Over the last couple of weeks I have been experiencing severe menopausal rage or at least that’s what I thought it was. The rage has been so overwhelming that at times I have been quite frightened. It seemed to coincide with the budget and the government’s condemnation of so many vulnerable young people to a life of poverty. The Conservative MPs with their expensive educations, inherited wealth, and expensive homes have decided to reduce the bankers’ debt by taking from the poor, the sick and the disabled of our country and our children, our future.
The cuts will affect millions. In The Guardian, the IFS said the budget was regressive, taking “much more” from the poor than the rich. IFS director Paul Johnson said: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the budget on average.”
How is it possible to condemn so many people to more poverty, more hopelessness? And when I talk about poverty it is not just monetary, it is emotional and physical and much more besides, especially for vulnerable care leavers. Lisa Cherry said of young people leaving care and their relationship with money: ‘The money that cared, the allowances, the obligations, the ‘rights’ that have been encountered, have all but vanished, often along with the nurture and the care that had been around when the paid people had us on their caseloads.’ And now the Housing Benefit for 18-21 year olds is to be scrapped.
To date there has been no announcement that young people leaving care, or those that are vulnerable and have already left, will be protected. What is going to happen to the thousands of young people that leave every year? Where will they go? Where will they live? How will they survive? Mhairi Black MP, in her first speech in the House of Commons said: ‘We now have one of the most uncaring, uncompromising and out of touch governments that the UK has seen since Thatcher’.
Centrepoint found that one in five 18-25-year-olds have been forced to sleep rough at least once in the last year, and one-in-five have been forced to sofa-surf – the key reason being family breakdown. These figures will jump to unimaginable numbers over the next five years. There will be a huge comebacks and huge costs in later years with a massive rise in mental health problems, homelessness and crime. A report from the National Audit Office, Care leavers’ transitions to adulthood, recognises ‘…the system is not working effectively…The poor life experiences of too many care leavers are a longstanding problem.’
For young people and care leavers who are at university or going this year, the crucial maintenance grant has also been axed. One example of many is a young girl whose father died a few years ago and whose mother died earlier this year; she depends on the grant for her existence. Our Higher Education system has become a debt-making system, and again it is the government and banks that are behind this financial nightmare. Chris Hoyle has written a letter to Jo Johnson, reminding the Minister of State for Universities, Science and Innovation, that he is the corporate parent of care leavers.
How have these cuts been allowed to happen?
Well, in part, the demonisation and persecution of those on benefits was a clever PR job that began a long time before the lead up to the election. The ‘Benefit Cheat’ type programmes have been prime-time viewing for a few years, all designed with the help of the tabloids to create a portion of society that could be blamed for the greed of MPs and bankers, and consequently punished by the 2015 budget. The PR making machine did such a good job that some people really believe that the handful of people on TV, some who really did claim benefits while working, represent those really in need such as the disabled, the sick and the unemployed. And so now many people have been brainwashed into not caring.
And yet with help, our damaged, neglected, abandoned young people can achieve so much. Lisa Cherry, for example, who fought alcohol addiction and homelessness and with the help of charities, grants and bursaries went to university, worked as a social worker and is now a speaker and lecturer and is educating others. Lisa helps people find a path towards a life of hope rather hopelessness, a life of love rather than want and the many ways to reduce the inheritance of poverty as she and others mop up the destruction of the governments totally inadequate – not fit for purpose – corporate parenting scheme, the care system. (Thank you Rosie – Lisa x)
As I write the rage continues, feeding my words, I cannot understand what our cherished country has become. I don’t want to be angry but I don’t know what else to be. I know there are people who care but they are not part of this government. Votes are the only weapon this nation has. That and the power of words. We musn’t give up, we must write and keep writing to our local councillors and ask them to stop these murderous cuts or else…
*As we go to press MP’s have just been awarded a 10% pay rise. Benefits are frozen for 4 years. Public sector pay rises are either frozen or are just 1%