Damien Green, the Works and Pensions Secretary has a kindly manner, unlike his predecessor, Ian Duncan Smith, who acted like a slightly demented, paranoid colonel. But, as we know, appearances can deceive. Personable Mr Green has just announced yet another ‘revolution’ to modernise the disability benefits system. IDS pushed policies that were ‘fair to the taxpayer’ and intolerably unfair to lone parents, the long term unemployed, the disabled. 2,650 men and women who were declared fit for work, died between 2011 and 2014. Tales of woe abound. Linda Wooten, 49, who had serious heart disease was informed she had to get a job as she lay dying. A father whose son was murdered, was judged not to have mental health problems because his anxiety was based on something real and not fearful fantasies. (https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/9741/neil-mcleod-i-spent-20-years-working-welfare-rights-toby-young-its-time-you-listen)

Such claimants will now get ‘personalised’ pathways to employment. ( All those jobs waiting to be filled by the willing sick and impaired!) Oh and their Employment Support Allowance (ESA) will be cut from £105-15 a week to £73-10. The Disability Rights website lists fifteen benefits which are to capped. It’s hideously complicated. Nothing like a kick in the groin to set the juices of aspiration flowing. The powerful never have to pass such gruelling tests. They can waste eye watering amounts of public money, break rules and set new rules. The most brazen climb on the backs of the unfortunate to get fame, status and glittering careers.

Let’s take as our example, Dame Louise Casey, DBE, CB, previously Tsarina for preventing extremism, anti-social behaviour and whatever, then Director General of Troubled Families, now the Boudicca of integration.  This brusque and pushy woman was much admired by Blair, then Cameron. Her tough approach often failed to deliver; those she was meant to uplift stayed ground down. 1.2 billion pounds was spent on her troubled families plan. An official recent report found it had had little impact. None of that has ever prevented her rise and rise to informal power. Mrs May’s government will, no doubt, find Casey very useful for their forthcoming cold-blooded economies.

The PM has indicated that those the bottom of society will lose more cash if the economy plummets. At the party conference, she promised to make society ‘fairer for families’. It was political blether. She, who once warned her party was seen as ‘nasty’ is today pushing the cruellest of policies in an increasingly nasty nation which has no place for the the working and workless classes or the dispossessed. 48% of Britons think there should be more benefit cuts. Many believe most people who seek state help are lazy liars. Some are, but so are some MPs, lawyers, police officers, humans of all backgrounds. The Chartered Institute of Housing warns that new measures will negatively affect over 300,000 children. A local food bank I take stuff to, desperately needs toothpaste and nappies. While there I saw a little waif picking up a tissue from the ground to wipe her runny nose. Charities are alarmed, teachers too as more  and more pupils turn up hungry and bedraggled. But, hey, think of the billions that will be plucked back from the ‘feckless’ and voiceless. Mahatma Gandhi believed poverty was the worst kind of violence. How then, shall we describe state planned poverty?

I, Daniel Blake, by the globally admired director Ken Loach is on general release. It’s won prizes, had great reviews. It should awaken the indifferent and inert.  Loach’s Cathy Come Home about a homeless couple, had a huge impact in 1966. Some right wingers are seriously displeased. Damien Green, who has not seen the movie, accuses Loach of being ‘monstrously unfair; obdurate Toby Young,  son of acclaimed social reformer Michael Young, was scornful. There were no laughs, he moaned, the characters were not the roughnecks we saw on Benefits St, it reflected Victorian Britain. Too right.

In 1851, Henry Mayhew wrote in his book on the indigent of London; ‘The condition of a class of people whose misery, ignorance and vice, amidst all the immense wealth and great knowledge of the ‘first city in the world’ is …a national disgrace to us’. We are back there. Only attitudes have so hardened, that few would feel that sense of national disgrace.

 

Edited Version I newspaper 2/11/16

 

 


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