Recent research confirms an alarming rise in poverty and inequality fuelled by the policies of the Tory-led coalition government. 13 million people in the UK, half of them in working families, are now living in poverty due to falling wages, rising prices and lack of full time work, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest annual report on poverty and social exclusion.
This report and several others demonstrate that these days having a job doesn’t guarantee that you can keep the wolf from the door:
- Average incomes have fallen by 9% and there’s been a “sharp increase” in the number of under-25s “living below the breadline”.
- In the last year, three out of five people who moved from unemployment to a job were paid less than the minimum wage (although not a single company has been prosecuted).
- 1.4 million adults are working part time because they can’t find full-time work.
- 1.6 million people are on temporary (mostly zero hour) contracts.
- The average self-employed person now earns 13 per cent less than five years ago.
- Growing numbers of people on low incomes depend on food banks to survive (22% of the record half a million who used them in the first 6 months of the current financial year, according to research by the Trussell Trust).
It’s a no-win situation for people in need of the social security safety net: those wishing to appeal the loss of benefits are soon confronted with the fact that “legal support … has been almost completely withdrawn”.
Failing our children
Rates of child poverty are shocking – over 30% in almost all the major cities in the UK (reaching as high as 39% in Manchester and 37% in Birmingham) and in a large number of London’s boroughs (Tower Hamlets, at 49%, tops the list).
63% of children living in poverty are in a family where someone works. At the same time, changes to the social security system have reduced the value and coverage of child benefits and tax credits for families with children and thus “worsened the experience of poverty for many”.
New research shows a third of families of children with disabilities are worse off due to the cuts – often being forced to choose between food or heating – and a quarter say this has affected their child’s health.
These are just some of the hardships being perpetuated by the government under its irrational and obsessive programme of cuts. We are called on to offer due sacrifice – “all in it together” to pay off the criminal debts of a few.
But by now it should be clear that Cameron and Osbourne’s austerity programme has been hitting those with the lowest incomes hardest. Not only that, but a recent study finds that Osborne has been engaged in a significant transfer of income from the least well-off half of the population to the more affluent.
Although the top 5% lost 1% of their potential income (which, truth be told, they won’t even have noticed), the rest of the top half of earners gained while the poorest groups ended up “losing most as a proportion of their incomes”.
Meanwhile, Osborne plans to make another £12bn of welfare cuts in the next parliament. And Cameron, seeing it as his “moral” duty, is adamant about lowering taxes for the rich (perhaps to “balance” things off for having increased VAT, a tax that impacts most on poor people).
“Cameron must go”
Whether due to wilfulness or incompetence, Cameron’s government is failing the working people in more than a hundred different ways – from poverty to welfare to childcare to the NHS to low pay to education (see the full list here). Not only that: it hasn’t even paid down the deficit, which along with the debt just keeps on rising.
It’s no wonder that the twitter hashtag #CameronMustGo went viral this past weekend when over 100,000 angry tweets recorded the growing opposition to austerity and berated Cameron for breaking promises and telling lies. The resistance was bound to come (you can’t fool all the people all the time). But on Election Day, will it be strong enough to see the back of Cameron? Ed and Labour have the policies, but can they withstand 6 more months of the relentless and coordinated beat down, driven by the Nasty Party and right-wing media? More thoughts tomorrow…