I always worry when David Cameron or Iain Duncan Smith use sentences like: “We will embark on an all out assault on poverty”, because what they actually mean, as past and recent history informs us, is an all out state assault on the poor and further attacks on our social security provision.
Benefits were originally carefully calculated to meet only basic needs. Welfare was designed to provide the minimal amount for food, fuel and shelter to ensure that those unable to provide for themselves didn’t fall into absolute poverty. The amount was based on “the amount the law says you need to live on.” This has been steadily eroded by the welfare “reforms” – cuts. The severe and punitive welfare sanctions have normalised the idea of people having no welfare support at all, pushing the normative, moral, ethical and rational boundaries of ordinary people steadily, incrementally, in the same way that all tyrants do when they want to take away public rights and freedoms.
The Tories have a plain intent to completely dismantle the welfare state, step by step, using justification narratives that stigmatise and scapegoat the poorest people in order to harden public attitudes, diminishing empathy for the poor, and above all, to get their own way. All of this comes down to nothing more than traditional Tory prejudices towards poor people and their “small state” ideology.
People need welfare support when they become too old to work, lose their job, become injured at work, become disabled through illness or are disabled and can’t find suitable employment. All of these circumstances arise through no fault of th people experiencing these difficulties, and such difficulties may happen to anyone, including you, your children, grandchildren, other relatives and friends. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the greatest welfare expenditure includes in-work benefits and pensions.
We have ALL contributed to paying for social security, and our parents, grandparents and great grandparents fought for our right to it, as part of our post-war settlement. It isn’t the government’s to take away.
It’s ours, and a measure of how decent, compassionate, civilised, developed and democratic we are as a society.
Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone