I am not sure what was most disturbing in last night’s debate on the Welfare and Work Bill at Westminster – the fact that £12 billion of cuts came closer to being real or that many MPs seem to believe that most of their fellow citizens are scroungers.
The continuing discourse about benefit and tax credit claimants is very far from the compassionate society I so desperately hope for. To describe being on social security as a lifestyle choice, whilst accepting a 10% pay increase, almost five times more than a year’s worth of Carers Allowance, defies belief. This is a view of society, of people in need, which I just can’t fathom.
— SCVO (@scvotweet) July 20, 2015
Protecting and lifting those who are sick, disabled or just down on their luck is economically necessary – and morally correct. It’s all or nothing in my mind – you can’t hand pick those policies which are “less cruel” whilst supporting others which sneakily undercut the already low incomes of unpaid carers and disabled people.
“We need an urgent summit to begin to prepare the country for further cuts”
There were some clear messages in last night’s debate – if you are poor or struggling in any way, it’s entirely your fault. Today the terrifying extent of the UK Government unleashed has become clear as the Chancellor goes in search of £20 billion further, devastating cuts. The direction of travel is clear – social security is being dismantled, and quickly.
We now have two courses of action. There is a continued need for strong, joint campaigning across political divides, civil society, academia, and the communities at the heart of these cuts. While there may be only a glimmer of hope that we can change the direction of travel, we have to keep fighting hard, to minimise the damage. We have to stand with our fellow citizens – social security is about all of us.
This leads me to my final point. Politicians of all hues and many within the sector want to make devolution of welfare powers work for the common good. Officials are working hard to prepare for these powers; that work must be more transparent and bring in the experience of the third sector and people affected into the heart of that planning process. That’s how we start to rebuild trust in our fractured benefits system.
We must fight continue to fight collectively for fuller powers to be devolved – but we must also be mindful of what is likely to be coming our way. We need an urgent summit to begin to prepare the country for further cuts, beyond the £12 billion we already know about. Bring the talents and experience of the people together; bring the country together to find a better way.
Together, we must be strong for those who have no more strength.