No-one is safe from the cuts and we need to stop them for the sake of all of us. At the bottom of this blog I have put a few links and bits of information which explain how you can get involved locally to help put an end to austerity.
Saturday 20th June was my son’s first birthday party and a jolly good day it was too; plenty of cake, toys and little ones having a load of fun. As I proudly held my first born and he heard the lyrics of ‘happy birthday’ for the first time, coming from a room filled with our friends and family I quite rightly noted to myself that life could not get any better. I hope for so much for my little boy in his future but top of the list is that he knows that his mummy and daddy love him and do the absolute best they can.
There is another reason Saturday 20th June will stick out in my memory though and that is because it will be they day I was unable to join 250,000 protestors who marched through London calling on the government to ‘End Austerity Now’. Although I doubt they missed me and I wouldn’t have changed my day for anything; but my friend Greg in the Cheltenham Green Party has a picture of himself at the march with Caroline Lucas that I shall be forever jealous of.
No one is safe from the cuts
As I was enviously scanning other pictures from the day, whilst recovering from the fatigue of too much cake and soft play, I came across a picture that for me emphasised the greatest point about the protest; no one is safe from the cuts.
The picture shows a protestor with a placard that reads ‘save the police pensions’ and a Police Officer amicably waving to back to him. I am quite sure that there are plenty of people out there, as I have described before, who believe that austerity is necessary and that the only people really hit are those who really should be out fending for themselves but choose not to be.
Since 2010 we have lost 400,000 jobs in the public sector and can expect to lose a further 500,000 in the next 5 years. As David Walker explained in the Guardian, we don’t really know what affect this will have on the country, and the cuts to police are a very good example to pick on because it is so hard to understand crime statistics. The police don’t just respond to crime either, in fact that the National Audit Office has said that crime makes up only 22% of emergency and priority incidents. The NAO also stated that although crime stats show that crime rates have gone down, some crimes are not recorded;
“they do not include all types of crime; forces face increases in more complex risks and threats such as cyber crime and child sexual exploitation, which have historically been under-reported”
The politics of austerity is short-term politics which, although it might in some ways look good on the books now, doesn’t take in to account the wider and longer lasting implications.
Feeling the ripples
Putting aside for now the terrible woes of the street homeless, elderly and disabled and many others who are bearing the brunt of austerity, I want to continue this idea that no one is safe from the cuts.
I am from a working class background, but because I was lucky enough to have a mum who constantly pushed me to excel, I have a degree and have had some good jobs that have paid OK and that I have enjoyed.
However a change in circumstances recently with work has meant that my wife and I have had to start looking at other options we might have.
So we have considered the welfare state in the form of tax credits which looked to be able to provide us with some relief. Having both paid in well since we’ve been able to work, my wife and I felt this would be using the welfare system in a so-called ‘appropriate way’.
Cue the Tory government with their plans for £12bn cuts to welfare.
Just two days after the End Austerity Now protest, despite his own rhetoric, Cameron has begun manoeuvres against British working people. It now seems very clear that Cameron intends to make cuts to tax credits among other benefits for working people including housing benefit.
Was it people claiming tax credits and housing benefit that caused the economic downturn? No actually it was an irresponsible and greedy financial sector.
Cameron has said that reducing the welfare budget will tackle the “causes of stalled social mobility”.
Now I am quite aware that I am by no means among the worst hit by austerity and I am unlikely to be. But my own situation has obviously brought home to me some of the harsh reality of what this government is doing and how they are deepening the poverty trap.
‘Social mobility’ refers to the ability of an individual or family to move out of their position in society; to move out of the social class in other words and ‘better themselves’. Typically, in order to do this you would need to increase your ability to earn, and increase your earnings. So if you got a better paid job and received training you would be likely to achieve this. Your children would benefit from access to greater resources in the home and increased experiences and life chances.
So the question is, given that Cameron’s plans take money from people, leave them impoverished and without options; how the hell do they enable social mobility?
Who’s in the poverty trap?
Very few people are not touched directly by poverty; 3 in 5 UK households experience income poverty for at least one year and there are 13.5 million people (23% of the population) living in poverty in the UK. Combine this with revelations in the last few days that the number children living in poverty is on the increase and it is clear that we are in drastic times.
Aside from considering the moral implications of leaving so many people to suffer we need to come back to that point ‘we don’t know what the other consequences and ripple effects are’.
Effects of poverty
What are some of the further effects of poverty on a country? Often we believe that poverty only impacts the unlucky individual who doesn’t have money in their pocket; but that is not the full picture. Poverty has far wider implications for society:
- · Increase in crime
- · Negative impact on health
- · Increase in alcohol and substance misuse
- · Division and tension in society based on inequality
- · Increase in terrorism
- · Increase in anti-social behaviour
- · Women disproportionately hit by poverty
- · Negative impact on the environment
- · Stagnating economy
Poverty will affect us all whether we experience it directly or not.
Poverty and class are not just about money
As a sociologist this is a point that really interests me and one that I am going to explore further in a future post.
Poverty is not just about money. Plenty of university students from middle class backgrounds will have little money but they will not experience the long term effect of living in poverty as someone who struggles to feed their family will. It is because of their future prospects and because of the support they have around them.
That is similar to my experience and I know that I am lucky. Although things are tight now for my family, we are unlikely to experience homelessness or starvation.
An increasing amount of people in our country are unable to say the same.
Even if you have money in your pocket and food in your belly though the effects of poverty will still impact on you. We cannot ignore our human interconnection for much longer.
On Saturday 20th June 250,000 people took to the streets of London and many more up and down the country did the same; they cried out that they understood our collective responsibility and made a clear demand of the government; austerity must end now.
What can you do to put an end to austerity?
On Monday 29th June you could the Bristol People’s Assembly as they consider what action to take in the lead up to the governments ‘emergency budget’ https://www.facebook.com/events/454045744782111/
On Thursday 2nd July you can join Stroud Against the Cuts as they decide what action they can take next https://www.facebook.com/events/851728144880544/
You can join the Green Party; the Green Party opposes austerity and wants to see real change for the greater good https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining