Tag Archives: stigma

Starmer, Labour, and the bullying that stigmatises people as ‘undeserving poor’

Starmer: his policy chief tells him to focus on the middle classes rather than the “undeserving” poor – so he sits there in his best suit and haircut waving the flag at us. Meanwhile thousands starve because they’re afraid of being labelled by this posh psychological bully.

Earlier today (August 5) This Site published a piece commenting on Marcus Rashford’s concern that people weren’t claiming food vouchers for their children for fear of the “stigma” that would be attached to them if they did.

Connected with that, I see that advice given to then-interim Labour leader Harriet Harman in 2015 – by that party’s current strategy director – advised her to ignore the needs of the “undeserving poor” and focus on the desires of the middle class.

There is a strong element of bullying in this.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Keir Starmer is wholeheartedly buying into that strategy today – you only have to look at where his priorities lie to see that he couldn’t give a fig for anybody who doesn’t work in a suit and earn a six-figure salary.

And people who don’t have white-collar jobs and huge salaries – the vast majority of us – are aware of this, even if we haven’t been told explicitly.

“Don’t ask us for help because you won’t get it.”

“You are a sponger.”

“You are a scrounger.”

“If you had the slightest value, you would be lifting yourself out of poverty.”

We’ve heard those lines many times before – and others like them.

The fact that Labour endorses those via the policies put forward by its strategy director means people know there’s no hope for them if they admit poverty.

So they do the British thing: stiff upper lip, keep up appearances, pretend to be “managing” even when they aren’t.

And they avoid schemes set up to help them, even to the point of letting their children starve.

(And this feeds in to the policy demands of both the Tories and StarmerLabour, because they can then claim that such initiatives aren’t needed.)

It is insidious and it is evil. Perhaps Starmer should sack Deborah Mattinson and hire Marcus Rashford instead?

Source: Starmer’s strategy director advised Labour to ignore ‘undeserving’ poor – SKWAWKBOX

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Rashford: Is lack of awareness stopping people claiming food vouchers – or misplaced pride?

The difference between sustenance and starvation: will medical staff step in and point out to families who fear the stigma of claiming food vouchers that there is no shame in feeding their children?

It’s a curiously British phenomenon, this – the mass idiocy that encourages us to say we’re managing (when we’re not) rather than accept help from the government.

Government help is in short supply under the Tories. Anybody who has the chance should seize it with both hands.

But people who can – and should – claim food vouchers aren’t doing it, according to Marcus Rashford, whose campaign for the government to provide free school meals during the holidays saved thousands of your children from starvation over the last year.

The BBC’s report is garbled regarding who can benefit, as it mixes Rashford’s school meals scheme with one for pregnant women and low-income families with children aged under four. Perhaps this new campaign is for both.

Rashford himself, writing in the British Medical Journal, said the food voucher scheme has helped 57,000 parents, but expressed concern that it was “plateauing”.

He said more than 40 per cent of people who were eligible had not registered, and suggested that this was because they came from communities with “no internet, no high street, no word of mouth” – in other words, no way of learning that the scheme even exists.

He called on health professionals to do more to ensure everybody knows about the scheme who are entitled to apply, “especially given the planned digitisation of the scheme this autumn, which will disproportionately disadvantage those without easy access to the internet”.

He asked staff to use an online eligibility calculator and “consider collaborating with us on communicating and educating people about the scheme when possible”.

Crucially, though, he also acknowledged that some people may have been shamed out of applying, in fear that they would be labelled (perhaps as the “undeserving poor”?) because they have been pushed into a position where they have been prevented from being able to feed their children.

He said more needs to be done to end any “silly” stigma and to persuade people to register for support.

I hope doctors and other medical staff pay attention to this.

It would be shocking if children starved because people who have sworn to do no harm found it awkward to do a little good.

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‘Social cleansing’ of London is well under way – BBC documentary

Cartoon by Martin Shovel.

Cartoon by Martin Shovel.

Leading Conservatives must be delighted with the success of their benefit cap in getting single mothers and people with large families out of London – as depicted in the BBC Panorama special, Don’t Cap My Benefits, yesterday evening. (Thursday)

The change means that nobody in the UK is allowed to receive more than £26,000 in benefits per year. The government has claimed this is the same as the average family income, but readers of Vox Political will know that this is a flimsy lie and average family income is in fact more than £5,000 per year higher, at £31K+. The reason benefits weren’t pegged at that level is that far fewer people would be affected by it. Make no mistake – this measure was enacted to shift people from the capital.

The film shows the effects of the change on a number of families in Brent, one of London’s worst-hit boroughs, during a period of just six months. Some of them were forced to move away from their lifelong homes to other cities, with one person being threatened with deportation to Manchester. Even people with jobs were forced to go, by council workers whose attitude bordered on the offensively hostile.

Partway through, Vox Political received this comment: “I am watching Panorama, about the benefit cap. It is heart-breaking, mothers are being split up from small children, a single mother who is volunteering at a children’s centre – a good tenant, according to her landlord – is evicted, she has gone from a house to a B&B and the council woman said, ”At least you’re not on the street”. What hope is there?”

Very little, it seems.

The strongest message the documentary gave was that the benefit cap targets minorities and drives them out of London to areas, most commonly in the Midlands or the North, where people are already suffering similar social deprivation. Perhaps the Tories who dreamed up this idea believe the axiom that ‘Misery loves company’.

Of the families or individuals featured in the film, only one was of British ethnic origin – and she was painted as a troublemaker by her landlord. Some were people who had immigrated into the UK (many years ago – so let’s not have any anti-immigration propaganda levelled at them); some were black. All had children – including some who had many more than the average (there were seven in one family). Some were single mothers. Some were in work, but were told that the amount they were earning could not keep them housed in London and they had to go. Some said they were in work but were doubted by housing officers who forced them out anyway (only to discover later that they were telling the truth, and move them back into Brent, possibly at great expense to the taxpayer).

Perhaps we were supposed to look down on these individuals. Were we supposed to believe they had brought these troubles on themselves because they had too many children without considering the cost, or because they had split up from the fathers of their children, or because their jobs paid too little or their rent was too high?

That’s not what this documentary showed at all.

It showed the intentionally vicious effects of a government policy specifically designed to inflict suffering, in order to remove these unwanted social dregs (as Cabinet ministers no doubt see them) and make London more available as a playground for the rich. It is a policy that goes back (as many do) to Thatcherism.

Thatcherism relied on a massive increase in unemployment, the lowering of wages and the increase of housing prices to undermine the self-confidence of working-class communities – and succeeded on a massive scale. But these were the economics of “planned misery”, in the phrase of Rodolfo Walsh, according to The Impact of Thatcherism on Health and Well-Being in Britain, a new report – strongly recommended.

The article states: “As the relative value of benefits fell, and as wage rates for increasingly insecure and feminised, unskilled work were held down, the poorest were becoming poorer and increasingly ‘socially excluded’, blamed, and stigmatised for policy outcomes that the government had in fact fully anticipated.”

It continues: “All of this generated – and was designed to generate – sharply increased inequalities of income and wealth across Britain and a dramatic increase in poverty… Thatcher’s governments wilfully engineered an economic catastrophe across large parts of Britain and sowed the seeds… of a subsequent collapse – which ironically has provided the highly spurious legitimation for a new generation of ‘uber-Thatcherites’ in the current Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to go where Thatcher herself had hesitated to tread – a complete dismantling of the welfare state.”

In other words, this government’s answer to poverty is to remove the safety net – and that is what we saw in the Panorama film.

The answer to the problems it depicted isn’t to ship poor people off to the deprived North! The answer is a cap on rents, so they don’t become so high that people can’t pay them. It’s a living wage, to ensure that working people don’t need to claim state benefits – as someone else recently said, how can any industry consider itself ‘private’ if its employees need funding from the state to survive?

Otherwise, as a commenter on the BBC’s Question Time said, a little later in the evening, there will be nobody left in London to provide services such as education, for all the rich kids the Tories and Tory Democrats are no doubt already inviting in.

Right?

What do you think?

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