Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/665/11711
Austerity measures take away the basics
Opened in 1983, Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centres, where I am training as an adviser, provide welfare rights and debt advice to some of Derbyshire's most deprived communities.
We get many enquiries about Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Some are about filling out the massively complicated forms, or, more commonly these days, appealing the decisions of Atos Origin, the company with a multi-million pound contract with the Department for Work and Pensions to provide 'work capability assessments (WCAs)'.
Mental health charity Mind's chief executive says that WCAs are "flawed" and that the stress of going through the process could exacerbate some people's mental health problems.
The sole reason for bringing in ESA seems to be to force people with health problems, often chronic and sometimes terminal, onto the far less generous Jobseeker's Allowance and the compulsion to find work which comes with that.
Governments (and it was New Labour who introduced ESA) say work is the route out of poverty, but do nothing about discriminating employers who won't give people with health problems a chance. Further, the right-wing media's demonisation of unemployed, ill and disabled people has created a situation where people are systematically impoverished, then blamed for their predicament.
Tory Derbyshire county council has now cut a quarter of our budget, around £33,000. This will mean fewer opening hours for some of our centres. Madness, when we can see the number of inquiries increase. For those who live in the communities we cover, the cuts will take away the basics. Our centres are a lifeline for people who have next to nothing. These cuts will wreck lives.
When told our funding has been slashed, some people seem genuinely scared, and say they don't know what they will do without us. Furthermore, despite the hardship some people face, our donations have increased, shaming councillors who want to cut our service to the bone.
As people begin to realise what 'austerity measures' mean for themselves and their families, they're looking for alternatives. The Socialist Party's message, that we will fight all cuts and all job losses, will resonate.
In The Socialist 6 April 2011:
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party youth and students