More Tory stripping of the welfare tree

By John Hilley (Zen Politics)

Autumn can be so lovely. The turn to crisp, sunny mornings, goldening leaves and wrap-up nights. One gets used to the familiarity of seasonal sights and sounds, pleasing and not so, like the autumnfest of party conferences with their turgid speeches and ritual pledges. And no October would be complete without another Tory rallying call to purge the poor.

This year’s ‘low-hanging fruit’ is the under-25s, with Cameron, Duncan Smith and their policy boffins unveiling plans to axe the benefits of young adults who don’t ‘earn or learn’.

Young people now face the prospect of losing their job seeker’s allowance and housing support if they don’t meet rigid criteria in seeking a job, training or educational placement.

On top of the bedroom tax and multiple other new benefits sanctions, it’s likely to see growing numbers in emergency situations and living on the streets.

The Daily Mail is, predictably, effusive in its detailed indulgence of Cameron’s new notice to “feckless” youth. But it’s an assault that, in fact, most of the political and media mainstream pass off as ‘reasoned’ policy for ‘valid national debate’ rather than wicked economics to be utterly condemned.

It’s not just the shrill ‘land of opportunity‘, the Eton toffs castigating ‘workshy wasters’, the crude appeals to ‘welfare-burdened taxpayers’.

It’s the sheer calculating vindictiveness of the new social insecurity – a callous system where someone can typically lose a month’s payment for missing an appointment or making an elementary mistake over their claim, with even more severe sanctions for ‘second and third strike’ offences.

As a recently-leaked DWP letter shows, beleaguered Job Centre staff are also coming under intense pressure to deliver more sanction referrals.

All these additional Con Dem cuts, purges and punitive measures are deepening the trauma for already impoverished families.

In the poorest parts of Scotland, charities are now talking of a “humanitarian crisis” of child poverty. One in three Glasgow children now live in conditions of multiple deprivation. In the city’s Springburn area, the child poverty figure is fifty-one per-cent.

This may not be the poverty and destitution that afflicts vast swathes of Africa, or the nightmarish experience of refugees fleeing war-torn places like Iraq and Syria.

But the domestic policies being deployed to hurt and punish society’s poorest, while a corporate and privileged elite flourish, are akin to economic war crimes.

Ever-dutifully, the BBC and other service media pore over Cameron’s welfare-swiping speech, crunching the numbers, noting the social fallout, but never seriously thinking to question its core inhumanity.

Where, amid this wicked onslaught, is the remotest discussion of economic compassion? Real compassion, that is, not the rhetorical ConDem version of ‘helping’ the poorest and most vulnerable with ‘tough love’ cuts, or the shameless Labourite acceptance of such, but true, radical attention to human well fare, rather than paltry and heavy-conditional ‘welfare’.

It may be sublime autumn. But, for a despairing many, it’s the last sweet glint of warm light before more Tory winter.

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