Not since the age of Victorian poverty and squalor has there been a greater need for a social security system that adequately caters for people’s needs.
But over the last six years this once treasured system has been denigrated and torn apart by a political and media elite who know little or nothing about real life and what it’s truly like to struggle.
OUR social security system is on its knees and it’s the most vulnerable people in our society who are suffering the most. Gone are the days of social collectiveness, when we had a properly funded social security system that really looked after those in need, replaced by a system built on pain and misery. Society itself seems to have turned its back on common decency and what it is to be ‘human’.
But people themselves are not to blame, because they’ve been routinely subjected to a barrage of opinionated and biased right-wing propaganda which labels the poor and infirm as ‘scrounging layabouts’, with much of this ‘news’, if we can call it that, coming from people with no sense or awareness of what it’s like to truly struggle – what it’s like to want to contribute to the country you call home, to ‘play your part’, but are physically or mentally incapable of doing so.
For years we have seen how the media, together with their political allies, have repeatedly plastered the screen and newspapers with images and stories about the tiny minority of idiots who cheat the system.
Only recently have we seen more stories in the press and wider media about how vulnerable people are being treated in Britain today. And even then, those stories are easily outweighed by the number of articles and so-called ‘reality shows’ – which many of us prefer to call ‘poverty porn’ – who continue to unfairly and inaccurately demonise and relegate vulnerable groups to some kind of underclass.
We’ve seen a number of damning reports from international bodies who have condemned the UK Government’s ‘welfare reforms’, including a UN committee who rightly accused the government of systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights.
In many countries this would make front page news, but in the UK it was largely ignored by an uncaring and insensitive media and completely dismissed by a callous government with absolutely no regard for how their policies are affecting sick and disabled people.
After all, why would they care when so many Britons have been brainwashed into believing large swathes of people are getting something they don’t deserve, or whom have somehow played the system? They’ve been made to believe it’s easy to claim benefits, because very few have been told the truth about how dehumanising and impossible to navigate the system really is. Claiming benefits is not a ‘lifestyle choice’ for the vast majority of claimants who rely on it for their very survival.
Many people believe welfare reform is about encouraging people into work and reducing the benefits bill, but as Welfare Weekly pointed out last week, many, if not all all of these changes cost more than they save. So-called ‘welfare reform’ has, in my view, never been about either of these. These are ideologically motivated cuts aimed at a people who our right-wing media and politicians believe to be inferior.
It’s a means by which to deny the poor and vulnerable with the health and finance to fully challenge what is being done to them. How often have you read comments from people claiming that if someone is well enough to protest then they are also well enough to work?
Benefit cuts have never been about helping people to realise their ambitions, they’ve only ever been about punishing people for their own dire circumstances, and in some cases driving them into an early grave.
What we are witnessing is nothing short of social cleansing: The large-scale removal of a social group from society who are regarded as ‘undesirable’ through any means necessary. Just think ‘bedroom tax’ and high rents in London and you’ll understand what I mean.
So what’s the answer? How do we ensure that our future social security system is fit for purpose – that it can support those who need it? For a start we need to stop labelling people as either deserving or undeserving poor, and we need to close the gaping holes in the social security ‘safety net’. It’s of little use if too many people are falling out of the system entirely – put off and ultimately discouraged from applying for the help they desperately need.
We also need to end the scapegoating of the poor and vulnerable. We must stop blaming them for our own problems and the state of Britain’s finances. They did not cause this mess, and are not responsible for the high cost of living, but are being made an easy target for dickensian cuts and public ridicule. It’s a convenient distraction for successive governments to play the blame game.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that no one is immune from the unexpected things life often throws at us. If we are going to overcome those problems, where possible, it can be best achieved through a sense of social collectiveness.
Helping each other get up when the going gets tough is something that makes us all human – or at least it should be. We forget that at our own peril.