi to Churchill, to Harry S Truman to Nelson Mandela! Needless to say they are claimed by most decent thinking people from right across the whole political spectrum. One quote along these lines that I can vouch for historically is the following.

    “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

    Hubert Humphrey. US Vice President 1965-69.

    As for the use of the term “Jams” in modern parlance, well, let’s just say that I prefer… “Old School!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. OK thanks. Unfortunately, as there is no credible parliamentary opposition at the moment, the Tories will be able to get away with whatever they want. So any punitive legislation that they introduce will end up associated with Brexit, even though it would have been pushed through anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like to think, perhaps naively, that every government, even an ‘evil Tory cutting’ one, accepts the principle of supporting the genuinely vulnerable and needy, just as we all do personally.
    Trouble is, in order to limit accusations of varying interpretations from different officials in different places, it is now considered necessary to operate a rigid ‘rule book’, and therein lies the problem. Discretion is dangerous, so must be avoided.
    Once you try to write a set of rigid rules, you soon discover that it is not possible to encompass every conceivable set of circumstances so, with every rule-change, some cases will fall through the cracks. (I learned this decades ago when designing computer systems for huge corporates – when you’ve got 10 million customers, you can’t possibly accommodate every circumstance or event, only a fool believes he can).
    When you combine this with a government intent on limiting its expenditure wherever possible, a broadly incompetent civil service and a range of family situations which grows wider every year, then the likely volume to fall through the benefits cracks becomes ever greater.
    This is no comfort for those who suffer in any change or any excuse for those who let it happen, but it’s the real world we’ve got to live in. It’s not perfect, never will be, but it could be a helluva lot worse, and in most other countries it certainly is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the inflexibility of those who apply the rigid rules, I suppose, that cuts across so many areas of society now, whether government minister or Little Hitler who’s just been promoted in the workplace. Common sense seems to have been eradicated completely in many cases, drilled out by the training regime; but I wouldn’t imagine the 18-21 year-old offspring of many government ministers will be worried about a roof over their heads. Oxford and Cambridge are quite comfortable, or so I hear.

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  3. 1. “I like to think, perhaps naively, that every government, even an ‘evil Tory cutting’ one, accepts the principle of supporting the genuinely vulnerable and needy, just as we all do personally.”

    2. “This is no comfort for those who suffer in any change or any excuse for those who let it happen, but it’s the real world we’ve got to live in. It’s not perfect, never will be, but it could be a helluva lot worse.”

    A more perfect example of Orwellian “Doublethink” would be hard to find. “The ability to hold two completely contradictory thoughts simultaneously while believing both of them to be true.” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t accept that they are completely contradictory, rather representing realities of the situation in which both governments and individuals find themselves.
      The perfect system eludes every time, largely because it’s not a perfect world.
      If any two of us were to evaluate the situation of one individual, I’m certain that we’d reach different conclusions and benefit recommendations, none of them wholly right or wholly wrong – extrapolate that across a population and it’s no surprise that ‘the system’ can always be shown to display inadequacies.
      The challenge for any critic is to propose a better overall solution – a challenge which normally results in either silence or a plan to revisit the Magic Money-Tree, that remarkable feat of nature which some believe grows secretly in the back-yard of the Treasury, whoever is in power.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “The challenge for any critic is to propose a better overall solution – a challenge which normally results in either silence or a plan to revisit the Magic Money-Tree, that remarkable feat of nature which some believe grows secretly in the back-yard of the Treasury, whoever is in power.”

        While it’s true that there is no Magic Money-Tree, I fail to see the necessity for austerity in the UK, which in spite of recession, bank failures, etc, never lost its credit rating during the recent financial crisis. Unless the austerity is really a long-term ideological right wing agenda with more ideology than rationale.

        It’s different in my country, the ROI. There was a need for some level of austerity. The banks fucked up, “people went mad borrowing”, as Enda Kenny put it (Kenny was blasted for these comments, but he was dead right in my view, and I’m ordinarily no fan of his – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ0ESSfO-FE ). Our credit rating was on the verge of junk status, we couldn’t refinance our government debt, so there had to be an IMF/EU/ECB ‘bailout’. But the UK was not in that situation (in the 1970s, yes, but not in the recent crisis).

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  4. “Considering even the most soul-destroying of what are laughably called ‘careers’ – call-centre work, for example – are inundated with hundreds of applications from degree-heavy hopefuls when one poxy position becomes available, the likelihood of a youngster having found a job before applying for Housing Benefit is extremely limited, which is (of course) the point.”

    Agreed, it’s a scandal. And from what I’ve read call centre jobs aren’t even the worst of them, working conditions in call centres are relatively humane compared to those pertaining in Amazon distribution warehouses.

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/aug/18/amazon-regime-making-british-staff-physically-and-mentally-ill-says-union

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As a wiser man than myself once put it.

    “Above all things, good policy is to be used that the treasure and moneys in a state be not gathered into few hands. For otherwise a state may have a great stock, and yet starve. Money is like manure, unwholesome when heaped up and of no good use except it be spread.”

    Sir Francis Bacon. 1561-1626. Philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, and author. Attorney General and Lord High Chancellor of England. Often cited as the father of empiricism and of the scientific method.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ^ wise words indeed, and a close second to my personal favourite quote on economics:

      “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

      ― Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

      Liked by 1 person

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