In her column in The News on March 1, Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said that ‘government reforms will restore the welfare system’s founding principle of fairness.’
Beveridge and Aneurin Bevan must be turning in their graves. Some of us remember David Cameron’s pledge on election posters – ‘We’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS’.
But nobody would fight an election with the promise to strip 50,000 jobs out of the NHS. Nor would they talk about ward closures such as the QA’s G5, bed shortages, waiting lists, cancelled operations and consultations, and postal lotteries.
Surely ‘fairness’ does not mean the privatisation of the NHS, the opening up of our education system to the market, the virtual end of affordable social housing, cuts in pensions and welfare benefits, and the withdrawal of legal aid.
Ms Dinenage makes the gobsmacking claim that ‘more than 2.5m of the very poorest in our society will actually be better off’ from the welfare reforms. That evidently does not include the 1.6 million children in poverty.
According to Save the Children charity figures, more than one in five children now live in severe poverty. Another pledge down the drain.
George Osborne promised that his tough approach to cutting the deficit would not include child poverty. With unemployment rising (nearly a million 16-24 year olds are currently out of work), the ‘radical shake-up of the welfare system’ is to wipe £18bn from benefit payments and push up the number of young people living without the basics.
The most vulnerable people in our society – the old, young, disabled, sick – are being subjected to the most cruel and unfair treatment.
What we need is not a populist, tub-thumping rant about penalising the work-shy. Tighten up the welfare system by all means, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s have a system that is flexible and supportive, especially of the young and disabled and which helps people into good, appropriate jobs with decent wages.
One that values and supports those who are genuinely unable to work, and that insures us all against the misfortunes of sickness and disability.