It has become a regular occurrence to see normally mainstream actors and organisations calling on the government to change its policy on Universal Credit. The only product of these statements seems to be paranoid attacks on the bias of their speakers by the government‘s spokespeople.
This open letter says “We are witnessing an unstoppable movement to end poverty, fight inequality, preserve public services and champion human rights.”
It is only a movement like this that can produce change. If we want to defeat UC we must fight to realise this vision.
After a second day of strike action by Jobcentre workers in Walsall and Wolverhampton the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is consulting workers at other sites about expanding the strike.
However, response by claimants online has been mixed and it’s easy to see why. In his speech on the strike, the PCS’s General Secretary said “Our members… work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society”. This disappears the role Jobcentre workers have in making claimants lives’ worse and the vast numbers of normal people being made vulnerable by Universal Credit. Further singling out “concerns over staffing and under investment” he implies that Universal Credit is fixable by Government if it responds to the Union’s demands.
This doesn’t reflect the reality of our lives. Many of us experience Jobcentre workers as oppressors, not martyrs. None of the five demands of the PCS will have a critical impact on this. Universal Credit itself is a tightening of the stranglehold Government has over the poor and a massive step backwards for the lives of claimants.
Until unions start demanding an end to or total restructuring of Universal Credit they must expect their strikes to be seen for what they are: self serving and meaningless demands for reform from those enacting the policies we despise.
“Although the United Kingdom is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Policies of austerity introduced in 2010 continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.
The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.” – Summary of the UN Report.
A report published by Human Rights Watch 18 hours ago documents the danger that families and children will “fall through the net.” It records:
– a 5,146% increase in emergency food parcels (2008-2018) – a 44% cut in welfare spending (2010-2018) – More than 14 million foodbank meals eaten in the last 12 months
It further states the UK Government is ignoring the recommendations of three UN committees and the British Institute of Human Rights and “has yet to fully acknowledge its own responsibility… for the hunger crisis”.