In the case of sickness benefits, the rationale was simply that removing the means of support would ensure either that people’s conditions killed them off – or they would kill themselves in despair.
Recent reports have shown that benefit assessors are even asking those who have admitted suicidal thoughts why they haven’t gone through with the deed.
With young people, the cull has taken on an even more sinister aspect: Remove support from them and they’ll kill each other.
Cuts to the police mean there is no deterrent from law and order to stop frustration from boiling over into violence.
The cops can then investigate the crime and provide customers for the Tories’ new private prisons.
I was watching Doctor Who yesterday (April 15), and one line caught my ear – a statement that evil is very rare. Most people don’t do bad things because they are evil, but because they are hungry.
This may certainly be applied to young people in the age of austerity. They lash out because they are hungry, not because they are evil.
But the government that has imposed the conditions in which those young people are becoming hungry and unstable… Well. When was the last time you heard a Minister of the Crown complaining that he or she didn’t have enough to eat?
This Site has already – recently – demonstrated that austerity is not a necessary economic decision but an arbitrary political one.
Theresa May and her Conservative government are forcing youngsters into crime, not because they are evil – but because she is.
There is one enduring explanation for why things have been deteriorating among young people in particular in recent years: austerity.
In 2011, the government scrapped the education maintenance allowance, the £30 weekly grant to low-income students who are in school or college. Funding for the education of 16- to 19-year-olds fell by 14% in real terms between 2010 and 2014, leaving sixth-form colleges struggling for survival. Since 2010 there has been a £387m cut in youth services, and between 2012 and 2016 603 youth clubs were closed. In London, £28m has been slashed from youth services budgets in the last five years, leading to 36 youth centres in the capital closing. A starved NHS is unable to adequately provide mental health assistance to the young. The government now plans to cut funding to schools in urban areas.
Once the government has made the political choices that effectively produce a crisis, it then expects the police to establish order and calm over the instability. Only it’s cutting the police too. “We’re leading to a very serious conclusion regarding the potentially perilous state of policing,” said Zoë Billingham, Her Majesty’s inspector of constabulary, recently. “It’s a red flag that we’re raising at this stage. A large red flag.”
Few would make the claim that there is a direct, seamless, causal link between these cuts and the rise in violent crime. Government policy does not put a knife in a child’s hand and encourage them to use it. But any insistence on personal responsibility must be weighed against the collective responsibility societies assume when it comes to keeping children safe.
But as the cuts go deeper, leaving vulnerable people more desperate, the contextual connection is compelling. If you make it harder for young people to stay in education, harder for them to get treatment if they are mentally ill, harder for them to find safe and productive places to spend leisure time with each other and with adults who are trained to work with them, then we should not be surprised to see an increase in social problems among the young – including social violence in general and knife crime in particular.
Austerity has become such an established feature of our political economy that many are becoming blind to its ramifications. Keep tightening the belt by degrees for long enough and we forget why it is we are struggling to breathe.
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