News of the welfare reforms imposed by Westminster leaves me feeling sickened. I observe the introduction of Universal Credit, including the capping of benefit levels, and the recently much publicised bedroom tax only as acts of cruelty. Who are these politicians, well paid with well-publicised access to generous expenses, that are able to force significant numbers of the UK population into certain poverty?
Furthermore, for the Government to enforce such reforms while promoting the idea that there is a ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor is disgraceful. Potential voters are encouraged to think that those claiming benefits without working are doing so through choice. The situations of those who, for example, are unfit to work, newly redundant or with caring responsibilities are neglected while attention is also diverted from the struggles of those in work who are being let down by low wages, high rents and a shortage of working hours.
As a Scot, I suddenly find myself more interested in the notion of an independent Scotland. Previously I focussed on the fear of the unknown and the risks of a Yes vote, now I am obsessed with the injustice that so many Scots will suffer at the hands of the welfare reforms, voted against by the majority of their elected representatives at Westminster.
What I can do to help? As a parent with young children, time is not a resource I have much of. Some spare moments have been spent using my voice – talking with friends and family about the potential impact of the new legislation; tweeting my thoughts; contacting MPs; and writing to my local school, asking them to consider how local families’ increased risk of poverty will make paying for extras, such as trips and activities, impossible. Writing this blog post is something I feel I can do to let my opinion about this terrible policy change be shared. I read as much as I can about the reforms and how they are likely to impact – knowledge fuels my desire to act and reminds me of the issues. It has also let me know about local initiatives such as my local foodbank.
It feels wrong and irresponsible to spend excessively when others are struggling. The threat of poverty is out there – companies such as Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster are recent victims of the financial climate – it is hard to know how monetarily secure the average family is and it would be optimistic to think the situation isn’t going to get worse and involve more people.
I am trying not to bring too many possessions into the house, not to spoil the children and instead pass on outgrown clothes, toys and household items as soon as they are redundant so that they can be used by those who need them or at least sold by charities who can use the cash.
And yet none of these things are very much or very helpful within the bigger picture of the struggles caused by the welfare reforms. I am someone who cares but still finds it hard to move out of my comfort zone to help the most vulnerable who are being forcibly removed from theirs.
I write this piece as a reminder to myself mostly, but also to anyone who might be reading, that we must take action. Action to help the people who are being victimised by these mindless policies. Victims who are almost certainly our neighbours, friends and family. Life in the UK is changing and we must force change or take some responsibility for the consequences.