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From: The Socialist issue 846, 4 March 2015: Housing crisis: Build homes - Cap rents

Search site for keywords: Them & Us - NHS - Cuts - Government - Labour - Legal aid - Aid - Sanctions - Pay - Health - Housing

Them & Us

Late for supper

Almost 100,000 children in poor families went hungry last year because of government cuts or sanctions imposed on their parents' benefits.

Research carried out by a coalition of churches found that over one million benefit sanctions were imposed last year - often for trivial reasons - although more than 120,000 of those decisions were overturned on appeal.

Unbelievably, more than 100 people with severe mental health problems were sanctioned every day.

Niall Cooper, of Church Action on Poverty, which helped write the report, said: "If you commit a crime, no court is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment. But if you're late for an appointment at the Jobcentre they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed you or your family for weeks."

Landlord country

Private landlords are quids-in thanks to government policies. Campaign group Generation Rent reckons that private landlords are receiving an astonishing 77.7 billion a year - 42.3 billion in rent and 35.4 billion in rising house prices - the same size as Morocco's economy!

Some 9.3 billion in housing benefit paid to low income households is pocketed by private landlords, which if invested in public housing instead, would mean well over 100,000 new council homes.

Normal exploitation

Exploitative zero-hour contracts are 'now the norm' according to research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) having increased by 110,000 in a year.

The TUC reckons that zero-hours workers earn 300 a week less on average than those on permanent contracts, and that two in five are paid less than 111 a week, therefore failing to qualify for statutory sick pay. Some workers may also miss out on statutory redundancy pay, the right to return to their job after maternity leave and protection from unfair dismissal.

Social injustice

In 2013, when the Con-Dem government was pushing severe legal aid cuts in social welfare law through parliament, Labour shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan said legal aid is "important to stop miscarriages of justice", as the Birmingham Six case proved.

Sadiq Khan is still shadow justice minister but today he says a Labour government 'could not reinstate' 600 million worth of legal aid cuts imposed by the Con-Dem administration.

Have they not read the press reports on how legal aid cuts are forcing lawyers to withhold services for people needing help with such matters as domestic abuse and racism?

Labour seems totally unwilling to reverse the effects of this attack on ordinary people's legal rights. If a possible future Miliband government is afraid of challenging any spending cuts, what hope for social justice under Labour?

What We Saw

Michael Sheen speaks out against NHS cuts and privatisation

Speaking in Tredegar, Wales, the birthplace of National Health Service (NHS) founder Nye Bevan, actor Michael Sheen accused establishment politicians of wanting to privatise the NHS.

"There are plenty out there who believe in grabbing as much as you can," he said. Adding: "They won't say it of course, they're too smart for that."

He continued: "The Labour government arguably did as much damage as any Tory or coalition government, this is about who we want to be and what we believe is worth fighting for."

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