While Cameron spoke of giving Scotland greater powers and the Queen purred asking us to remain in the union, it was obvious that some members of the ConDems were particularly quiet. Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud waited in the wings to see if they had been given the green light to continue with their campaign of benefit cuts which impact on some of the most vulnerable in society.
Now the status quo of Westminster is not under threat, in the next few years they can continue the dismantling of the safety net of the welfare state. So what will the near future hold for those of us who rely on benefits to top up poverty wages to exist? Almost immediately after the result, Iain Duncan Smith announced a faster roll-out of Universal Credit, a controversial benefit which many charities have raised concerns about, as all benefits will be paid into one account. Claimants will have to access this online and there are worries for those without access to a computer.
The payment of Housing Benefit may mean that some people with more chaotic lifestyles may find it difficult to budget and may fall into arrears with their rent. The under-25s in particular will be among the hardest hit. Cameron, when announcing an end to Housing Benefit to young people, claimed it would “nag and push” people into work and employment. Most of those who currently receive housing benefit are young parents—some have been forced to leave home due to difficult family circumstances.
The ConDems are pushing the family unit as the safety net for young people but sadly, for many, this is not a safe place for them. For the first time ever, younger people are more likely to be worse off than their parents’ generation, as youth unemployment continues to rise and only dead end jobs or zero hour contracts are available.
A young comrade working for a fast food company told me how he had to pay a £50 deposit for his uniform which he would only get back after he leaves if it is in pristine condition, and how he has to hire his shoes for £5 a week. Young people especially also seem to be targeted for benefit sanctions and forced to live on half of the amount the government say you need to live on. Cuts are also on the agenda for those with disabilities and their carers. The Scottish Government estimates a 100,000 Scots will lose income with the roll-out of Personal Independence Payments.
While day centres and centres continue to close, disabled people and their carers are forced to choose direct payments. Demeaning Work Capability Assessments will continue, when a pre-referendum pledge may have meant the end of them in Scotland. The cuts in child benefit will impact on women and children who again will be among the groups bearing the brunt of the cuts.
There are very difficult times ahead in the communities we live and work in. The ConDems will continue to attack the most vulnerable and use those in receipt of benefits as nothing more as cannon fodder in the race to the next election. They are also ignorant of what it means to be vulnerable in today’s society.
Lord Freud—the benefit reform “expert” for both Labour and ConDem governments—has shown he does not even know the difference between learning disability and mental ill health. For them, anyone in receipt of benefits is a “scrounger”. We know who the real scroungers are though.Those who have made money in these dark days of austerity. We have a lot to do, comrades, to highlight the attacks on the poor and to stand up for those most affected, because they are not ‘other people’ but our friends and family. They’re us.
I know we will continue to fight the cuts and we will need to watch out for those we care about. There is strength in numbers, and I could not wish for any better people to be there watching the backs of many of my friends. As we continue to grow, let us ensure that we continue to highlight and tackle austerity and continue to fight for an independent socialist Scotland.