By Lesley Roberts, for Welfare Weekly
Whenever David Cameron states that they have plans to help us, he creates uneasiness among those who know that the opposite is going to happen. Especially when he says things like, “if you want to work hard and get on in life, this government will be on your side.”
If they were on our side then surely they wouldn’t be trying to convince us that our lives are so much better, due to his Government’s policies? They are avoiding the real issues we see every day. For instance, the effects of low wages and the reality of struggling families turning to food banks, including working people. His claims simply don’t match up to the realities many people face in Britain today.
I ask you, why does the government want to change the definition of child poverty? Is it another cynical attempt to convince us that things are “getting better”?
Tory ideology and welfare polices simply don’t add up. It’s easy to see that without raising the minimum wage above the promised £6.70, cutting tax credits will either make many working families worse off, or just leave then in the same place – even if the Tories increase the tax threshold. It will result in a no-win situation for working people, only for the businesses who employ them. It’s naive and out-of-touch to believe that employers will take up the slack, unless they are forced to do so. Perhaps that is why they need a change in definition of child poverty, so that the results will not look that bad or worse in the future? By moving the goal posts, the Tories will try to ensure that we don’t see the reality of life on low pay, or loss of in-work benefits?
Or maybe they intend to give more clout to the “If you can’t afford kids” commentators, who do not really understand how life-changes can affect families and remove choice from the equation. Nor do they see children as their future too?
David Cameron is offering free child care for working families, when there is already insufficient child care places available. Surely it would make more sense to make “work pay” better for families, so that they could better afford child care costs, while providing free child places to single parents looking for work? Helping more of them into employment as a result. He would not only be saving money but would be freeing up more jobs. This would mean changing his mantra from having “Full Employment”, to actually supporting all parents and their children’s future. It may also be beneficial to the economy.
It would also mean that home carers would be available for elderly and disabled people. “Carers” are invisible to this government, who they continue to expect to care for their elderly and disabled relatives with little support – financial or otherwise. So when David Cameron says “if we increase the state pension, child poverty actually goes up”, it’s not about solving the issue of child poverty; it’s about ensuring his promise to have “full employment” here in the UK, while ignoring the obvious that not everyone is capable of working.
And what of this so-called “Full potential”? An impossible dream for some – unless they win the Lottery. Furthermore, what does David Cameron mean by ‘individual potential’? Will it be based upon our individual abilities or more about our worth (value) to the Treasury? What will happen if people don’t reach this new level of aspiration or worth? What punishment will be handed out?
One section of society who will be isolated by this new “goal” in life policy, will be those people who may not be able to contribute as much in taxes as others; unemployed sick and disabled people, who will once again be left behind. I see this new Tory policy being about more of the same negativity to weigh down and stigmatise people on benefits and force them into a free-fall of poverty. Is this about creating more impossible hoops to jump through, or is it just re-branding of a Tory ideology – survival of the fittest?
The trouble is, there are very few “well paid jobs” available and the constant push on the low-paid to work longer hours – some already working two or more jobs – makes David Cameron’s recent speech seem condescending. How can a government be “compassionate” toward the most vulnerable without first understanding their real lives? So when he talks enthusiastically about dealing with the “root causes of poverty”, perhaps he should start by listening . Because it isn’t so much about “benefits dependency”, nor is it or should it be about blaming the claimant.
Take unemployment as an example: Many people know, as the Citizens Advice Bureau are highlighting, that when you’re looking for work you have to be ever-so watchfully for the possible obstacles; changes in employment law and false job advertising, to name but a few. The old Evils surrounding unemployment are becoming more and more evident, especially while there is a shortage in well-paid jobs and job security.
There simply is no real justification for increasing the use of zero hour contracts and the creation of more Employment Agencies, who take part of your wages for their own pockets and charge a transfer fee if a company actually wants to employ you. Along with the new self-employed finding that the contracts provided by bogus agencies are owned by the same companies they are contracted too. Why is no one doing something about these bogus job adverts?
It’s all slowly becoming a ticking time-bomb for Britain’s welfare state and not just for jobseekers, but also for those “hard-working people” who the Conservatives claim to represent. A ticking time-bomb created by a government too dependent upon short-term political gain, and whom obviously do not want to protect anyone from unscrupulous employers or low pay. The Conservative government is slowly, but surely, removing the welfare safety net we may all need to turn to at some point in our lives.
The welfare state exists to serve us all; employed and unemployed, young and old, rich and poor, able-bodied and disabled. It’s in our own best interests to defend it.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.