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Austerity’s “War on the Poor”: U.K. Edition.

It is helpful to get a bead on austerity, its impact on poor people, its overall pattern of poverty creation, and its degradations by looking across the pond to where austerity unbounded has had time to metastasize into law, and actual changes in people’s lives. Polly Toynbee of The Guardian warns about these cuts, set to start on April 1st, or Monday, because the media have not publicized them.

Taxing the spare room?

Food stamps, or food vouchers, are being introduced as a substitution for emergency grants. A 230 million L. program is being reduced to 178 million L. through this change. No one will miss the the missing  52 million pounds./s  Many interpret this change as a distrustful projection, ….. that beneficiaries of emergency grants are not actually asking for help for things that they truly need, i.e., food.  This will have secondary effects of people not being able to buy other necessities such as transportation to job interviews (bus fare). These emergency grants were supposed to function as a safety net under the safety net. What will take their place when other necessities are needed in an emergency?

The Bedroom tax is being introduced. Low income folks who receive help with a housing subsidy are having that subsidy reduced by a tax for each spare bedroom they might have. (I am not joking.)  Starting Monday, housing grants will be reduced by an amount in accordance with whether one has a spare bedroom based upon the number of occupants. This may affect 660,000 tenants. Should they have to move? Would that even be possible?

Responsibility will shift away from national bureaucracy to local councils who will be responsible for administering shrinking assistance grants and who will be hearing all of the complaints because help is being reduced. Legal aid for low-income folks will be reduced from 22 million to 3 million Pounds, so good luck with your lawsuits and legal complaints. Then there are cuts to assistance paying for child-care.

Disability claims are all up for reconsideration with the express purpose of denying as many as possible. Privatization of evaluations to non-professionals (non medical staff) who routinely ask disturbing questions to the mentally ill claimants and generally act like robots, will be in play. Their goal will be to deny as many claims as they can come up with reasons to do so. A recent Guardian piece found Denial of unemployment or job seekers claims if any reason can be found to deny an application. If an unemployed person misses an appointment or fails to make a contact, that will be an excuse to drop their application, placing them back at the beginning of the application process and denying assistance to their family for that much longer. The Guardian caught the job-centre folks deliberately sanctioning applicants. The disabled stand to lose 28 billion pounds from up to six kinds of cuts over five years,  according to a Demos report sourced in the Guardian.

Cameron et al have deliberately created a divide between alleged “skivers” and “strivers” in a demonize the jobless and poor campaign. Cameron and his ilk have been openly disparaging those who have lost jobs and are out of work, describing them as “the neighbors from hell” and as lazy cheats. This demonization has been going on ever since turncoat Cameron became ensconced like a poison spewing barnacle on the body politic after his election. His lordship has done more to advance class warfare in the U.K. than other leaders all the way back to Thatcher. He’s actually complained out loud on behalf of those with paying jobs, about having to know that their neighbor is at home and not at work or on their way to work like they are. Only 3% of U.K. social assistance benefits go to folks who are out of a job!

The most toxic policy change has been something called workfare. Workfare has been in the news because….Workfare consists of hours of unpaid labor required of those receiving unemployment benefits in the U.K.. It  is supposed to be for training so a jobless person can get a paying job. Workfare has worked out handsomely for the rich corporate store owners who have used workfare workers to stock shelves in their grocery stores for no pay. Workfare’s impact has been to increase unemployment among job seekers by reducing openings now filled by workfare workers, working for no pay and no benefits. Workfare has also used up the time which jobseekers could have used to actually have gone to school to actually have been retrained. Without any visible positive effects for job seekers, other than to enrich store owners,  workfare has functioned only to fill the smug vengeance complex of those seeking to punish the jobless in some way.

Symbols of distrust (food vouchers), 22.6% cut in emergency grants, cuts in housing grants if one has a spare bedroom, deflection of responsibility to local councils, cuts to child care, cuts to Legal Aid, privatization of disability evaluations to nonprofessionals and denial of claims, denial of jobseeker claims whenever possible, demonization of assistance recipients, working for nothing under WorkFare to enrich private companies. That’s the pattern of austerity’s war on the poor; U.K. Edition.

II. Health and Social Care Act Begins Monday.

After 25 years of attacks to the NHS,  the death dealing changes made at the NHS, have severely impacted patient care.  But that is a deliberate impact which will be legally ratified on Monday when this new law takes effect. The Health Act will speed the demise of the NHS by increasing the privatization of many of its functions. Hospitals will be at risk of closing. The most impacted will be those in the lowest income groups for whom there is no access to private medical clinics and to private health insurance. “People will die.”:

“The government consistently claims the NHS budget is protected. In reality, the NHS is being forced to make cuts dressed up as efficiency savings of £15bn-£20bn by 2015. Across the country, A&Es, maternity and other services are being closed, with thousands of jobs lost. Patients with chronic and complex diseases will continue to lose services essential for their care. In north-west London, four A&Es have been downgraded, with none for the boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham, Ealing and Brent – a population of 750,000 or a city the size of Leeds. As a result of these changes, people will die.

Once you combine the consequences of the Health and Social Care Act with PFI debts, NHS trusts going bust, efficiency savings and cherry-picking, the NHS withers away. Rationing of care will become more widespread until we have a two-tier system in which the haves will take out private insurance and the have-nots will be looked after by a third-class health service.”


N.B. 4.1.13: The Bedroom Tax is going to be reviewed in High Court in May, thanks to a petition from this organization. It is called WeAreSparticus!

Bad News: 4.1.13: Guardian (Polly Toynbee) reports on the NHS decommissioning.

Photo by Laura under Creative Commons license

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