In London in the lockdown (everything is fine)

dont stop panicking

So my boss has sent a few of us home, while the rest stay working.  It’s ridiculous that many people with non-essential jobs are still going into work, but the problem is how contradictory the gov.uk information is.

Here it says:

Only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work

From gov.uk

But also:

Following on from the government’s guidance on social distancing in relation to COVID-19, people should avoid travelling unless it is essential.

Also gov.uk

So, draconian measures, but for any boss with a construction or gardening company who wants to keep his non-essential business open, the line saying you can travel to work if you can’t work from home is a get out.

More frustratingly when Gove decided to clarify things, he only added to the misinformation. Reported in the Guardian

Gove said construction workers should still be going to work while staying two metres apart and tradespeople, such as plumbers and electricians, could attend emergencies in people’s homes.

Ok, so construction workers should carry on. But then in the same article:

Gove issued a series of stark warnings about the consequences of flouting the ban. Shown pictures on Sky News of construction workers gathering close together, he said: “Unless you stay at home, then the people you love most may die.”

Which is just a way of giving the bosses an excuse to carry on while demonising the actual builders doing the work.

With an economic depression looking inevitable, I get why the government are trying to keep it vague. Maybe it’s time the grand rulers of the world tried sorting the flaws in our economy. People shouldn’t starve while food is going to waste. If A.I. and robots can do our jobs, why is it still a problem for anyone to get fired? How can a global recession happen anyway? If we’re all broke, then we’re all equally rich, right? (Note: my understanding of economics is patchy.)

Do you have any solutions?

And to soothe my rattling brain, I did another http://weavesilk.com/ painting.

The Citadel

 

London is not OK

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I want to remind you of a few news stories that broke just before Christmas, they show serious problems with poverty in London and the rest of the UK. These kinds of stories are often in print at that festive time, I guess because that’s when people are feeling generous and donate to charities. However, it also means that once Christmas is over, everyone feels the problems are finished too, they’ve donated, they’ve done their bit. The truth is, the situation in the UK is getting worse, and donating money to charity is only a sticking plaster. Austerity measures have destroyed lives, even ended lives, and the government show no sign of stopping cuts.

The focus of some of these stories is on London, primarily because that’s where I live, so I see news stories for here, but also because London is generating some disturbing statistics at the moment. People tend to assume because London is clearly a rich city, poverty induced problems must be minimal, but the opposite seems to be true. These stories might be familiar to you, so I’ll keep them brief, but there are links if you want to read more.

How Rich Are We

Out of all countries, the UK is ranked fifth for GDP (value of all goods and services produced. Article), and seventh for where the most billionaires live (article). Out of cities across the world, London is ranked fifth for where the most rich people live (London fifth richest city ) and also fifth in terms of GDP. Most of the inequality between rich and poor comes not from money being earned, but owned wealth (ie inherited or invested in property) (Wealth in London ). For a wealthy country, with a wealthy capital city, the following problems are ridiculous.

Homelessness

new homeless article

Article

new homeless article 2

Article

rough sleeper 2

Article

Up until 2010, homelessness had been declining, but since then has risen every year.

People sleeping rough  numbered 1768 in 2010 and 3569 in 2015 in the Uk. So double the numbers.

There are many more people homeless, but less visible, sleeping on floors of friends or in derelict buildings. It is thought that over 60% of homeless people don’t show up in figures.

However, in London the rise was biggest, from 400 in 2010 to 940 in 2015.

The other highest figure, and highest rise in figures, is in South East England.

Here are the facts and figures

2010 was when the Coalition government initiated the austerity program. It involved reducing funding for housing-related services, for example reducing housing benefit to a level that often didn’t cover rent, increasing sanctions for benefit claimants leaving vulnerable people without any assistance, introducing the bedroom tax (claimants had money reduced if they had an unused bedroom). It’s these measures, and rising rent prices that have lead to homelessness.

 

Foodbanks

foodbanks

The Independent did a poll of London families and discovered that 18% have to choose between heating or feeding their family.

33% (a third) struggle to afford healthy food for their family.

14% rely of foodbanks or free breakfast clubs.

Article about foodbank use

Austerity and the wider problem

There have been reports in the newspapers this month about a lack of beds in A&E hospitals and the cancellation of 50,000 operations. This situation has clearly hit a crisis point, but at the end of last year a study was brought out calculating that 45,000 deaths had been caused by austerity measures, many of which were caused by inadequate hospital care. Substandard care for the elderly was another factor.

cuts death

Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England

Note: this has been reported as 120,000 deaths, but that is a projected figure for 2015-2020, it may well prove to be an accurate prediction, but 45,000 actual deaths is shocking enough, there’s no need to inflate it.

Thank you for reading…

A Bit More on the Benefit System

Change.org just sent me an email about benefit sanctions with a couple of good articles, so thought I’d add those here, for anyone interested…

The Effect of Benefit Sanctions – the effects are depression and hunger, unsurprisingly.

Sixteen of the Most Senseless Benefit Sanctions –  A stern warning for all you work-shy claimants: having a heart attack during an assessment and therefore not completing the assessment will result in a sanction.

Because of I, Daniel Blake…

How our benefits system costs the tax payer more money

Last weekend I watched I, Daniel Blake (late to the party, as always). It was moving and beautiful, but I’m aware there are many people in this country who think that a film about benefits does not apply to them. So, using this film as inspiration, I wanted to point out a couple of things to those people:

Our benefit system is costing you more money by punishing claimants.

  1. The benefit system makes sick people sicker for longer, so they claim for longer.
  2. The benefit system creates benefit cheats.

daniel-blake

The benefit system makes sick people sicker for longer

We all know that stress is a killer, but stress also makes sick people more sick, so they can’t work, for longer. I had a brain injury, but what really prolonged my ability to get better was extreme stress. The stress was rooted in the accident, however, I didn’t show any symptoms of it until I tried to claim for benefits and that was clearly a trigger. One of the most stressful things you can experience is to have your survival in the hands of lying, incompetent people who don’t think of you as human. The film explores how this feels, how it destroys vulnerable people, breaks them down.

While claiming I found the system so relentlessly illogical and devoid of a duty of care that I became convinced that the government was trying to kill me, that was first sign of psychosis I experienced, after that it got worse. I was on benefits for six years, I think if I hadn’t been pushed to that point by the benefits system, if I could have relaxed, safe in the knowledge I was cared for and concentrated on recovery, I could have gone back to work in a year.

This may sound like a one off extreme experience (or maybe melodramatic), but it has happened to every genuinely sick person I have known who has tried to claim; because all illness, mental or physical, is made worse by stress. And everybody, no matter how ill, goes through the same system of being treated like a scrounger, lied to, tricked, dismissed.

Add to that the situations shown in the film – people being sanctioned and then not being able to eat properly or heat their home – all these things increase stress, prolong sickness and lead to the claimant needing benefits for much longer.

The benefit system works better for cheats than for the seriously ill – so the sick become cheats

The system is designed to be illogical and exhausting in order to put off benefit claimants. The problem with this is that benefit cheats have the mental and physical resources to deal with endless nonsensical and wrong instructions, they have the energy levels necessary to spend hours on the phone and they know the system so know just how to play it. People like Daniel in the film have never claimed benefits and don’t understand the system. They tell the truth (because they assume that is the right thing to do) and they are short on the strength necessary to play the game, all of which means they will not get money.

As a result, many seriously ill people give up trying, they rely on friends and family to survive or they kill themselves (see below for some  info about casualties). Dan sold his furniture and went hungry; and this is a seriously ill man who has just had a heart attack. I was lucky enough to understand computers (which Dan doesn’t) and I had a good friend to take over filling out forms and calling up advisers. Even with this help, I learnt that if I was to get money to live, I needed to change how I acted. Honesty and doing what I was asked to do, simply didn’t work. So I learnt to lie and cheat and manipulate, and that was how I got the money I needed to live.

Which is where the problem lies for the tax payer: The benefits system creates cheaters because honest people don’t get money. And being a cheater doesn’t just go away when you get better. If you have ever had someone repeatedly screw you over when you are at your most vulnerable you will perhaps understand: it changes you, it creates a cynicism and an anger that don’t vanish, and cynical, angry people, who have learned to work the system, aren’t good for society.

 

This blog was originally going to be a review, but there are plenty of excellent reviews about this important film and I had nothing helpful to add. In case you missed them…

Some facts about the system:

And finally a quote taken from the review above:

“I must emphasise one point. I, Daniel Blake is not a “poverty flick”, nor even a film about poverty. It’s about dignity, about society recognising you as a human being and not as a number. It’s about the relationships we create with one another to save us dying from state-imposed loneliness. The way we treat people on benefits becomes a metaphor for our society’s radical failure to recognise the humanity in others.”