Saturday, 15 June 2013

Oppose the War on Welfare

If a foreign government had launched an attack on our most vulnerable citizens, it would be regarded as a declaration of war. And such an attack has indeed been launched, albeit not by a foreign government, but by our own government in the United Kingdom.

Instead of ensuring all those ending up sick or disabled are supported to the best of our collective ability, the government has urged those who are well-off or at least have a regular income to distance themselves from those needing to claim benefits to sustain their lives. Suspicion, interrogation, and deprivation are the new norm in subjecting the sick and disabled to harrowing uncertainty.

By using ‘fraud detection’* as cover, the government has deployed devices, from stringent criteria to unrelenting assessments, to strip people of the support they desperately need to survive. The British Medical Association has asked for the misguided Work Capability Assessment to be stopped immediately. The number of people dying from suicide, or from the conditions which have prevented them from getting paid employment, has kept rising after more and more of them were told their benefits would be slashed. But the government’s sole response is that there must be even more benefit cuts for the poor (to complement the tax cuts for top earners and big corporations).

Against this background, a growing number of citizens have rallied behind a petition to oppose the War on Welfare:
To sign it is not just to add pressure for a debate in Parliament about this scandalous affair, but to pledge oneself to oppose these insidious enemies of our common well-being.

So let me adapt the words of our great bard in sounding the clarion for a battle that will one day rival the heroics of bygone Agincourt:

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we brothers & sisters;

For all who back this cause with us

Shall be our kin; whatever else they be,

This day shall unite our condition:

And everyone in Britain now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their presence cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us in Solidarity.

[* Fraudulent claims/over-payment to a tiny minority actually amount to less than 0.9% of the benefits budget (6 times smaller than the amount the government fails to pay over to those in need but who have either under-claimed or not known how to claim). For more information, see: The Lies We Tell Ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty (report by Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church, Church of Scotland, & the United Reformed Church, 2013)]

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