Interesting wee program on BBC the other night Britain’s Hidden Housing Crisis. It shows how the economic crisis is pushing many people out of their homes and into the poverty trap. This crisis isn’t just affecting the working classes any more but increasingly member of the middle class and even a few toff’s. One of those interviewed was a former investment banker forced into sleeping rough. While I suspect many may not have a lot of sympathy for him (a few comments on this blog string to that effect), it shows you how deep this crisis is running.
One of the key themes of this program was the fact it is now so easy to wind up homeless. For example one of those interviewed ended up loosing her home due to cancer stopping her from working. This is the sort of thing that could effect any of us, hence why we all need that social security safety net…a net the tories are increasingly cutting away!
There is a myth put out by the tories that those on benefits don’t work and have it easy. Not true, increasingly people in low paid jobs with large debts (or a poor credit history) are being forced to rely on the benefits system just to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads. If there was one theme of this programme it was that living on benefits is no picnic.
The tories unfortunately still cling to this warped view of people on benefits. I recall a tory on the radio last week bemoaning the fact that so many people in council estates have satellite dishes (let them eat cake sort of thing) My response to that would be:
1) those satellite dishes are largely the product of you’re pal Rupert Murdoch’s near monopoly on UK TV, notably sports.
2) not everyone who lives on a council estate (or is on benefits) is unemployed, quite a number of them do work (quite legally and legitimately).
3) many more used to work but have since lost their jobs due to the Tory austerity policies.
4) There’s a (rusty) dish on the side of my house from a previous occupant, all a dish on the side of the house tells you is that someone at a point in the past had a subscription. I’d query how many of those dishes are still active.
It is also true that some people in modern society aren’t very good at budgeting and have their priorities all wrong. Casing point, one of those interviewed in Panorama was shown driving away from his newly repossessed house in a large 4×4 (personally, I’d ditch the car first or trade down to a cheaper model before loosing the home).
However, if we’re going to start condemning people to poverty for these sorts of things, won’t it be an idea of regulating away the leaches who prey on them. I’m talking of course about pay day lenders (semi legalised loan sharks) and slum landlords. Indeed, as I pointed out sometime ago the tories policy on squatters rights has loaded a housing system that already favours the lenders and “casino landlords” all the more in their favour.
Yes there are people who exploit the benefits system, but there as many if not many more genuine hardship cases. Cutting their benefits to punish the scroungers amounts to collective punishment and if we’re going to start inflicting that on people, I think most of us would rather start with a few other groups (bankers? Lawyers? Tax dodging corporations?).
If there’s one thing we all need to learn is we are truly all in this together. Any of us are only a few pay cheques away from the bread line (unless you’re one of our millionaire cabinet that is), and this I’m all right Jack attitude in British society needs to go.