The 12 days of those affected by austerity cuts
The coalition’s austerity measures have hit the most vulnerable in society, causing widespread misery and distress, in an alternate viewpoint from Kate Baldwin
One the first day of Christmas, ol’ Osborne gave to me… OK, so Osborne hasn’t just been sharing his austerity ‘gifts’ this Christmas period, but has generously been sharing them out all year.
During this Christmas period, where those of us who are lucky will spend a wonderful time among friends and family - eating, drinking and generally be merry, it’s also the time of year when we think of those less fortunate than ourselves. This year let’s think of those suffering this year due to the recent austerity measures.*
On the first day of Christmas… we’ll think of those who’ll be going to food banks this year to find their Christmas meal. The Trussell Trust has reported 913,138 people have received three days’ emergency food from their food banks in 2013-14 compared to 346,992 in 2012-13, and they still believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.
On the second day of Christmas… we’ll think of those affected by domestic violence can’t be admitted to refuges. Women’s refuges have been hit particularly hard by recent austerity cuts, and the affect is that there are not enough beds (32% below international standards based on UK population) to get women out of abusive situations.
On the third day of Christmas… we’ll think of those working zero hour contracts. Whilst not necessarily everyone on zero contract hours will be suffering this Christmas, the lack of security means many may find themselves mid-January without any work. And with landlords increasingly abandoning those on zero hour contracts, they could easily end up without a roof.
On the fourth day of Christmas… we’ll think of the disabled whose benefits and opportunities to work have been siphoned off in the past year. The culmination of cuts to disability and carer’s benefits, abolishing some benefits and tax credits under universal credit (2013-2017) has left the disabled one of the most affected by welfare cuts and economically vulnerable.
On the fifth day of Christmas… we’ll think of those who are refused incapacity benefit but are too sick to work. With evidence of medical assessors being put under immense pressure to declare sickness benefits claimants fit for work, the effects can be tragic. As of October 2013, 31 people have died in the preceding three years while appealing against decisions that they were able to work.
On the sixth day of Christmas… we’ll think of children being affected by to benefits cuts. Unicef reported in October that in the UK more than one in four children are living in poverty. Recession aside, Unicef claim that the coalition’s performance on child poverty has been disappointing, compared to 18 other countries who’ve managed to reduce their country’s child poverty since the recession.
On the seventh day of Christmas… we’ll think of those on tax credits. Despite Osborne and the tabloid’s best efforts to position all benefits claimants as “scroungers”, the Resolution Foundation has found that more than half (60%) of the squeeze is hitting working households.
On the eighth day of Christmas… we’ll think of women suffering from welfare cuts. Of the combined impact of all the fiscal measures since the 2010 budget 74.5% (£11.1 billion) will fall primarily on women according to the projected government revenues for 2014/15.
On the ninth day of Christmas… we’ll think of patients and the NHS staff, where austerity measures have impacted the level of care the NHS can offer. A poll of more than 8,000 NHS staff by Unison, found 32% said that austerity measures (i.e. freezing recruitment, cutting posts and services, outsourcing and restructuring) have led to a decrease in quality of care.
On the tenth day of Christmas… we’ll think of immigrants. Immigrants continue to remain the nation’s scapegoat, blamed frequently for a straining health, welfare, housing and education services. All this despite the fact that European migrants have been shown to contribute £20 million to the economy, which far outweighs their cost in welfare.
On the eleventh day of Christmas… we’ll think of those with a spare bedroom who have nowhere else to go. Whilst properly allocating social housing is essential, the bedroom tax has caused hardworking, vulnerable people to suffer.
And with 96% of those affected having nowhere to move, an increasing number of hardworking people are being forced into arrears and/or putting greater amounts of money into private landlords’ pockets.
On the twelfth day of Christmas… we’ll think of Britain’s economy. Despite Osborne’s severe austerity measures, the financial impact on households up and down the UK has resulted in HM Revenue & Customs collecting lower than expected tax receipts.
This has in no way filled black hole in the UK’s finances that Osborne promised to fix. Let’s think this Christmas of the many people suffering from austerity measures and with such little positive impact to the British economy.
*(n.b. the list is not ordered according to the gravity of situation)
Kate Baldwin is a political activist and communications professional based in London @KateBaldwin18
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