"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 18 May 2013

So this 'Bedroom Tax' saves money?

Sometimes I think that I am remarkably thick. I obviously don't understand economics. You see this 'Bedroom Tax' that the Coalition Government introduced was said to be the way to saving lots of money. I couldn't understand that at the time, but then my degree is not in economics. I have only run household accounts and back when rocks were soft I worked in accountancy as a pa, preparing accounts to draft account levels. Oh and did the accounts for a few charities and organisations. But I am not a government guru or anything like that. Obviously.

So when I read this in the Guardian this morning:
More than 25,000 people applied for DHP [Discretionary Housing Payments] to help cover April rent, compared with 5,700 in same month last year
I felt a renewed faith in my own Economics theories.

But what can never be 'measured' in any scale, graph or pie chart is the untold misery that Welfare cuts like the 'Bedroom Tax' bring - not just to individuals involved but to their extended families and friends.

I have a young relative who is one of those that has had been put into considerable hardship by more than one of the cruel moves - intended to save 'taxpayers money' by the government. Jo was a taxpayer for many years, with a good job gained after years of qualifications studied for and passed. In a relationship with one child. But then life tripped Jo up, almost literally. The relationship broke down and the partner disappeared to another country, out of the reach of the CSA. No matter, Jo's job could support Jo and one child - just. No need to move, living in a three bedroomed social housing Jo could pay all the bills and send child to the good local school and then hopefully to university.

Then came the 'trip up'. Jo had an accident at work, who informed Jo that there was no case for a compensation claim after the period of statuary sick pay had expired. Consultants at the hospital forbade Jo to attempt to resume the job that had caused the injury. As some days Jo could not get out of bed there was no other course but to claim disability benefit.

Eighteen months ago Jo asked the council for a move into a smaller property as the three bedroom house was not only too big but too costly to heat. The council could not find anything smaller so Jo and son had to continue living in a house that they would love to leave due to the expenses and realised as soon as the 'Bedroom Tax' was  mooted Jo knew would not be able to afford.

Fortunately at the last minute Jo managed to do a 'private' exchange, but with all savings gone Jo's OAP parents had to helped out financially and physically with the removal. However Jo's son now has to pay fares to school, and has been refused a bus pass because Jo CHOSE to move and there is a school near to there new home - even though he is taking his 'O' levels in a couple of months. 

What makes it even harder is whilst all this has been happening Jo has been appealing an ATOS ruling at the moment who have deemed Jo fit to work despite all the medical advice and records. 

Jo is not an unusual case. Google and lots of such histories can be found, one heartbreaking example is Diary of a Benefit Scrounger   People in Jo's situation must honestly feel that society are against them - and why shouldn't they.

I know I have said this before, but to me, frighteningly, this apology for a government seems intent on returning to 19thC values. That is, the ideals of 'deserving poor' and the 'Protestant Work Ethic'. However this Government's deserving poor don't seem to exist to them at all and the Protestant Work Ethic seems only to work in one way - the poor should work but get shafted by the Patriarchial Society until they drop dead with cold, exhausation or hunger. But never mind, there will be another one [unemployed] along in a minute whom we can exploit. And if I sound cyncial and bigoted, maybe it is because I am.

I do like to have a bit of humour in my writing. Today my humour has gone walk about and is hopefully is helping those marching in London in support of the NHS. I am there in spirit but Other Half has been on another demo and I have been dispensing Grandmotherly duties.

Useful Links:

ATOS Victims Group: http://atosvictimsgroup.co.uk/

Friday, 3 May 2013

Be Nice to Pensioners

Other Half and I were watching Ten O'Clock Live [new series just started on Wednesdays, channel 4 at - guess what - 10pm] a couple of days ago. It is one of those programmes of which I am never sure whether I like it or not! Certain of the presenters [Lauren Laverne, David Mitchell, Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr] are amusing/informative/cleverly satirical - others are cringe making imo!

The guests are of course another story. Some weeks I have yawned through the 'discussions' [in inverted commas because they often degenerate into shouting matches, as this week], other weeks I have become really engaged and sorry when it finishes.

This week's 'discussion' looked promising: Janet Street-Porter, always interesting and combative; Shiv Malik, co-author of Jilted Generation, suggested an interesting 'new' [in inverted commas as the book was published in 2010] point of view and Peter Stringfellow [two out of three ain't bad] - chaired by David Mitchell.

The discussion started with the premise that State Pensioners should share in the austerity cuts that the rest of the country are undergoing, especially the young. A couple of things wrong with that. Austerity cuts are not affecting rich of any age group [as Peter Stringfellow pointed out ad nauseum he may be old but he is rich. Disgustingly rich. Or just disgustingly anything] In fact the rich could be said to be benefiting from this 'austerity Government' as the tax cuts have favoured them. Cynical, moi?

Would our two Pensioners on the show give up their Fuel Allowance? Peter would - after all he probably spends more than £100 regularly on an evening meal with his mates. Janet wouldn't because she has paid for it heavily in taxes over her working life. Peter was cheered by the younger-than-him audience, Janet wasn't. But who was more representative of the 'average' pensioner? Well obviously not Peter Stringfellow. And probably not Janet Street-Porter. They both have income levels considerably above mine [just over £107 pw state pension] But then they pay tax as they are in the taxable income bracket and I'm not. And that's what so many commentators seem to forget. If a pensioner is 'rich', s/he will be paying tax and therefore paying back any "pensioners' perks" that younger commentators are griping about.

And during pensioners working lives we paid our taxes and national insurance dues and were promised that we would be looked after in our old age. If £107 pw, a bus pass, £100* per year winter fuel allowance, free prescriptions, free eye tests, discount on poll tax and a free TV licence once we reach 75 years old for a 'standard pensioner' [i.e. one not on any additional benefits] is really 'looking after'. Not a lot really but I am not complaining - just saying that we are already on the austere side of the austerity, so asking us to take additional cuts seems a little unfair.

Obviously pensioners should not get any rises in their 'pay'. We should have saved a lot more during our working lives. Forget the promises made to us by governments that we would be safe in our old age because we were paying those taxes and other dues that ensured we would be fine. Those of us that bought houses would also be able to sit back in the luxury of our later years, in the glow of home ownership. Of course that was before mortgage rates spiralled and lots of us lost our houses because we couldn't keep up the new repayments or cannot retire because there is just a chance that if we keep on working [if of course the jobs are still there] we may almost have cleared the debt by the time we die.

And some of us were clever enough to take out private pensions. So we would be OK. Until the private pensions went down the toilet with all our money and that apparently was our fault too for not taking the right advice or something. Nothing to do with the urging of whichever government thought we were doing the right thing at the time. And what about those with wonderful company schemes into which a good percentage of their wages were put ever pay day. No need to save when one's money was being so carefully looked after. But what's this I read in the newspaper? The company has gone into administration and with it my money which was in the pension fund. If I am already a pensioner and that part of my pension has disappeared how am I going to cut down on my already depleted budget? Perhaps the government will help? Apparently not.....

Take away the bus passes. Well this will obviously hurt the pensioners who use the buses. It will also hurt the bus companies who are paid by local councils who pay for each trip a pensioner takes using the free pass. For those living in rural areas like mine this could lead to the loss of some bus services. Social isolation could cause more problems for some pensioners and the need for more intervention from the social services. But hey, those rich greedy pensioners will not be getting away with a perk, will they!!

Oh, and the winter fuel allowances. Well, that is obviously a good thing to cut. Because those fuel allowances won't now be spent on heating homes and putting up the profits of fuel companies, most of which are foreign owned and making so much profit that their share holders are very happy. What a shame those fuel companies are not state owned so that any profits could be ploughed back into capital investment, giving work to the unemployed and possibly keeping profits down. Oh they were once were? So when the pensioners were working - paying taxes - something which they already owned [nationalised industries] were sold off? And now they are to be "rewarded" by not having nearly enough income to pay the high charges the new fuel company owners see fit to charge?

And the TV licences. Again not a problem. Most pensioners in the forthcoming Brave New World will be out in the fields working all day to make up their income and in bed as soon as it gets dark to keep warm as the only way to survive the austerity cuts the younger generation seems to think they deserve.

I hope I don't sound bitter. I am a really sweet old lady. I smell of lavendar water, suck peppermints and sit in a shawl knitting and talking to myself because I am so deaf I can't hear that I am thinking out loud. Oh no - that was my Grandmother who was so glad that her grandchildren were not going to live the sort of lives that she and her forebears had, hard lives with their old age only made comfortable by the generosity of their children. I am just an older woman who wants her grandchildren to inherit a world that cares for its elders, respects the promises it has made and lives to the values of the  slogan popularised by Marx:

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need[s]

However, many take this suggestion back to an earlier source, the Bible, with this quotation from the Acts of the Apostles, 4:32:

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Two good suggestions to follow. A bit better than Dirty Dave's 'We are all in it together'. The first two quotes were by those who really meant and believed what they said.

This Bank Holiday - be nice to a pensioner. It could be me!

*£200 if only one pensioner in a household, £300 if the pensioner attains the age of 80.

Photograph above is of Williton, W.Somerset Workhouse, now developed into private dwellings. Please don't relegate us back to the Workhouse league......