“A compromise too far” – Iain Duncan Smith and the realities of being poor in the UK

In the same week as Chancellor George Osborne released his budget that saw further cuts to disability benefits while the most wealthy get tax cuts, the (now former) Secretary for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith resigned from his post, citing concerns about the juxtaposition of these unfair cuts to welfare for the most vulnerable alongside tax cuts for the most wealthy.Regardless of whether or not IDS’s resignation was out of genuine concern for the people he once tried to fool with propaganda leaflets with fake testimonials, or less savoury ulterior motives as Europe becomes a bigger issue within the Tory party and the country as a whole, it once again reminds us quite how much this Tory government, which was elected as a majority government last year after five years of a Lib Dem coalition, has waged war on the working classes and the most vulnerable in society.

The Tory myth that those on welfare for long periods of time are doing it to avoid working are generally untrue. Of course, there are people who do that and to deny the existence of such people would be a lie, but this is a tiny minority that appears larger than it actually is thanks to shows like Benefits Street and other media focus. It seems that Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne fail to realise quite how competitive job markets are, even for minimum wage positions that don’t require experience – this is something that is exacerbated by some parts of the country just not having jobs available. I was once told that I was “smart” for moving to London for university (and hopefully, after I graduate in the summer, work) because people who “can’t find jobs should move to find them” as if it’s just that easy. FYI: it’s not that easy.

Much of the reality of being poor in 2016 is not what the Conservatives or right-wing rags such as The S*n and Daily Mail want you to think. Being poor is four people living off incapacity benefit plus whatever can be brought home from a small start-up business. It’s not being able to put the central heating on when it’s below freezing because it costs far too much and we need to eat. It’s feeling awful for asking for money for basic things, and it’s having to make deals with local councils and bailiffs so they don’t take everything we own. It’s having to save for a long time to afford an electric wheelchair for my disabled mother, and even then not being able to make the necessary adjustments for her to be able to go out in it without prior help. It’s watching your parents constantly worry about how they’re going to pay the next bill. It’s the internet cutting out for days at a time, it’s the electricity going out randomly and having to rush out at 10pm because we needed the money for something else earlier in the week. And my experience is considered good compared to people who have it so much worse – nobody goes hungry, we’ve never had to rely on food banks, and we still have a roof over our head, and cuts haven’t killed anyone close to us. In recent years, my family and I have struggled a lot, but there are so many who have it worse, all of which is a result of the Conservatives putting ideology and austerity before human lives.

In his resignation letter, IDS says he is “proud” of what his government have achieved in terms of welfare. While I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the damage these cuts have done as a result of his resignation, he is no better than Mr. Cameron or Mr. Osborne. Why has it taken so long for you to find a conscience, Mr Duncan Smith? How can you in good conscience claim these new cuts are “too far” all the while still being “proud” of the cuts you and your department made that faced a UN inquiry, that have literally killed people? How can you be proud of policies and decisions so God-awful you had to lie in your literature, as if we were mindless followers who wouldn’t think twice? Where was your conscience when you cheered for policies that unfairly affected young people? Credit where credit is due: you are right – it is a compromise too far. It’s been this way for a long time. And the possibility you may be using such injustice for political gain about Europe is deeply sickening and symptomatic of Tory “who cares about poor people?” dogma. If you truly believe the cuts your government is making are unjust and cruel, its up to you to prove it. Be the change you’re telling us you want to see. Don’t let your words be in vain.

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