There’s always a temptation, when thinking about the chaotic, omnishambolic way in which this government conducts itself, to assume that they are simply deluded, or foolish, or wrong. A bit of a shambles, in fact.
Of course, the word shambles doesn’t mean messy, or untidy, or ill thought out.
A shambles was the place where animals were slaughtered. In most towns it wasn’t called a shambles; it was the shambles, a place of blood, faeces, terrified animals and sweating, swearing men with knives slaughtering and butchering their way through the day.
This government is making a shambles of the welfare state.
And for those who depend on the welfare state, well, they are as flies to wanton boys, who pull their wings off in callous experiments to see what will happen. That’s why, as time goes by, it’s easy and easier to find agreement with Aneurin Bevan; ” no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party that inflicted those bitter experiences on me. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin. Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now.”
One example was the bedroom tax, where it was decided biological gender would determine whether children under 16 have to share a bedroom or not. Now, before people accuse us of being needlessly party political, lots of Labour councils in the past had letting criteria that made similarly harsh and arbitrary decisions about what families did or did not need.
What will make a shambles of our welfare state is not the principle of the bedroom tax but the implementation of it, and the lack of any forethought or degree of concern about the results.
Take an example – let’s call her Mrs Miggins. She lives in a three bedroomed house with her daughters Amy and Bryony. Amy will be fourteen next month, Bryony will be twelve next birthday. Mrs Miggins will face a 14% cut in housing benefit from April. She won’t be able to make up the shortfall, not least because benefits are not rising as fast as her fuel and food bills. So her landlord will accrue rent arrears of 14% of her rent for two years, since the under-occupation will cease when Amy becomes 16. Mrs Miggins landlord is her local council.
Round here 14% of average council rent on a three bedroomed house is about £10 a week. So over two years arrears of £1040 will accrue. The cost of evicting Mrs Miggins will equal that amount, and it is unlikely that she will ever be able to repay either that amount or the costs of the court proceedings. As a homeless person, with children, who will have to accommodate Mrs Miggins? The local council. Her current landlords.
Now that the bedroom tax is out of the way Mrs Miggins faces a new challenge; Universal credit.
The disaster that is the implementation of UC is described here.
What’s most scary is not that the government have made such a mess of an IT scheme, but that there is no plan B.
Implementing changes such as these without either transitional provisions or any effort to ameliorate the most illogical or unfair impacts cannot just be passed off as a lack of foresight. Plenty of people have warned the government that this will happen, but it appears intent on creating a shambles of the welfare state in the belief that this will be better for the nation, even if it leaves Mrs Miggins either homeless or permanently in debt.
If you found this blog because of our attitudes to sex welcome. Being kinky, and open minded, and generous in our attitude to others who return the favour does not preclude us from being political in an intensely day to day way. We oppose, utterly, the idea that a welfare state is something that, because of the bankers crisis, we can no longer afford.