Food bank queue: The Conservative Party will only increase the number of people forced to seek help from charities like the Trussell Trust. The only answer is a change of government.
Food bank charity the Trussell Trust has published research showing how the Conservative government has pushed people into extreme poverty, when it should have been helping them avoid it.
It states that the Tory benefit system, ill health, and a lack of support from local authorities are the three main causes of hunger and destitution in the UK.
Tory cuts to benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, being sanctioned, and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit are cited as key problems with benefits – all are due to Conservative cruelty.
Not only that, but almost three-quarters of people at food banks have a health issue, or live with someone who does. This is the Tory obsession with persecuting people who have long-term illnesses and/or disabilities. I have often compared it with the Nazi eugenics programme to rid society of “useless eaters”.
The report, State of Hunger 2019, says foodbank users are left with an average of £50 a week to buy food and pay vital household bills after housing costs.
It reveals that almost one in five households have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred to a food bank.
The research shows that 94% of people at food banks are destitute, almost three-quarters of people at food banks live in households affected by ill-health or disability, 22% of food bank users are single parents – compared to 5% in the UK population – and more than three-quarters are in rent arrears.
Most people referred to Trussell Trust food banks are in receipt of some form of social security payment, with many being in-work and dependent on benefits, tax credits or Universal Credit to top-up low wages. So much for the Tory claim that work is the best way out of poverty!
Not only that, but the report states: “More than half of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression the most common.
“A quarter of people live in households where someone has a long-term physical condition; one in six has a physical disability; and one in 10 has a learning disability, or live with someone who does.”
The report adds: “Ill health often increases living costs and may be a barrier to doing paid work.” Isn’t that precisely the point?
The charity has called on the UK Government to end the minimum five-week-wait for Universal Credit, ensure that benefit payments cover the “true cost of living”, and provide increased and ring-fenced funding for councils to allow them to provide local crisis support.
I would go further: we need a change of government. The Conservatives will never willingly stop persecuting the poor, the sick and the disabled; they love it too much. The only solution is to rid the UK of their tyranny.
You can read more about the report in thisWelfare Weekly article.
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Good riddance: Tony Blair (pictured on his return from his final Prime Minister’s Questions on June 27, 2007) tried to marry left-wing social policy with neoliberal economics. This ‘Third Way’ failed when the right-wing economies of the western world fell apart in 2007-8 [Image: Telegraph].
Here’s a lunatic for you: Janet Daley, writing in the Telegraph.
By now, most of you are probably sighing wistfully and murmuring “If only” at your screens. We all know it isn’t true but there’s an ideological agenda at work here – this Daley woman (a former Philosophy lecturer, if you can countenance such a background for such a person) needs to undermine Labour’s credibility. “After all the progress we appeared to be making towards a mature national discourse, we find ourselves back in the pubescent stage of political debate that brought the country to a standstill a generation ago,” she writes. Not unless her own politics drags us back there!
Unfortunately for her, she makes a proper pig’s ear of it. “Once again, we have a centrist government,” she claims. No, no we don’t. We have the most right-wing government any of us can remember. If that is her starting premise, this article can only go downhill – like an avalanche.
“Once again, those who govern are trying to find sensible solutions to the most important problems of the day – now it is welfare dependency and the delivery of public services, back then it was trades union law.” Those are not the most important problems of the day. The most important problems are income inequality and the rebalancing of the economy away from reliance on the financial sector that has let us down.
Welfare dependency only became an issue because the right-wing (Tory) government of Margaret Thatcher demanded it. As has by now been well-documented here and elsewhere, she was desperate to end the security afforded to the working class by full employment – it meant employees could demand higher wages from bosses who were greedily desperate to keep their profits for themselves. So she deliberately maimed British industry, creating a huge surge in unemployment (such that she had to hide the full extent of unemployment by putting many claimants on Incapacity Benefit instead). Her anti-union laws then made it increasingly difficult for workers’ representatives to negotiate meaningful wage settlements. Put together, these moves allowed executives to depress wages – but meant full employment could never happen again under a Conservative government.
(The current Tories are paying lip-service to it at the moment, but if you think zero-hours contracts, part-time and temporary work, and a surge in the self-employed sector that claims tax credits is full employment, you’re deluded.)
The Tory concern with delivering public services is easily addressed: They want to privatise everything and make the public pay through the nose, as individuals, for services they could previously receive for an equitable price by paying collectively.
You see, it’s all about greed with the Tories. They want more – you pay for it.
It seems Ms Daley has guessed that she might receive criticism for her suggestions, so she states, without a hint of humour: “Their efforts to talk sense – even to argue sensibly – are being bombarded by a cacophony of hysterical inanities from the ideological Left, some of it purely self-serving and the rest of it grotesquely naïve.”
How droll. We move on.
She tells us about “Tony Blair’s forcible remodelling of the Labour message to acknowledge the popular longing for aspiration and self-determination” as if she meant it. Tony Blair was a Third Way politician – he believed in left-wing social policies and right-wing, neoliberal economics. But right-wing economics failed spectacularly in 2007-8 when the banks – deregulated by Margaret Thatcher – proved they could not act responsibly on their own.
She suggests “the vindictive way it has been stamped out by the present-day Labour leadership” but can anybody see what she means by this?
Aspiration and self-determination have been brutally stamped out by the current Coalition government, with its homicidal policies to drive people away from its new social insecurity system and the previously-mentioned zero-hours, part-time, and temporary employment contracts that ensure employees have no chance of progression in their (short-term) jobs. There is more opportunity for aspiration and self-determination in remodelling businesses away from the corporate structure and into the form of worker-owned co-operatives, a long-cherished left-wing model of employment. But try getting that past a neoliberal executive!
Ms Daley’s article makes passing derogatory reference to the fall of Communism but in fact right-wing, neoliberal politics most closely resembles tribal Communism of the kind that was practised in the former Soviet Union, with the workers slaving for a pittance while the benefits are shared among the ruling class – who use state resources to support their corrupt regime. Does that seem familiar to you?
Ms Daley puts forward the belief that Bill Clinton was right to limit the amount of time anyone in the USA could claim state benefits, clearly indicating that this should be the next step for the Tories, here in the UK. “This precipitated an economic boom by pushing those forced off welfare into employment,” she gushes. Perhaps she hasn’t noticed the big question of the last week: A huge number of people have been forced off UK state benefits, and nobody knows where they are. They don’t have jobs because the jobs weren’t there for them. If there had been jobs for them, they would not have been forced off-benefit in the first place.
Then she gets her claws into Ed Miliband and Ed Balls: “Any rational discussion of the future of health care has become out of the question,” she says. Indeed – because the Conservative Party is hell-bent on selling it off, no matter how irrational this has been proved to be.
“Taxation is not necessary simply to raise funds to cover essential government functions, but to punish the undeserving whose social crime is to be more successful (or to have lived too long in a house that has rocketed in value) than many others,” she crows. No, it isn’t. Under Labour, taxation would cover government functions – it’s simply that those with the ability to pay would have to do so, rather than relying on the poor to do it for them.
The Mansion Tax should be seen in the context of the times: If the neoliberal right had been less keen on corruptly lining their own pockets and more keen on actually improving prosperity for all, there would be no need to find such ways of restoring the balance.
She moves on to poverty, claiming: “Scarcely anyone believes now that absolute poverty – the hunger and squalor that a significant proportion of Britons suffered within living memory – is a national problem. Food banks may have sprung into existence, but they are used largely as stop-gaps when benefit payments are delayed. Poverty is understood (even by its activists) to be relative. There is a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple social problems that produce real disadvantage: drug and alcohol dependency, broken families and, of course, welfare dependency.” By whom?
A significant proportion of Brits are suffering hunger and squalor now. That is why a significant proportion of Brits are being forced to suicide now – and why the DWP is doing all it can to cover up that fact now. Otherwise, why hide the number of ESA claimant deaths? Why shroud in secrecy the findings of investigations into claimant suicides?
Her discussion of food banks is astonishing – but should be best left to food bank organisers like the Trussell Trust to combat.
Finally, she moves to her claim that people are trapped by the benefits system. This whole article, it seems, is about defending Iain Duncan Smith! “So long as government was paying people to be poor, and penalising them for working through the tax system, the problem of relative poverty would never be cured.”
But that is a practice created by the Thatcher government and continued now – in fact, Duncan Smith’s DWP pushes benefit claimants right into the dirt with its punitive (and, some are now claiming, fraudulent) demands. Benefit claimants are now more helpless than ever. Their only real escape from the torment forced on them by a greedy government under the command of grasping industrialists is to drop out of the system altogether.
This article – together with its author – is a travesty; it is the incoherent, defending the inexcusable.
Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.
Ed Miliband engaged in a particularly compelling piece of kite-flying today (July 27) – he put out the idea that the public should have their own version of Prime Minister’s Questions.
Speaking to Andrew Marr, he said such an event would “bridge the ‘mile-wide’ gulf between what people want and what they get from Prime Minister’s Questions”, which has been vilified in recent years for uncivilised displays of tribal hostility between political parties and their leaders (David Cameron being the worst offender) and nicknamed ‘Wednesday Shouty Time’.
“I think what we need is a public question time where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays,” said Mr Miliband.
“At the moment there are a few inches of glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons but there is a gulf a mile wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister’s Questions offers.”
What would you ask David Cameron?
Would you demand a straight answer to the question that has dogged the Department for Work and Pensions for almost three years, now – “How many people are your ‘welfare reform’ policies responsible for killing?”
Would you ask him why his government, which came into office claiming it would be the most “transparent” administration ever, has progressively denied more and more important information to the public?
Would you ask him whether he thinks it is right for a Prime Minister to knowingly attempt to mislead the public, as he himself has done repeatedly over the privatisation of the National Health Service, the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, food banks, fracking…? The list is as long as you want to make it.
What about his policies on austerity? Would you ask him why his government of millionaires insists on inflicting deprivation on the poor when the only economic policy that has worked involved investment in the system, rather than taking money away?
His government’s part-privatisation of the Royal Mail was a total cack-handed disaster that has cost the nation £1 billion and put our mail in the hands of hedge funds. Would you ask him why he is so doggedly determined to stick to privatisation policies that push up prices and diminish quality of service. Isn’t it time some of these private companies were re-nationalised – the energy firms being prime examples?
Would you want to know why his government has passed so many laws to restrict our freedoms – of speech, of association, of access to justice – and why it intends to pass more, ending the government’s acknowledgement that we have internationally-agreed human rights and restricting us to a ‘Bill of Rights’ dictated by his government, and tying us to restrictive lowest-common-denominator employment conditions laid down according to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a grubby little deal that the EU and USA were trying to sign in secret until the whistle was blown on it?
The Guardian has reported that budget cuts are forcing the closure of breakfast clubs in primary schools across the country – despite increased demand. The research, by Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, shows 40 per cent of councils are cutting back.
This means vulnerable children will be going to school hungry and will therefore be unable to concentrate in lessons.
Think about the consequences of this. If they can’t concentrate because of hunger, they’re likely to misbehave – and this could set a precedent for the rest of their lives. Malnourishment leads to misbehaviour, leading to what? Crime, perhaps?
At the very least, the inability to concentrate means their grades will drop and their academic careers will fail – in some cases, before they have had a chance to get going.
Who knows how many will develop health problems associated with malnutrition?
This will happen, not because they are “bad kids” or because they are “academically sub-normal”, but because they come from poor families. The rich, meanwhile, will streak ahead in the race for The Good Life.
The Guardian reports that Essex County Council said it had 219 breakfast clubs in schools last year, but 169 this year. In Surrey, 2,870 children were being given breakfast last year but only 1,200 in 2012. That’s creating 1,670 potential problem children.
All this is happening in the country with the seventh largest economy in the world.
A Department for Education spokesman acknowledged the importance of the service, but said it was up to schools how they spent the funds they were given. The “pupil premium”, aimed at the most disadvantaged children, would be doubled, the DFE said, but not until 2014-15 – in time to buy your votes at the 2015 election, perhaps?
Until then, do you really want your kids to starve?
The benefits system is failing thousands of people every week, forcing more and more of them to seek help from Britain’s growing number of food banks. “Breadline Britain”, under the Tory-led Coalition, is now a literal expression. Previously it was just metaphorical.
The Trussell Trust, which runs the UK’s biggest food bank, in Coventry, is opening new food banks at the rate of three per week.
Almost half the people who go to food banks are there because of benefit changes. the Department for Work and Pensions does not work fast enough to arrange benefits for when claimants need them, leaving poor people in crisis for weeks, or months, at a time. Then the debts start racking up.
Sanctions, imposed as temporary punishments by the new benefits regime, are also adding to the queue at the food banks. Since 2010, the number of people getting their Jobseeker’s Allowance suspended has spiked, and we all know that the disability tests introduced for Employment and Support Allowance (and soon to come in for Disability Living Allowance) are causing hardship and – in fact – death for Britain’s most vulnerable people.
Sanction or disallowance of benefits happened to 167,000 people in the three months up to February 2012.
What do people do for money when the State fails them and they can’t get work? They fall into the debt trap.
High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.
And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?
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