Heartless benefit cuts driven by the media

Posted on August 18, 2014

JS41759962The Independent has published “the 11 most senseless benefit sanction decisions known to man” and the list of heartless decisions to axe claimants’ benefits is truly shocking.

From a man who was deemed to have failed to complete an Employment and Support Allowance assessment due to suffering a heart attack during at the job centre, to someone who had his benefits stopped for selling poppies in aid of soldiers, the sad and sorry catalogue of decisions reinforce the view that the DWP have long since ceased to see claimants as real people.

This ridiculous collection of sanctions puts DWP plans to charge claimants for appealing against benefit decisions, announced earlier this year. 

A report in July found that “cruel” benefit sanctions are hitting the poorest hardest while the rich get richer. Even more damningly, figures show that 8 million Brits are in receipt of income support, jobseekers allowance, employment support, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit combined. Out of a working population of 50 million, that means almost one in five citizens are in need of state support to live.

This is a testament to our low-wage, part-time, zero-hours economy along with ‘structural’ high unemployment which hasn’t fallen below five percent of the working age population since the late 1970’s. That is an incredible amount of wasted talent and generational hopelessness that our political class tolerate and accept.

We have, in government, a DWP minister supposedly from the social-liberal left wing in the form of Steve Webb. He makes fine speeches at Social Liberal Forum events but I haven’t seen much evidence of compassion in his departments’ policies. I’d certainly like to see some action from Webb to challenge his Tory bosses Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey.

When are politicians of all hues going to stand up and condemn the national scandal of unemployment and ‘inactivity’. Benefit recipients are now increasingly massaged out of the figures and sometimes pushed into Dickensian levels of abject poverty as a result. Admittedly the wealthy account for a slice of the inactivity data, but so do those at the extreme opposite of the income spectrum.

Sadly I doubt whether Britain will become any more sympathetic to the plight of those who desperately need a safety net, despite the evidence, until progressives stand up and systematically challenge the right-wing narrative around benefits in the media. This means putting isolated stories of unemployed families living in million-pound houses into its’ true context and hearing the voices of the many who struggle to stay alive and, all too often, give up hope (see my blog on suicides).


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