The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came together riding on the back of the wave of a financial deficit which apparently looked set to wipe out the country. (Apologies for the rather orgasmic nature of that sentence – I am, after all, an erotica writer!) Still, they said, even with this our government alliance can produce a ‘fairer Britain’.
Fairer Britain? Oh yeah? For whom?
George Osbourne’s emergency budget was shown by a study to cost the poorest families up to six times more than the richest. The proposed reform of benefits is likely to hit the disabled and vulnerable first and hardest. The axing of child benefit for families earning more than £44,000 will rebound mostly on women, who already suffer under Britain’s unequal society.
Oh yes, give me the explanations, the excuses. Something has to be done. Everyone is suffering. Except that those who already struggle to cope with our unfair society are those who are suffering most. Tell me, how is that fair?
And explain patiently to me that if a family is earning £44000 then they don’t need child benefit. Even if it is the father who earns the money, and the mother who may depend on the child benefit to have any money of her own (which yes, is often the case, even these days). When women have been able to use their years of claiming child benefit to count for contributions to National Insurance, and now will presumably lose that benefit alongside the present money.
Then, when you’re done explaining about that, let’s move onto the welfare reform. It is intended that the system should be ’slimmed down’ – which in most people’s language means ‘cut’. And although you may also tell me that there are lots of false claimants, I would counter this by pointing out that there are a hell of a lot of people who deserve but do not get benefits. This number is only likely to increase. And… you remember that ‘urgent’ need to plug the financial deficit? Even Ian Duncan Smith, the proposer of this new benefit scheme, acknowledges that it will cost a vast deal of money in the short-term. Long-term thinking? Last I heard (apropos the ‘emergency’ budget etc), we really desperately needed short-term money. Except, it seems, when there’s a chance of making poor people poorer, in which case, let’s go all steam ahead and never mind the cash crisis.
A fairer Britain? If you’re male, reasonably well off and healthy, maybe.