THE X FACTOR VISION OF SOCIETY BLAMES THE POOR FOR THEIR PREDICAMENT
Strictly Come Scrounging, anyone?
Even in hard times, nobody likes a scrounger. As the country trembles under the Tories' fiscal hammer, no one seems to want to contest the popular political narrative that welfare recipients have had it far too good, and must be punished. George Osborne has declared that his downsizing of the benefit system, which could force hundreds of thousands into abject poverty, will 'incentivise' jobseekers towards employment - because apparently all it takes to solve the problem of millions out of work is a little get-up-and-go. This is social security as reimagined by Simon Cowell - only life's winners are rewarded, and losers go home empty-handed.
The cynical amongst us might contend that 'making work pay' is rather a tasteless euphemism for 'cutting welfare so savagely that even the minimum wage looks like unattainable luxury' - but we live in a rat race, and the sick, the needy and the unemployed have proven themselves insufficiently murine. They are losers, they lack the X factor, and since there's no glamour in compassion, we've just voted them all off the welfare programme.
Labour MPs, who began the bloodless process of privatising the welfare system in 2007, seem to have accepted that the PR battle over 'benefit scrounging scum' is unwinnable. This is because Britain has slowly but surely become a country that does not tolerate failure. The emotional logic of our society is now one of ceaseless neoliberal striving, a tyranny of aspiration.
Failure is a dirty word in modern Britain. Our sudden distaste for bankers' bonuses is not grounded on antipathy for extreme wealth but on simple annoyance that financiers are being rewarded for getting it wrong. The desperate tyranny of aspiration is also the reason that so many of us spend our Saturday nights glued to the X Factor, or the Apprentice, or Dragon's Den: these reality talent shows are compelling collective expressions of the fantasy that anyone can make it if we try hard enough. Life is a competition, and if we fail to please the bosses, their dull orange faces plasticized at great expense into permanent expressions of self-regard, we only have ourselves to blame.
The X-factor vision of society, placing all the blame for failure on the individual, is a seductive narrative. Most of us would far rather believe that the poor are lazy and stupid than countenance the notion that the rich and powerful are steering us gleefully over an economic precipice. It's far easier to blame the poor for not working than it is to blame the system for not working.
Reality television bleeds into political realism at every fissure, and with Alan Sugar now sitting in the Lords, perhaps it would be more honest if the benefits system were simply rearranged according to the formal rules of a TV talent contest. We could call it Strictly Come Scrounging.
Instead of the current welfare tests, which already force disabled people to touch their toes and walk until they fall over to justify their claims, why not go the whole hog and turn the process into a glitzy musical freakshow? We could choreograph the unemployed into a magical land of jobs with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts. If they're any good, claimants could be required to give open-air performances so that better-off members of the Big Society can finance their penury directly, without tiresome state intervention. We could give it a fancy name, like 'begging'.'
As the foundations of social democracy are dismantled before our eyes, ordinary people dream of the transcendence of celebrity. Researchers found that fame is the number one ambition of today's eleven-year-olds, and no wonder - the lottery of stardom must now look slightly more winnable than the scramble for a decent standard of living if you happen, like many TV talent show contestants, to have been born poor.
Perhaps a different approach is in order. If our political settlement is starting to resemble reality television, then maybe the best response is to make the television look more like the kind of political realism we'd like to see. Why not unionise the X Factor?
Picture the scene: next week, during the finalists' group number, the contestants suddenly stop singing all at once. They turn to the judges and declare that they are now the United Saturday Night Musicians League, and they believe in collective bargaining. A large percentage of the programme's profits are to be immediately redistributed amongst all entrants for their time and labour, or there will be no show. The contestants then proceed to sing the Internationale in memory of their fallen comrades, Diva Fever. Imagine the look on Simon Cowell's pitiless potato face.
BENEFIT CUTS TO THE POOR WILL NOT BE APPROVED SAYS LIB DEM DEPUTY
Benefit cuts 'will not be approved'
Simon Hughes is the Liberal Democrat's deputy leader and MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark
Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes is threatening a backbench rebellion over planned cuts to housing benefit.
The party's deputy leader told Channel 4 News some of the proposals were "harsh and draconian".
In its Spending Review last week, the government announced major changes to housing benefit - including cutting it by 10% for the long-term jobless.
Labour has offered to join forces with Lib Dem backbenchers to force the government to rethink the policy.
'Loud and clear'
The government is proposing the biggest shake-up in housing in decades - cutting money for new social housing by 50% and allowing housing associations to charge new tenants close to the full market rate for rent.
The government hopes the changes will lead to more social housing being built - but critics fear an exodus of poor people from the inner cities as they are forced out by higher rents.
Single people under 35 will also have to live in shared accommodation if they are claiming housing benefit and the long-term unemployed also face tougher sanctions.
Mr Hughes, whose Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency has the most social housing of any in the country, said he was particularly opposed to the plans to cut housing benefit from 2013 by 10% for those who had been on Jobseekers allowance for 12 months.
"My message to the government is I don't think you will get Parliamentary approval for your current plans," he said.
"I think government understands there has to be negotiations.
"The current proposals are not the best set of proposals, whatever the financial constraints. There are better ways of doing it and we need to achieve them.
"I am making sure the message from me and many colleagues is being communicated loud and clear to government."
Mr Hughes said he believed the Spending Review was fair "as a whole".
We should be working to guarantee jobs for the long-term unemployed, not risking homelessness for those who are doing their best to find work”
"I believe it is far fairer because Lib Dems are there than if it had been a Tory-only budget," he said. "I believe it is broadly fair in that the rich will pay most and most of the poor will be protected."
On Sunday, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, defended planned cuts to housing benefit, saying it was not fair that people who went out to work got less help with accommodation than those who did not.
Mr Clegg told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show the government's plans would create more social housing and were "fair" on housing benefit claimants.
He said: "We need to do something about a housing benefit bill which has gone up from £10bn to £21bn in recent years under Labour and there haven't been enough affordable homes built."
Business Secretary Vince Cable, a fellow Lib Dem MP, also said the key issue was not housing benefit - but building more social housing.
"Simon cares passionately about social housing and that reflects his many years as an MP in Bermondsey and he shares my frustration, I'm also a London MP, about the way over many years there simply hasn't been enough social housing to meet demand and that's the issue we have to deal with rather than the intricacies of the housing benefit regulation.
"We have to increase the supply of social housing. It's absolutely crucial."
But shadow work and pension secretary Douglas Alexander, for Labour, said Mr Hughes' comments showed "even the Liberal Democrat deputy leader doesn't believe the government's housing benefit cuts are fair".
He said the proposals were not fair on housing benefit claimants who were genuinely seeking work.
"We should be working to guarantee jobs for the long-term unemployed, not risking homelessness for those who are doing their best to find work," he said.
"I now urge Simon Hughes to back up these words and, with us and other Lib Dem MPs, to force the government to think again."
SHOCKING RISE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST AMERICA'S HOMELESS
"Kicked, Set on fire, Beaten to Death": Shocking Rise of Violence Against America's Homeless
2009 was the deadliest year for hate crimes committed against homeless people.
Over the past eleven years, advocates and homeless shelter workers from around the country
have received news reports of men, women and even children being harassed, kicked, set
on fire, beaten to death, and even decapitated. Since 1999, the National Coalition for the
Homeless has issued an annual report on hate crimes against the homeless.
During this time, our network of advocates has tracked and 1,074 acts of violence committed by housed individuals, resulting in 291 deaths of homeless people and 783 victims of non-lethal violence in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC.
With forty-three deaths, 2009 was the deadliest year for bias related crimes against the homeless population since 2000. The deaths are alarming when compared to the number of deaths determined to be hate crimes for all of the current protected classes. Over the past eleven years, there are more than double the amount of homeless hate crime deaths than there are for all current protected classes.
Bias-motivated hate crimes committed against homeless people are not isolated issues occurring once or twice a year.
Profile of Homeless Victim
The most common victim of homeless hate crimes is a middle aged, homeless man. Between 1999 and 2009, on average, almost thirty eight percent of victims were
between the ages of forty and fifty and seventy percent of the victims are between the ages of forty and sixty. In 2009, the homeless victim’s average age was forty-
five. In addition to being predominantly middle-aged, a large majority (eighty-five percent) of victims were male.
In contrast to the average victim, the most common perpetrators of homeless hate crimes are young men. In the past eleven years, seventy-eight percent of the
perpetrators were under the age of twenty-five. In 2009, nearly half of the accused/convicted perpetrators were under twenty years old. The youngest known
perpetrator in 2009 was twelve. Almost all (ninety- eight percent) of the perpetrators of homeless hate crimes in 2009 were male.
In 2009, the National Coalition for the Homeless compiled a total of one hundred seventeen homeless victims of violence who were attacked by non-homeless perpetrators. Of the one hundred seventeen victims, seventy-four were not fatally injured however forty-three of the victims lost their lives. Over the past eleven years, nearly one in four violent attacks on homeless individuals resulted in death, and in 2009, nearly one in every three resulted in death.
The state henchmen have spent so much type funding radical feminist and homosexual
agendas they have completely forgotten about single heterosexual men who do the bulk of the hard graft
that keeps a country moving
Men without families are bearing the brunt of the recession in Scotland, as unemployment rates overtake the rest of the UK to reach the worst level for 14 years, according to research published today.
The report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlights failings in the Scottish Government’s anti-poverty programme but concedes these are largely due to matters outwith its control.
It also points out improvements on child and pensioner poverty. Report author Anushree Parekh said Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit increases had cushioned the effect of the recession on those with children.
Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in Scotland 2010 is linked to a welfare-to-work conference in Edinburgh today, which will be attended by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. It is the foundation’s fifth such assessment looking at areas including unemployment, education and health, and has produced five key findings.
“Markedly lower” unemployment in Scotland at the start of the recession has now overtaken England, with a bigger impact on men than women and a shift towards part-time working, often involuntary.
POVERTY CHIEFS AND THEIR HUGE EXPENSES CLAIMS VIDEO
HOMELESSNESS THE BIGGEST CRISIS FOR MEN
Our group have spent years collating information from homeless men we interview. We can PROVE
the many charities that exist to supposedly help these men are nothing but a front for
'JOBS FOR THE BOYS' who use homelessness as a means to encourage a duped public into parting
with money for the fancy cars and houses paid with huge salaries of those who claim to help
the homeless. We do not look at this problem from the TOP down, we show it from the BOTTOM up
and how homelessness and the utter lack of assistance keeps men on the street. This is
an incentive to keep chief executives and directors in jobs , as if homelessness was eradicated
and it so easily could these no users would not be in a job. Homelessness ensures the long term
employment prospects of those involved in the homeless industry.
Homelessness is one of the biggest crimes of the 21st century and will only be eradicated when
those charged with creating policies , the political windbags make it their NUMBER ONE priority.
Instead of the warmongering and vast amounts spent on the military industrial complex, science
projects like CERNE and the International Space station, sports arenas for the olympics and other major sporting events, museums that house
ancient artifacts, and the British Royal family who consume vast amounts of money , ALL OF IT
should be allocated to remove men from our streets.
IGNORING THE PLIGHT OF ONE MAN ON OUR STREETS IGNORES THE POTENTIAL FOR US ALL TO HAVE THE ROOF
OVER OUR HEAD STOLEN BY THE LEGAL, COUNCIL AND BANKING SCUM THAT ARE WHOLLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MASS HOMELESSNESS.
THE 'REAL' HATE CRIMES ARE AGAINST THE HOMELESS (CAMERON, CLEGG ET AL)
'Bum fight' videos and games have created a sickening culture that dehumanises and enables violence against the homeless
If you're curious to know what's giving more than 6 million viewers on YouTube a thrill, you should go to the site and enter the key words "bum fight", which will produce in excess of 5,000 videos showing homeless individuals in the US, mostly older men, being plied with lethal alcohol and goaded into performing ridiculous acts such as punching walls with their bare hands, diving from heights into dumpsters, fighting each other and generally being humiliated, mostly by younger men who have a home.
If you'd like some more laughs at the expense of "bums" then log on to www.bumrise.com, which proudly boasts being the 2008 browser game of the year with more than 3 million players. Here, you can establish your bum username, and then he – it's nearly always he – can collect cans or pickpocket pedestrians for money, which can be used to buy weapons to attack other homeless people. As one 10-year-old – who became a former player when he explained the purpose of the game to his dad – put it: "You are supposed to get in fights, beg for money and drink beer – to get more points!"
This might meet some people's definition of innocent fun (though not anyone I hope to know) until you read the 11th annual report released this week by the National Coalition for the Homeless, which documents over 1,000 vicious assaults on homeless persons. Of these attacks, 78% of which were carried out by males under the age of 25, the very demographic which is targeted by the creators of bumfight and bumrise and TV shows like South Park or American Dad where homeless people are continually portrayed, in the words of the report, as "contagious, walking dead zombies capable of only panhandling and fighting".
In 2009 alone, the report documents a total of 117 attacks on homeless people by non-homeless perpetrators: 43 of the attacks were fatal, and almost half of them were carried out by males under 20 years old. Some of the "highlights" of these attacks include a homeless man being beaten to death with a rock, a homeless man being doused with lighter fuel and set on fire by four teenagers, and a homeless man attacked by a hatchet-wielding youth.
One teenager, Jeffrey Spurgeon, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a homeless man, claimed to have watched the bum fight videos hundreds of times. A group of pre-teens in Philadelphia created a game called "Catch and Wreck", the purpose of which is to rob and stomp on adults they believe to be homeless. Two of their victims ended up in hospital with footprints on the back of their heads and torsos. One victim remains in intensive care after suffering a heart attack as a result of the attack. When the kids were questioned by police, they described the game as "something stupid we do for fun".
Though it's impossible to measure any direct correlation between what the report describes as the "multimedia exploitation of homeless people" and the rising number of deadly and viscous attacks, clearly some impressionable young people are getting the message loud and clear that homeless people are a legitimate (and easy) target.
Obviously, there is an enormous need to raise awareness about how and why people fall into homelessness. There are currently around 3.5 million homeless Americans, many of whom are in this predicament because they became ill, lost a job or their job doesn't pay enough to cover market rents. They have enough to be getting on with, without being stereotyped as losers and degenerates.
The dictionary definition of a "bum", for example, is "an incompetent person; of poor, wretched or miserable quality; worthless". We should stop using that word, for starters.
Then, the bum fights videos should be banned for sale in the US, as they have been in the Canada, New Zealand and the UK, and more parents should follow the example of the father of the 10-year-old Bumrise enthusiast; he started a Facebook group called "Parents Against Bumrise", which is dedicated to having the game taken off the internet because of its negative depiction of homeless people.
Crimes against the homeless should also be officially acknowledged as hate crimes. Fatal assaults on the homeless more than double the total number of hate crime homicides against all other current protected classes combined, yet in the majority of states, these attacks and murders are not classified as hate crimes. A Hate Crimes Against Homeless bill has been introduced in congress by Senator Benjamin L Cardin, of Maryland, to "help determine what, if any, resources and tools are needed by local communities and law enforcement to protect our (homeless) citizens from such senseless, bias-motivated violence". Let's hope it passes.
The impact of welfare cuts: Britons on the breadline
An IoS investigation: Charities warn the Government's plan to reform benefits will mean a huge rise in numbers relying on foodbanks.
Thousands of people could be forced to rely on food parcels because of benefit delays, as the Government's plan to slash the country's welfare bill is put into effect.
Charities that run foodbanks warned this weekend that the prospect of people having to rely on Third World-style food aid – despite Britain being among the richest nations in the world – is a real possibility for 1.5 million people who will be moved off incapacity benefit (IB).
The number of people who are turning to foodbanks as they can't afford to feed their families has soared, rising from 26,000 in 2008-09 to 41,000 in 2009-10 – 37 per cent of whom were referred to foodbanks because of delays with their benefits.
"For people to be pushed into poverty and forced to rely on food parcels to eat – something we all think of as a basic human right – is disgusting," said Neil Coyle, director of policy for the charity Disability Alliance.
While foodbanks may be an alien concept to many living in Britain today, the number of these centres helping the needy has grown rapidly in the past few years. The Trussell Trust, which runs most of the UK's foodbanks, says the number of its centres has risen from 20 in 2008 to 65 today.
Disability experts believe that being forced to rely on charitable food handouts will seriously damage the health of people already battling chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and ME. They warn that some may even turn to crime, such as shoplifting, to make ends meet.
Chris Mould, director of the Trussell Trust, said: "What worries us is the amount of people who come to us because their benefits status is being reassessed and they've had their benefits stopped; if hundreds of thousands of people are being reassessed, we fear there will be huge problems."
The Government recently announced that everyone on incapacity benefit will have to go through tests known as Work Capability Assessments to see if they are fit for work. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that, of the 1.5 million people currently on IB, 750,000 will move on to jobseeker's allowance (JSA), 300,000 will move on to other benefits, and 450,000 will come off benefits entirely.
"We've seen a massive increase in the past 18 months of people who are being referred to us due to benefit delays; we see literally thousands of people around the country who are definitely not getting paid on time," Mr Mould said.
People visiting foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust are given a three-day supply of food, which includes tinned goods, fruit, meat and fish, as well as pasta, tea bags and UHT milk. A parcel for a family of four weighs roughly 20kg, and is worth around £19. Foodbanks, which are staffed by volunteers, rely entirely on donations from local schools, businesses and individuals.
Most foodbanks are community-run, in conjunction with local churches, and there is concern that many parts of the country have no foodbank provision at all.
"We need to have a national network of foodbanks," said Phillip Blond, of the think tank ResPublica. "We know there are going to be changes in the welfare system, and we know that when people transfer over, there will be delays. So we need to understand that people are going to fall through the cracks."
Clients are usually referred to foodbanks by frontline care professionals, who give them a voucher entitling them to emergency food. Job centres were initially one of the major distributors of foodbank vouchers, but in December 2008, the Government banned them, stating that delays were not an issue, as all those entitled to benefits received them on the day they needed them if they were in crisis. Last week, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, said the Government will now consider lifting the ban.
Trial reassessments of IB claimants will begin in Aberdeen and Burnley in October. It is estimated the entire reassessment process will take three years to complete. A total of 2.6 million Britons receive benefits of some kind, including incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance – which was introduced in 2008 to replace IB – and disability living allowance, at a cost to the taxpayer of £12.5bn a year.
Disability experts expressed concerns about the impact any delays in receiving benefits may have on the health of the disabled.
"If you have a long-term health condition, the anxiety caused by delays in getting benefits inevitably impacts on your health and well-being," Mr Coyle said. "This can cause you to use the NHS more, or even impact on the justice system. If you don't provide support for people, they'll find it somewhere else."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions insisted that people being reassessed would not have benefits stopped or experience delays in receiving new benefits. She stated: "There will be no gap in provision."
However, answers to a parliamentary question posed by Andrew Selous MP revealed that in January this year 37,046 people waited 17 days or more for their JSA, with 20,068 waiting 22 days or more.
Experts fear that the people most likely to be adversely affected are those living in the poorest areas. Some have argued that moving people off IB on to JSA won't actually stop them relying on benefits, as the areas with the highest number of people on IB usually also have low levels of job opportunity. In Wales, four of the six boroughs with the highest number of IB claimants are also in the top six boroughs when it comes to numbers of applicants per job.
Christina Beatty, principal research fellow at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, said: "In some senses it is true that you need to change the system and help people get back into work at an earlier stage. But for people who have been on it for a while – people with health problems, skills problems, living in areas where you have low employability – it is going to be very difficult."
JOBLESS ARE NO SHIRKING SCROUNGERS YOU TRY LIVING ON £65 A WEEK
It is RARE to see a corporate rag writing on what is one of the most pressing concerns of
people trying to survive without work. The wealthy political windbags endlessly attack the poor
as a punchbag while their rich backers get their fullest attention when they are selected as
Prime Minister. They will NEVER give a jot about the poor as Britain is run by a bunch of
crooked political elite only looking after themselves and their rich masonic backers
Many unemployed people are struggling just to survive, but the political parties keen to focus on claimant fraud instead.
'People get very depressed – that level of poverty has a bad effect on your mental health'
Laurie Penny, 23.
Ask around among people comfortably off, agreeably in work, how much they imagine unemployment benefit is in these recession-bitten times, and, in my experience, they guess, generally, about £100 per week. Enough for a difficult life, not servicing any luxuries, but paying, just about, for necessities until the job market picks up.
These people are invariably as palpably shocked as the newly unemployed themselves are when they turn up to sign on, to discover that jobseeker's allowance pays £65.45 a week to a single person over 25. Those under 25, hardest hit in this recession, including thousands of graduates struggling to find work, must make do on just £51.85 a week.
This, the desperately meagre fare on which unemployed people are expected to survive through boom and bust of the modern economy, has been the great unspoken of political discussions about welfare. Since Labour came to power in that sunny dawn of 1997, talking of welfare reform, billions have been invested in the Jobcentre Plus service, and in programmes aimed at helping people move out of unemployment and into work.
But welfare reform has not addressed the poverty rate of jobseeker's allowance, nor softened the harsh edge to the system that Labour inherited. The unemployed, despite successive recessions and the rise in middle-class joblessness, are still treated as potential shirkers and scroungers, to be given the bare minimum and policed to make sure they are not working to earn a little on top.
It is impossible to argue that people can truly live on £65.45 or £51.85 a week – the price of a tank of petrol, a decent lunch for the well-off, a treat for the kids. It is cheap to point perpetually to the MPs' expenses scandal, but when no party contemplates benefit rates rising after the election, and the Conservatives have headlined policies on penalising benefit "cheats", it is important to remember how easy money was to them, the casual claims for wine glasses and sofas, and David Cameron's £680 claim (more than 10 weeks' jobseeker's allowance) for repairs to his Oxfordshire cottage, including the famous wisteria.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation commissions an annual report in which members of the public are asked how much they believe a single person in Britain needs to afford "a basic but acceptable standard of living". The latest report, last July, put the figure at £13,900 a year before tax. Very modest, around half the average (median) annual pay of £25,000, but way above the £3,403 total (plus housing benefit) a person over 25 will be paid in jobseeker's allowance in a year.
"Working-age people on benefits remain well below the minimum income standard," the report warns, adding that when people lose their jobs, "more find it hard to make ends meet. People who have taken for granted a standard of living suddenly have their expectations shattered."
The report's author, Donald Hirsch of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: "Everybody knows you cannot survive on that level of benefit."
Gingerbread, the charity that campaigns for single-parent families, produced a Family Finances report in January which found that 60% of unemployed lone parents run out of money at some point before the next weekly or monthly benefit payment arrives, with 10% saying they always do. More than half the respondents told Gingerbread they cut back on food before the end of the month, 37% that they reduced the money they spent on their children; and more than 30% said they were forced to borrow money.
"Single-parent families out of work live considerably below the poverty line (as do couple families where nobody works)," the report says. "Debt and low income can have a serious impact on family life … there is a need to tackle this poverty."
Yet despite last week's official figures, which showed unemployment in the UK reached 2.5 million in February, the highest since 1994, the plight of the unemployed themselves has barely registered as an election issue.
The dominant policy commitment, in which all three parties are pledging to significantly cut public spending as a response to the recession, will without doubt increase unemployment and see public servants consigned to a life of £65.45 and £51.85 a week.
It is a little more surprising that so little attention is paid to the poverty of the jobless, as this recession has, more than any other, affected the middle classes and young graduates, whose votes the parties covet.
Laurie Penny, 23, never imagined she would find herself enmeshed in a world of poverty and the grip of the benefit system when she graduated with a 2:1 degree in English from Oxford University in 2008. Even with that name on her CV, she and her contemporaries have found it fiercely difficult to get work.
"It is hard to think of anybody who graduated with me in 2008 who has a job," she said. "People have tried and not been able to find anything, particularly when the recession hit, and you simply cannot live on £50-a-week jobseeker's allowance."
Penny and her friends found their dreams crumbling soon after graduation. Seven of them crammed into a house meant for three, able to go nowhere and buy nothing, living on cheap food which she says made them ill in the winters. Describing herself now as a welfare activist, she writes and blogs on the plight of the young unemployed, who she says have no voice.
"We were living like a scene from Withnail & I, except there was no space to move," she said. "It was very miserable. People get very depressed – that level of poverty has a bad effect on your mental health, it makes people feel that nothing will ever get better. I know that is the situation for a lot of people, but for young graduates, middle-class people, it is a real shock. It is not sufficiently recognised at all – how poor the rates are in the benefit system."
The system of threadbare benefit paid to people unemployed through economic decline, recession and no fault of their own, lays a pernicious trap for them, too. In its commitment since 1997 to help people into work but its determination not to be portrayed as soft on benefit claimants, Labour maintained punitive restrictions on claimants earning reasonable money at part-time jobs.
The single unemployed are permitted to earn just £5 a week on top of their jobseeker's allowance, before all additional earnings are taken off their benefits, pound for pound. Claimants with children can earn £20 a week extra.
That makes it difficult to battle back to work, according to James Whitaker, 28, an architect made redundant on 1 April 2009 after the recession bit. Whitaker harboured ambitions to become a photographer, so with the construction industry moribund he set himself up and won some commissions. He produced an exhibition featuring other jobless architects – at the time, a third of architects were out of work – titled After Redundancy, a picture of young professionals generally treating their redundancy as an opportunity rather than devastation.
"It has been tricky to manage on jobseeker's allowance," said Whitaker, sanguine. "After six years at university qualifying in architecture I was able to scale back to a frugal existence, living on Tesco Value stuff.
"But the biggest hindrance is that the system doesn't support you to get back on your feet; as soon as you earn any additional money, however short-term, you have to sign off."
Whitaker has £20,000 in student loans to repay. "Everybody I know is pretty much the same," he said.
On television, billboards and bus shelters in poorer areas, government adverts have been proclaiming a crackdown on benefit "fraud", most recently and unattractively encouraging people to shop to the authorities any neighbours signing on and working. Yet mostly, the "fraudsters" are the seriously struggling, who cannot survive on poverty level benefits and do some low-paid work to top it up, not declaring the extra earnings because it would be taken off them.
"The pressure is there to cheat the system because benefit levels are so low people cannot live on them," said Hirsch, the report author. "A system which cannot work for people is tempting people to cheat it."
Neil Bateman, a welfare rights specialist who acts regularly as an expert witness when claimants are prosecuted, contests the government's figure that benefit fraud costs £1.1bn a year, and argues that real, sophisticated fraud is rare.
"Most cases which come before the courts are people in difficult circumstances, often in multiple debt, working to make ends meet," he said. "The £5 a week they can earn on top does not even equate to one hour's work on the minimum wage, and may be swallowed up simply by the travel cost of getting to the job. So people are drawn into working while claiming benefit – the system almost invites people to do illicit work."
There is an almost surreal distinction between the stigma ladled on the unemployed caught earning a little extra cash to make ends meet, and the lack of opprobrium for tax exiles and UK-based tax fraudsters who cost the country far more: £15bn according to government figures.
Imran Hussain, head of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "There is a political imperative to be seen as tough, and it paints a misleading picture, as if benefit claimants are all supplicants and potential fraudsters. In fact, benefit fraud is at its lowest ever level and far more benefit, £16bn, goes unclaimed by the poorest households who do not know they are entitled to it but need it the most. At present, with benefits set so low, the children of families without work are condemned to poverty."
In the era of a super-rich financial elite, whose taxes have remained historically low, there is shock in a safety net that pays so little for weekly subsistence and claws back additional earnings above £5. The Rowntree report pleads for the poverty of those without work to be recognised: "Some people losing their jobs are having to survive on less than half of what members of the public think is acceptable," the report says, calling for "a vigorous pubic and political debate" about how to achieve an acceptable level of minimum income for all.
There is, though, little sign of that debate, even as the unemployment figures rise, with more job cuts in effect promised by all three parties. In this climate of public spending cuts, increasing unemployment benefit is on nobody's priority list. Whatever the election outcome, if nothing changes, unemployment will remain a passport to penury.
DEDICATED TO ALL HOMELESS AND STREET PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
"What’s really changed?" ... since "Cathy Come home"?
Alone, Forgotten, Lonely, Out Of Sight Out Of Mind.
(Dedicated to all homeless and street people throughout the world)
Alone, forgotten, lonely, out of sight out of mind
Neglected by our society, rejected by mankind
The mentally ill, the homeless, the vulnerable, human beings are everywhere
Dozens dying daily; drugs, drink, disease, deprivation, despair.
Languishing in the hostels, bedsits, dumps in need of repair
In places of oblivion where no one seems to care
Exploited by corrupt, unscrupulous landlords who look on with disdain
Their only real concern is of how much they can gain.
For others not so “lucky” who are looking for a bed
They'll turn to any place of comfort to rest their weary head
Alleys, stairwells, doorways, basements, any place will do
So long as there is shelter for one night, maybe two.
Another day is dawning, another day of doom
Where to move on next from the cold, the rain, the gloom?
Wandering about aimlessly, searching for a clue
To find a place of refuge for the many, not the few.
“No room” in such places, “Full up”, closed doors all around
It’s back to that place of misery the previous night they found
Danger, cold, wet, abject squalor beckons yet again
For the thousands in our society; vulnerable, teenagers, young women, young men.
But just how many make it to see yet another day?
Some will not awaken, found dead, frozen where they lay
Another lost, forgotten statistic which no one cares to keep
Figures of huge numbers, enough to make you weep.
And what about the others that those dead friends leave behind?
If you look in the right places, this is what you’ll find:
Sickness, destitution, chronic ill health are matters of fact
Deterioration of bodies, lost souls, minds about to crack.
Misery, dejection, deep depression is the norm
However strong the individual, whatever shape or form
Existing mental illness; minor, moderate, severe
Will clearly be exacerbated by torment, uncertainty, fear.
Confused, weak, weary, frightened, very much alone
Another day of hopelessness, another day unknown
Too tired to go on any more with illness, apathy, despair
It's time to say “Goodbye cruel world, no one really cares”.
One more death, a suicide, caused by complacency, neglect
Isn’t it time to treat our fellow man with a little more respect?
Help, care, understanding would certainly be a start
Act now to prevent more deaths Those-With-Power, compassion, heart.
Let’s start to radically rethink, review our “Community Care”
We must stop leaving our vulnerable unassessed, unmonitored, unaware
Two years have now slipped by since the start of this disastrous Act
It's time to change this “system”, which is failing, that’s a fact.
So come on health staff, social workers, politicians across the divide
Get your acts together to stop this rising tide
Of needless deaths, human suffering, tragedies that put you all to shame
“A national disgrace, disaster, scandal” - who will take the blame?
NEW YORK HOMELESS MAN A HERO THEN STABBED TO DEATH VIDEO
FACES OF HOMELESSNESS VIDEO
MIAMI CONSIDERS BAN ON FEEDING THE HOMELESS
The Miami City Commission is set to consider a proposal next month that would prohibit unauthorized people and groups from feeding
the homeless downtown, an ordinance proponents say will cut down on litter and ensure
the safety of the food the homeless do eat.
Miami residents may have to think twice before giving up their leftovers to the homeless.
The Miami City Commission is set to consider a proposal next month that would prohibit unauthorized people and groups from feeding the homeless downtown, an ordinance proponents say will cut down on litter and ensure the safety of the food the homeless do eat.
The Miami Downtown Development Authority recently approved the measure, sending it up to the commission.
Though the change could draw objections, David Karsh, spokesman for Development Authority Chairman Marc Sarnoff, said the rule isn't a blanket ban. He said that anybody would be able to feed the homeless, but they would have to go through formal training first -- amateurs couldn't just give up part of their lunch to help someone they meet on the street.
"The ordinance is not by any means meant to discourage people from feeding homeless people," he told FoxNews.com, adding that homeless advocacy groups support the measure. "Anybody can do it."
The training would cover two main lessons: how to ensure the food is safe to eat, and how to clean up the mess afterward.
"The business owners and residents in the area are complaining that there's just an incredible mess in the area once the group leaves," Karsh said. "It really is an immense mess that's left behind."
If the ordinance passes, anybody who breaks it would first receive a warning and then fines up to $300 for subsequent offenses.
PHOTO OP FOR PRINCE WILLIAM SLEEPING ROUGH FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY
If his GRANDMOTHER was FORCED to part with ONLY 1% of her massive wealth every homeless person could be given a room and a bed.
The disgusting disparity between ULTRA rich and poor, and the royals head that inequality, is the MAIN reason why so many vulnerable are FORCED to sleep rough on the streets of Britain.
DO NOT believe any of the bullshit pumped out by the complicit media who are the propaganda machine for the royals , despite the manufactured credit crunch there are millions of millionaires and thousands of billionaires living in Britain due to a monstrous political system that allows greed to feed the rich while the poor are treated disgustingly . The masons head the political and legal thugs that are solely responsible for the runaway mega-rich at the utter expense of the poor .
This is another photo opportunity for the royals as they wont be spending any of their wealth changing things for the vulnerable victims of a ruthless country founded on corruption and greed by the super-rich. The royals heading that greed.
CALLOUS UK AND THE MENTAL HEALTH FEARS FOR THE HOMELESS
Mental health problems among rough sleepers have reached "critical levels" following a rise in the homelessness rate, according to a leading charity.
St Mungo's said there was a 15% rise in the homelessness rate in London last year - the equivalent of five new rough sleepers a day.
Last year, the government pledged to end homelessness in London by 2012.
But St Mungo's said that goal would be missed unless the link between mental health and homelessness was broken.
Research among 103 of St Mungo's clients showed that 40% were diagnosed with depression and 22% were diagnosed with schizophrenia.
It believes this is just the tip of the iceberg and many more could be suffering with undiagnosed mental health issues.
"We're calling for more targeted action to help rough sleepers and homeless vulnerable people," said the charity's chief executive Charles Fraser.
"We need to ensure we focus not just on getting a roof over peoples' heads but also on improving access to appropriate health support services."
With so many "ISM's" used to express various political factions throughout history , where is the fairism or poorism that will protect a large group in society who will NEVER prosper from the self appointed elite who have controlled the political leaders to do their bidding no matter what method of "ISM" they use.
The Russians have controlled their impoverished nation using communism while America has used capitalism to ensure maximum financial advantage for the rich at the utter expense of the poor. In the UK we have had long sharp doses of Thatcherism and Blairism, different political parties , but similar policies of ultimately protecting the richest despot on the planet while justifying the sheer poverty seen in the council house ghettos across the UK. A blot on the political landscape who have NEVER given a jot about the lives of the average Joe with a corporate media that daily attacks the POOR as scroungers while the richest despot and her establishment protectors are reported as if they are some sort of GODLY figures despite their political and legal minions syphoning off good peoples assets and homes in their judicial dens of iniquity.
English laws that influence many nations across the globe are used to fleece the unsuspecting public behind the closed secretive doors of civil/ family courts were the REAL POWER lies of the elite.The stroke of a masonic judicial thugs pen will wipe out any decent mans finances unless your a member of the satanic masonic clubs that tie their evil theft and pillage together.
Politics masquerades as some sort of democracy that we can VOTE for change, when the same leaders are hand picked as lackeys of that elite to do their bidding. Our choice of political leader merely a gesture that we, in some way, have an element of power in this massive charade.
The corporate media acts as a conduit to ensure ONLY political parties and leaders that follow the masonic New World order agenda are promoted on the many TV and radio channels and newspapers owned and controlled by that same elite few.
Only the internet has finally offered a chink of light on this massive scam that requires vast armies of YES men and women to instigate their master plan. The good writers across the globe that have eloquently exposed their scams struggle to enlighten the masses who have been brainwashed for so long by their mega propaganda machines. Many people have still to face the hostility of their courts when they will find out how quickly the assets they have spent a lifetime accumulating will disappear down a masonic judges court room locker .
Only a positive perspective that their empires are crumbling , the lies and deceit are slowly unfolding . There are a desperate few in that hierarchy doing everything possible to defeat the exposures of their criminality and power. However there are groups across the globe building archives of information that will ensure maybe not in our generation, but future generations will not have to endure the brainwashing and propaganda that allows this tyranny to continue unchallenged. Or maybe we will finally be able to build a better society , maybe not financially richer but spiritually richer , that will allow us to remove ourselves from the masonic matrix and free of the psychological jail and their torturers who have browbeaten us for far to long. Releasing our minds from this evil network maybe the stepping stone for mankind in this battle against the evil despots ruling and controlling us ALL in the shadows.
A homeless man who has been camping on a roundabout for the last two weeks has been offered temporary accommodation.
Scaffolder Nigel Walker has been staging his protest in Pembroke Dock to highlight the plight of the homeless.
Pembrokeshire Council has now offered him a sheltered housing place while they assess his case in full.
Mr Walker, 48, said he had asked for help because of threatened bad weather and he has not decided whether to quit his roundabout home for good.
He started living in the tent on the approach to Pembroke Dock earlier this month after losing his home following his mother's death last year.
The local authority said he did not have a "priority need" to be rehoused but Mr Walker said: "Either they find me a home or I'll drop dead here".
On Thursday, the council offered him interim accommodation while they assessed the latest details of his situation which it said they had only just received after a long wait.
By law, the council is obliged to provide interim accommodation while such details are assessed, and a council spokesman said those assessments can take several weeks.
Mr Walker told the council he would accept the offer after viewing the bedsit.
However, he immediately he told BBC Wales that his decision was based on the fact that gale force winds were being forecast on Thursday night with much worse weather to come.
Mr Walker said: "I shouldn't be in this position. I'm just a man on a roundabout sticking up for my own rights."
He said he has yet to make up his mind about whether to permanently leave the roundabout, as he feels that the problem of housing in Pembrokeshire still needs highlighting.
He said: "The council should get walk-in hostels for families. They split families up to go in hostels.
"The mother and kids go in one and the husband goes in another one."
Mr Walker also said a demonstration which has been planned to take place in Pembroke Dock on Saturday will go ahead, regardless of where he is sleeping.
While living on the roundabout, he said he has suffered frostbite and twice been attacked
but he said he has been overwhelmed by support from local people who have donated camping equipment, brought him food and water, and delivered a portable toilet.
Today 7 November 2008 we made our first collection and distribution of a large amount of food
to the homeless across central London. The reaction from those poor souls who have no home
but who now have quite a few fresh meals to keep them going was excellent.
The politeness,humility and coyness in being offered help clearly shows the respect
homeless people have to being offered a little assistance to get them through the cold
winter nights in one of the richest cities across the globe.
It is shameful that the political windbags fail time and again to come to their assistance
and despite the credit crunch the massive number of london billionaires and millionaires
makes that level of poverty even more despicable.
HOMELESS PROTEST PORTLAND OREGON VIDEO
LONDON STREET RESCUE
London Street Rescue helps rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation.
If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, you can call us on 0870 383 3333 or tell us about them through our online referral form.
About London Street Rescue
Every night of the year, we are out and about across the capital, acting as a safety net for some of society’s most vulnerable men and women.
Our teams of outreach workers and volunteers find and befriend rough sleepers in a bid to help them away from the streets.
We provide immediate and practical assistance, including:
helping them into emergency accommodation
information and advice about available support services
essentials such as blankets or food (but only if this will not discourage a move away from the street)
London Street Rescue helps people of all ages and with many different needs. These include people with poor mental or physical health and those with drug or alcohol problems.
Our teams are there for people who are not getting the services they need and are unlikely to seek help for themselves.
London Street Rescue’s actions can act as a catalyst for change in people’s lives. Getting rough sleepers into emergency accommodation is often the first step towards them getting back on track and having a home of their own.
Our teams refuse to give up on people. We will work with individuals for as long as it takes to help them move away from a street lifestyle, no matter how complex their needs.
People sleeping rough are very vulnerable to the dangers of the streets. The actions of London Street Rescue can save lives.
The Connection at St Martin’s provides an integrated package of services which help people to cope with the physical crisis of being homeless, and address the underlying issues which may have caused the homelessness and/or arisen from it. We aim to help people rebuild their lives and move as far as possible towards independence.
Our services include:
- Street outreach
- Day centre services - one for young people 16-25 and one for over 26’s.
- A night centre
- Specialist advice and counselling services
- Employment and training programme
- Tenancy sustainment and resettlement support
- A 16-bed supported housing scheme
We have a proven track record in making a real difference to the lives of homeless people and in reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough. We also now have a renovated and vastly improved building to support us in our work and to inspire our users to engage and change.
Our unique organisational identity is based on our unswerving commitment to helping homeless people to find their own solutions, resolve their problems and achieve their potential. This is complemented by the combination of our excellent location in central London, our accessibility, our user-led approach, our experienced pool of multi-disciplinary staff and volunteers and our creativity and dedication in helping homeless people to move on in their lives and find routes away from the streets.
Our organisation for a number of years have been covering the plight of homeless men in particular the Scottish capital Edinburgh .
We have instigated actions which alerted Edinburgh council and charities of their failures to treat homeless men with dignity and respect.
We had interviewed homeless men across Edinburgh and built up a picture of WHY these men were on the street.After many many letters to various groups who supposedly assist these men we reached a point were no one was without a hostel place.
However today we found a young man Alan G on Princess Street who was the first for over two years who had not found a hostel place and had been sleeping rough in doorways during the last week in the most horrendous winter conditions .
We have taken up his case and will be contacting those who suggest they are helping this young man who has fallen through the state assisted system .
We also interviewed Ian C ,Kevin Mc and Gary Mc and were amazed at these mens warmth despite the horrendous conditions
they are under at times .We wish them well and hope those who carry some responsibility for their welfare
continue to treat them with respect and dignity .
SERVICES VETERANS HOMELESSNESS RISK
At least a quarter of people who leave the armed forces in the UK end up sleeping on the streets at some point after entering civilian life, according to research.
A joint project between housing charity Shelter and the Ministry of Defence found a major demand for advice and support from people leaving the services, many of whom were returning to problems they had sought to leave behind.
The results of the project support previous findings that those leaving the forces are among the most at risk from homelessness and associated social problems.
More than 20,000 people leave the British armed services every year, but legislation in England and Wales has only recently recognised them as a rehousing priority.
Shelter and the Ministry of Defence set up a project to tackle homelessness among former servicemen and women in 2001.
The stability and support of forces life are no longer there and they can feel totally alone as they try to adjust to civilian life
Christine Parish, Shelter
The project focused primarily on tackling potential problems among personnel being discharged after military detention in Colchester.
Of the personnel seeking advice from the project, 92% were former soldiers, 6% from the Royal Navy and only 2% from the Royal Air Force.
Between October 2001 and March this year, 70% of those facing discharge from the centre asked for help on finding a home.
Two-thirds of this group were judged to be at high risk of ending up homeless immediately after discharge.
The project found former servicemen and women slipping into homelessness were suffering from exacerbating problems such as combat stress, mental health problems or drug dependency.
But one of the key factors was that many people joined the forces to escape family problems in civilian life, only to have to face them again when they returned.
One typical case involved a 20-year-old man who had joined the army after leaving home at 17.
When he was discharged after detention for a military offence, his family refused to take him in even though he had no home or job.
Other cases involved older men whose marriages had broken up under the stress of armed service and found they had no home on leaving.
'Loss of stability'
Christine Parish, Shelter's Director of Housing Services, said: "People can be terribly vulnerable once they leave the armed services.
"The stability and support of forces life are no longer there and they can feel totally alone as they try to adjust to civilian life.
"These are tough people. But without proper support and advice they can easily become homeless."
Research conducted by housing charity Crisis in 1994 found that nearly 40% of former servicemen and women had not had a home since leaving the forces.
Half found themselves after leaving service housed in accommodation they did not want while 60% took five years to settle.
Armed forces minister Adam Ingram said the government recognised that "effective resettlement" was vital for service leavers.
"We recognise that some of our ex-service personnel may require extra help," he said.
"Ensuring that they and their families are suitably housed is particularly important."
Until this year, local authorities were not obliged to treat homeless service leavers as priority cases for rehousing.
The new rules which came into force in July this year (see internet links) mean local authorities must treat former services personnel, former prisoners and those leaving care as priorities.
Alone in London (www.als.org.uk/,
020 7278 4224) Really supportive caseworkers if you're homeless - a good
The Amber Foundation (amberfoundation.org.uk/) Helps the young long-term unemployed who might also be homeless, have misused drugs or alcohol, lack self-esteem or have been involved in crime. Brook (www.brook.org.uk,
helpline 0800 0185 023, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) Sexual health advice
and services for women and men under 25 years old. Free
condoms for under-19s, and under-25s at some centres.
Accommodation-based services, including emergency night shelters and short
stay hostels, specialist projects for care leavers, ex-offenders, young single
parents, foyers and supported flats and floating support services.
Childline (childline.org.uk/, freefone
0800 1111) Helpline for children and young people in the UK.
Scottish Council for Single Homeless (scsh.org.uk/) Produces Streets Ahead, a guide to prevent young people becoming homeless or help them escape from it. Email the SCSH.
Sexwise (ruthinking.co.uk/) Confidential
help and support for people aged 12-18 on sexuality and sexual
contraception, pregnancy, family planning clinics, sexually transmitted diseases,
Step Up (email)
Low- to medium-supported housing service for vulnerable and socially disadvantaged
young people (16-25).
If you are under 16
...you are seen as vulnerable under the Children's Act and might be able to
get an emergency place while your situation is assessed. Phone 118 700 (Directory
Enquiries) and ask for the local Social Services number. If it's after office
hours, phone 118 700, ask for the out-of-hours number for Social Services
and speak to the duty social worker. Otherwise, contact Childline on 0800
1111, or go to the local Citizen's Advice Bureau. Please phone
the police if you feel you are in danger.
If you're young and need a place but not so urgently, go to your nearest
local Connexions, advice
agency or day centre for advice.
Bring ID (birth certificate, passport, NI card, medical card).
Accommodation-based services, including emergency night shelters and short
stay hostels, specialist projects for care leavers, ex-offenders, young single
parents, foyers and supported flats and floating support services.
Poverty Action Group (cpag.org.uk/)
Campaigns for the abolition of poverty among children and young people
in the UK, and for the improvement of the lives of low-income families.
Family Rights Group (frg.org.uk/) Advice
and support for families whose children are involved with social services.
Advice and information for single parents, plus the Lone Parent Helpline
(freephone 0800 018 5026, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm,
Housemate (housemate.org.uk/) Aimed at young people and at anyone who works with or cares for them, and deals with housing and homelessness.