Once again, Charlotte wears her heart on her sleeve, as evidenced by the genuine distress she feels at the plight of the poor souls she encounters during her weekly vigils outside the Ashton under Lyne DWP offices.
The problem, for me; when trying to understand just why such obvious and deliberate cruelty is inflicted upon some of the most vulnerable people in our society, is that we attempt understanding from the perspective of ‘normal’ decent citizens. The rules created, however, are indeed deliberately designed to make the experience of the average claimant as unpleasant and difficult as possible. The potential consequences of such a draconic regime SHOULD be entirely obvious – and most certainly, with regards to those who drafted the legislation that set the whole foul system in motion, would have been extensively set out for them during the initial drafting stages.
So, why, in the light of the knowledge that must have pre existed the sanctions regime, would any reasonable human being consider such a system to be either acceptable or desirable within a civilized society?
To answer this question, we must first of all understand what motivations might lay beneath the surface. When Mrs Thatcher first entered Number 10 as Prime Minister, British Government still operated within the terms of a political consensus brought into being with the election of the post world war two Labour Government under the leadership of Clem Attlee. This Government sought to implement policies based upon Keynsian economics (the mixed economy) and to bring into policy the main thrust of something called the Beveridge report – which amongst many things, saw it a duty of the State to bear down on the evils of pre war society in the form of ill health, hunger and want. This was achieved through the creation of the welfare state and of course, our National Health Service. All subsequent British administrations, both Labour and Conservative, made policy within the confines of this consensus.
Thatcher, however, supported by a combination of shadowy super wealthy individuals and corporations (including certain media interests), and justified through the writings of Milton Friedman and the associated Neo Liberal Free Market schools of economics, had no intention of allowing the post war consensus to continue. Instead, she laid the groundwork for the consensus we now live under – one based upon the dogma of the market and laisez faire free market economics. This, incidentally, just so happens to be the very same consensus that existed pre 1939. All subsequent British Government administrations have operated under and made policies according to the auspices of this neo liberal contemporary consensus.
One important part of this whole nasty system remains absent, this being a form of poor law work house system. In order to re-enact such a system; however, given the decades that have passed since we last saw the unfortunate consigned to virtual open prison for life, a sufficient majority of the wider population must be brought to accept the need for such a system. The wider population must also see those who end up being drawn into these modern day workhouses as “deserving” of such a loss of personal freedom. Witness the drip, drip of “benefit scrounger” stories planted within the popular media. Witness the terminology and descriptives routinely applied to the jobless and poorest – Chavs, wasters, hooligans, workshy, feckless etc.
I believe that we are witnessing this very process, the deliberate creation of a crisis of homelessness and destitution; for which “work centres” or “community hostels” might seem a reasoned and almost merciful response. No doubt, such places would be run by one or other large outsourcing company (insert your guess here).
We should not allow the political class get to away with this outrage. There is an alternative to this, but we MUST be willing to stand up and FIGHT.
Today at our demonstration I was approached by a young woman who had a baby with her. She was clearly distressed and she had a very sore black eye. I asked her what was wrong, she was quite literally a bag of nerves. She went on to tell me that she had just escaped from the clutches of her very violent boyfriend. The police had to rescue her from her home. She left with her baby, his clothes and the pram. She was shaking. She is now staying at the local women’s refuge, a haven for women escaping violence. She should be able to recover now, you would think. No she couldn’t . She went on to explain that she had previously been attending a Jobcentre in another town, and was supposed to attend an interview at that Jobcentre. She couldn’t attend. Why? Because it’s the town where her ex…
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