Thursday, July 06, 2006

Cowards and Traitors

Several of my American friends celebrated their Fourth of July with fireworks and so on - though in certain parts of Colorado I'm told there was a ban because of the risk of bush fires. In the spirit of celebrating what parts of living in a specific country one enjoys, or what parts of the history of that country one celebrates, I thought I would take the time to note down something that struck me today whilst reading the Guardian.

On page 11, there is a headline "Welfare bill plans to take 1 million [people] off incapacity benefit." The basic story is that John Hutton, the Work and Pensions secretary, is spearheading the PR campaign to justify legislation that will radically alter Social Security in this country. The first thing that I have to ask is this; why the hell is this story on page 11? The government is announcing sweeping and contradictory changes that will drastically affect the lives of one million people in this country. It gets put on page 11, whilst page 1 is yet more scaremongering about nuclear power.

Anyway, that isn't the crux of the issue; allow me to reproduce the paragraph by Westminster Correspondent David Hencke that really caught my attention.

"The government also intends to change housing benefit payments to private landlords so that claimants get a flat allowance rather than the full rent charged by the landlord. This may dampen down the buy-to-let market, where landlords rely on renting out property to benefit claimants and the low paid."

I didn't believe how utterly callous that paragraph is, in fact I had to read it several times to make sure I understood it correctly. People, who are out of work, might be denied a place to live through this move and the columnist thinks this is important because it might dampen the buy-t0-let market? The buy-to-let market is driven by, amongst other things, the high and increasing need for mobility in the workforce. It is driven by each year a million students moving out of home, whether to acquire somewhere near to a job or to be closer to university.

The bottom line is that, regardless of whether there is government support or not, people still need a place to live. If no government aid is forthcoming, it means those people must find alternative means of support. For the out-of-work, this is an obvious problem. Under Jobseekers Allowance rules, evidence already has to be provided that you are seeking work, or else they will cut your benefits - so this scheme will hit the unemployed the hardest.

The upshot of all this is crime, for those right wing idiots out there reading this and saying "Tut tut, another liberal do-gooder letting people sponge off the fat of the land." If people can't supplement themselves with government income, they will turn to crime. All this is to say nothing of the property, decimated by Thatcher, Major and Blair, which used to be government-owned housing for such people as could not afford rent - particularly in urban disctricts where rent is extortionate.

Age Concern has already come out in criticism and some readers may now be wondering where the title of this article came from. General Secretary of the PCS, Mark Serotkwa, simply claimed the danger is that people are going to be forced into jobs unsuitable for the long run. Yes, because that's the foremost danger in a country where homelessness is endemic.

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