In early May, Stephanie Bottrill of Solihull killed herself by walking into the path of a lorry. In a note left for her children, she wrote simply: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
She is the first known suicide victim of the vicious and hateful bedroom tax. She was expected to pay an extra £20 per week to stay in her home of nearly 20 years, after her daughter had recently moved out. If she could not do this, she was expected to downsize – though nothing suitable was offered to her. Sadly, she is unlikely to be the last to die as a result of this cruel policy, devised by rich ministers with… mansions to spare!
For many of us, the bedroom tax is the last straw. But it is just the latest in a string of attacks that have been unleashed on the poor since the economic crisis began. Council tax benefit, tax credits, disability benefits, housing benefit – all are being slashed and subject to draconian conditionality. The result is desperation: 73 disabled people per week are dying after having their benefits stopped, while hundreds of thousands cannot afford their rent and have to resort to food banks.
As unemployment rises, the unemployed are hounded into an endless hunt for non-existent jobs. At the same time, greedy businesses & heartless charities are paid millions from the public purse to force the unemployed to work for their benefits. In fact workfare destroys jobs, but it makes massive profits for the bosses. That these schemes are just a ploy was exposed when Homebase were caught boasting about the benefits of “750 hours with no payroll costs” in one of their stores.
The Government is also pushing on with the abolition of most benefits and the introduction of Universal Credit, despite the fact that the IT database behind the system, the most complex ever designed by any Government, has predictably turned to chaos.
In addition to making 60% of claimants worse off, Universal Credit will threaten the jobs and working conditions of staff in Jobcentres and Local Authorities across the country, and staff will themselves be threatened with sanctions if they are on benefits and fall below the conditional pay threshhold! To rub salt in the wound Universal Credit will also constitute yet another millionaires’ handout of public money to incompetent private providers.
The government’s attack on us will have no limits unless we rebel. For many years successive governments have succeeded in dividing us into squabbling interest groups and attacking us one by one: waged or unwaged, disabled or able-bodied, council or private tenants, public or private sector workers etc. It’s time to come together because we share common interests which outweigh our differences, to realise that an injury to one is an injury to all, and to fight against the common enemy.
They are in it together against us – we need to get together before it’s too late!
Whether or not we are employed, on benefits, private or social tenants or own our homes, old, young, disabled, students, immigrants, public or private sector workers, trade unionists or activists, we have interests in common. We all need decent public services, welfare, healthcare, education, housing, employment rights, justice… Only the wealthy don’t need them – they have more than enough to buy the necessities of life.