Pilgrim Tucker of Unite Community discusses this government’s current welfare reforms and points the finger to those who get rich at our expense.
Unemployed and disabled people are sick, often literally, of being attacked and demonised in the media, of having their benefits cut, and being subjected to the dangerous and demeaning processes such as the work capability assessment (WCA) and job-centre sanctions. Meanwhile a lack of social housing, soaring rents in an insecure private rental market, and costs of housing to buy rising several times faster than peoples incomes, means that for more and more people housing is less and less affordable.
Unite community members have been campaigning hard on these issues, and on June 21st we will be marching with thousands of others who have been fighting alongside us, in the welfare and housing bloc of the People’s assembly national demonstration.
The welfare related policy changes brought in under this government, and the way they are impacting on people on low incomes, are too many to mention here. From the bedroom tax, which sees over half a million households threatened by rent areas and ultimately eviction, through the overall benefit cap that means families being uprooted from their communities and ‘decanted’ to areas where their children have to find new schools away from established support networks and familiar services, to the rapid extension of workfare and its provision of a free labour force to profit driven corporations and cost-cutting public sector service providers, the misery being inflicted on the millions of people affected is a complete disgrace.
The treatment of disabled people under this cynical government, as it pursues its ideological drive to support the financial interests of greedy elites, via policies such as the withdrawal of the independent living fund, on which so many people rely to live independently outside institutions, and the replacement of DLA with PIP - which will remove vital support from hundreds of thousands who need it, has caused fury amongst disabled people and led to hard hitting high profile campaigns that are starting to see success, for example forcing ATOS to withdraw from the DWP WCA contracts.
Working people on low wages, who have already been affected by more stealthy welfare changes such as reductions in tax credits and cuts in maternity allowances, will, like unemployed people, be subject to sanctions when Universal Credit is rolled out. Money will be removed from housing benefits for part-time workers if they are not considered to be looking hard enough for full-time work.
These measures amount to a war on the poor that serves the interests of our government of millionaires and their friends in global finance, multi-national corporations, and importantly international property development. It is no co-incidence that the second largest single donor to the conservative party is the multi-millionaire former tax–exile property developer David Rowland.
While the government points the finger at ‘scroungers’ as the major cause of any increase in the welfare bill, it is in fact housing benefit for low income working people that is the fastest growing part of the welfare budget (next to old age pensions), caused of course by the combination of lack of social housing, soaring private sector rents, and low wages.
The UKs housing problems demonstrate both the flaws of the free market worship that underpins the current austerity drive, and the inequalities that it creates. Free markets cannot resolve the UKs housing problems, and to a large degree have caused them. Viewing housing as an asset rather than as a social need, and encouraging an obsession with home ownership, the neoliberal policies that led to a disposal of 1.8 million social homes through right to buy, the end of rent regulation and massive increase in the private rental market since the early eighties are now being compounded by an extension of right to buy, the introduction of 80% market rents for so called social housing, and a slew of changes to the welfare system that threaten hundreds of thousands with losing their homes.
We will be on the demo forming a bloc dedicated to these issues. You will see us in Portland Place on the 21st of June with Unite Community banners, and other props and banners that we will be making at Unites head office in Holborn this Sunday 15th June from 12pm. Hope to see you at both!