Archives For October 2013

We came across this excellent video made and created by the dole animators who also take part in the video. From the voices of those at the heart of the effects of punishing welfare reform, we hear what it is really like for the so-called ‘scroungers’ who are on benefits, after losing their job, becoming ill or unable to work.

“We warn you not to be ill,

not to have an accident,

not to lose your job.

We warn you not to make the choices we didn’t make.”

The Dole Animators

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jaynelinney

As well as sending my letter asking Where Disabled People fit in Labour’s ‘Tough on Welfare’? to Kate Green, I also submitted it as a comment in to Labour.org; I received a reply from the Labour Party today –

Thank you for your email about Labour’s plans for social security reform.

Because of this Government’s economic failure, the next Labour government must start planning now for what will be a very difficult inheritance. David Cameron claims the economy is fixed, but the welfare bill is going up, not down. Long-term unemployment is up; the housing crisis is pushing up housing benefit spending; and the growing number of people earning less than a living wage is costing the taxpayer more in tax credits and other benefits.

One Nation Labour will get welfare spending back under control, but based on our values, not the Tories’ failed approach. That means tackling the underlying problems…

View original post 396 more words

Image: The North London People's Assembly

Image: The North London People’s Assembly

 

 

“Everything we have won, all the gains, all the rights, were not won through the good will and generosity of those above but through ordinary people from below organising, uniting together, forcing those in power to listen.”

Owen Jones, author and columnist

“We need to mobilise millions of people.”

Nick McCarthy, Head of campaigns, communication and organising PCS Union

 

“They talk about privatisation as fragmentation but it is actually decimating services.”

“1 in 4 children in London go to school hungry and that is shocking. There are things too big to stay silent on, and poverty is one of them for teachers.”

“It’s such a tsunami of awfulness, and we need to give people hope.”

Max Hyde

“It’s one law for the rich and no law for the poor.”

John Rees, Stop The War Coalition, Counterfire

“The government have no knowledge of, no connection with, the solidarity that exists between working people.”

Reverend Paul Nicholson

“The benefit cap is more about sending out a message than it is about saving money.”

Jane Lapporte, Haringey Housing Action Group

“The only way to fight this is to go back to your roots, and support the welfare state, public health services and public owned education…We want a society that cares for all and ignores none rather than ignores many and cares for a few.”

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP

“I’m not a politician, I’m just a human being that cares about other human beings and the environment we live in….This [system] is corporate welfare for those up top and neo-capitalism for everyone else.”

Francesca Martinez, Writer and Comedian

“This government wants to cut out everything to do with equality. The cuts are amplifying the racism that existed before…The government cuts are not about saving money, they are about discrimination, inequality and racism.”

Zita Holbourne, Poet, Artist, Activist

“Things do change, and they change because of the actions of ordinary human beings like you and me.”

Lynsey German, Stop The War Coalition

1) Thousands across country falling into rent arrears as reforms and bedroom tax effects deepen

The number of people falling into rent arrears has almost doubled from 35% to 62% in the first three months of the new bedroom tax policy, where social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room are charged.

“Rent arrears for all 500,000 tenants covered by the 45 survey respondents rose by an average of 21 per cent. This is £17.5 million in cash terms, enough to build almost 1,000 homes.”

A combination of a rise in living costs, rising rent, below inflation increases of benefit rates and a lack of smaller housing for tenants looking to downsize is causing people to become trapped in arrears, which forces landlords to lose out on rent and pushes people into poverty cycles.

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Universal credit rolled out further, despite criticism and instability of reform so far

Universal Credit is being rolled out across West London today, in the next step towards a national launch. Hammersmith and Fulham will be the latest councils to take on the government’s flagship reform which will replace several means tested benefits and pay in a single amount, monthly.

The scheme is being rolled out more carefully and slowly than anticipated, following problems with IT, staff and responses to the new payment.

Labour have described the reform as “total chaos.”

Still, the Department for Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has pressed forward amid strong criticisms and clear failings of budgeting and control, and the reform will be fully rolled out by 2017.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Iain Duncan Smith – Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Mother of four with rare allergy told to find work

A mother of four with an allergy to shoes has been ruled fit-to-work and had her benefits cut.

Tracey Kenny, 45, from Eccles, Greater Manchester has been out of work for 24 years due to an allergy that stops her from wearing shoes. Tracey is allergic to dust, metal, glue, rubber and nickel, and is forced to wear gloves to handle her cutlery.

Doctors even sourced and made some special shoes from Switzerland for Tracey to wear, but they still irritated her feet.

She said: “I don’t know how these  people expect me to go to work or go to job interviews with no shoes on – because that is what I would have to do.”

“I can only wear shoes for ten or 15  minutes, before my feet blister and split. It stops me from doing everything.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Russell Brand’s Newsnight interview calls for revolution against wealth gap, politics and environmental damage, and goes viral

If you haven’t seen it, you must watch:

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Writer, comedian, actress and disability campaigner Francesca Martinez began this petition to put an end to the devastating welfare reforms and tests which are causing suffering for the sick and disabled, and an end to the war on welfare – hence the nickname WoW petition.

The petition has reached around 70,000 and we need an extra 30,000 for it to be debated by a government committee.

This is a great opportunity to take this issue to Parliament. Sign.

Francesca Martinez - Image: The Guardian

Francesca Martinez – Image: The Guardian

“We call for:

“A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.

“An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.

“Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

“An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.”

To sign the petition click here. 

In the second part of our interview with journalist and Chair of Nightwatch Croydon, Jad Adams, we talk about what authorities and government  can do to help the growing problem of homelessness…

Jad Adams image: Radio Times

Jad Adams image: Radio Times

What should we do now to help the homeless?

“I think we’ve got to look at the very bottom. Look at where people actually are and the community that they are actually living in, and see what support that community wants to give, what that community is able to give. And we should support community initiatives with things like floating shelters and lunch clubs, and soup runs and permanent shelters. I would like to see permanent shelters throughout the country because if we only had a few, then people would gravitate to them and they would become magnets for homeless people, so I don’t think we want a few homeless shelters. I think we want lots of shelters in different towns, different boroughs throughout the country.

“Local authorities and government like to work with organisations that reflect their power structure, that have a Chief Executive and the finance department and the policy department and the operatives down at the bottom level. And shelters and soup runs and other kinds of organisations like that just don’t follow those patterns.”

“The authorities ignore the shelters in most cases. Where we’ve got floating shelters operating, for example the churches have been running them, more than half the boroughs in London had floating shelters in the last winter, when there are such shelters, very often the authorities just ignore them. Just pretend they’re not there. Because they don’t really fit into their model. Local authorities and government like to work with organisations that reflect their power structure, that have a Chief Executive and the finance department and the policy department and the operatives down at the bottom level. And shelters and soup runs and other kinds of organisations like that just don’t follow those patterns. They’re very difficult for local authorities to deal with. And so, you usually get the situation that shelters are supported by the churches or by independent charities, local independent charities, and the local authorities just ignore them altogether. I ought to say, that’s not invariably the case, because in some cases the local authorities say ‘we have the obligation to provide cold weather provision for rough sleepers, so here it is, we’ll support our local shelter.’ And I think that’s a much more positive way of doing things.”

What else can local authorities do?  

“Local authorities should look at provision in their own area, look at things that people are already doing and support them. I don’t think local authorities should be kickstarting these things. I don’t think they should be going to the churches and saying ‘let’s set up a shelter’, but I think they ought to respond to the churches when they say ‘we want to set up a shelter’. I think they ought to be more helpful with providing premises and cutting through red tape with planning permissions and in referring people to homeless shelters. I think they need to get in with the game. And also give money, but this isn’t primarily a begging bowl exercise. It’s for the local authorities to have a more positive attitude to local initiatives, and to stop thinking that they can just pass on their responsibilities by handing everything that they have responsibility for, to one of the big charities and say right we’ve covered homelessness because clearly that hasn’t worked.

“It’s for the local authorities to have a more positive attitude to local initiatives.”

“They’re not very good with small charities. Local authorities like to deal with the big national charities. They like to deal with the local branch of the national charity because it reflects their power structure and their way of looking at the world, and actually they ought to be looking at what people in their own borough are doing at the grassroots and seeing if they can support that.”

Image: towntalk.co.uk

Image: towntalk.co.uk

Is this becoming more important to deal with as more welfare cuts loom? 

“The welfare cuts make this more urgent but so does the number of indigent Eastern Europeans staying here. I mean an awful lot of Eastern Europeans came and either settled or the made a bit of money and then they went away again, and they were usually the very skilled ones. And the unskilled people came hoping that they’d pick up work and be successful, and very often have not been and so end up in tent cities or living in derelict buildings or often in very overcrowded conditions. They’re not really engaging with the community and they’re not making enough money to get out of dyer poverty and they’re largely reliant on charities and that’s really unfortunate and that’s not what the European Union and free movement of labour was really supposed to be about.”

How should we deal with this? 

“That becomes politically very hot indeed. I think that what we’ve got to do is say that yes, people can come into the country, yes we absolutely permit free movement of labour, because that’s one of the four principles of the EU. It’s one of the things we ought to be doing and we all agree with it.  But people should only be able to come into the country if they have a sponsor, or if they have the money to keep themselves for a couple of months or a place to live, some conditions on entry so that people can’t enter the country with nothing at all and expect to live off charity. We wouldn’t do that in another country. We wouldn’t up and go to Spain and China, and say well, I haven’t got any money, haven’t got a job, haven’t got anywhere to live and I don’t know the language but I’ll just go and live on the streets – it’s really not the way we can work in the 21st Century. And we have got to be able to apply ourselves to the new situation where we find ourselves in the EU with people of very disparate levels of wealth, so that our treatment of the poor is that much better than the treatment of the poor in Poland. It’s better to be poor in this country than it is to be poor in Poland. Countries have got to get better and develop their people slowly. It doesn’t do anyone any good to just move from one country to another.”

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
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Jad Adams is a journalist and broadcaster and Chair of the Nightwatch homeless charity in Croydon. Following his talk for BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought on how homelessness has been monetised (which you can listen to or read through Jad’s website here), we caught up with him to talk about the problems with government policy, attitudes and what we need to do to help the homeless….

Jad Adams image: Radio Times

Jad Adams image: Radio Times

You work with Nightwatch, a homeless charity based in Croydon. Could you tell us a bit about what you do? 

“Nightwatch is a voluntary organisation, all run by volunteers, which operates only in Croydon. We were set up in 1976. I’m the Chair of that organisation. We’ve got about 130 volunteers. We go out every evening and we also help people with other things like re-settling former homeless people into new accommodation and helping people with working clothes like steel-toe capped boots, because you can’t even walk onto a building site and ask for work without protective clothing, so we supply them with that protective clothing. Nightwatch has been going since 1979, I’ve been chair of the organisation since 1992.”

What sort of problems do the homeless people you deal with have? Is it just the stereotype of drug addicts and so on? What are the reasons some of the people you’ve met have ended up on the streets? 

“There are substance abuse issues with some people, but far from being the majority of them. Probably half the people we see at the moment are Eastern European, and if I look at the other section of people I see what they have in common normally, is something like an institutional background. Very often they were in children’s homes, they were in prisons, in mental institutions, they’ve been in the armed services. So very often, institutions are the main factor rather than substance abuse.

 “So while some are drinkers it’s not the majority by any means, and the most common psychological problems for homeless people is not alcoholism, it’s depression.”

“There are always some who are addicted and I often help re-settle former addicts who have been through treatment programmes. And there’s more drinking in the homeless community than there is in the general community. There are always a small number of homeless people who are drunk and very noisy, so sometimes, the public get the idea that all homeless people are drunk and noisy, and that’s not actually the case, it’s just that the ones that are the most visible are also the most drunk. So while some are drinkers it’s not the majority by any means, and the most common psychological problems for homeless people is not alcoholism, it’s depression.”

Are there many ex-servicemen on the streets?  

“The Ministry of Defence and the serviceman’s charities have really smartened up on this in the last ten years, and the reason, a rather cynical reason I think, is that we were involved in a couple of unpopular wars and the government didn’t want the men coming back from those wars to then become homeless because it would reflect badly on the government. I think that’s partly why, but I also think there’s been a recognition of the needs of ex-service people. So things have been better over the last few years. It’s one of the success stories, really. I used to see veterans of certainly the second world war, and the Korean war, and gulf war one which was 1991, and the falklands war which was 1982, and I saw people who were veterans of those wars. I haven’t yet seen any from Iraq or Afghanistan.”

What drew you to wanting to help the homeless? 

“That’s a very good question and if I knew the answer to it I would probably know myself better than I actually do. I don’t why some people choose some things and not others. I mean I am concerned about animal cruelty but I have never been a member of an animal charity. I have a friend who fosters mentally handicapped kids, I would never think of doing that. I’m glad someone does but it’s not in my nature to do that. I know people who would never want to be engaged with the homeless community but it has always felt to me to be right for me, something that I wish to do.”

What are the problems with people’s attitudes towards the homeless and government attitudes and policies?

“I think the public are very positive indeed towards homeless people. In fact, they’re so positive that some people pretend to be homeless in order to benefit from the generosity of the public. People who have got somewhere to live and aren’t badly off will sit with a card saying ‘homeless and hungry’ and people give them money. They can only do that sort of scam because people are so concerned about homelessness and are committed to wanting to end homelessness. There really aren’t that many people anymore that blame the homeless for their own condition, which used to be what people would say. ‘They want to be like that,’ they would say, ‘they want to sleep in doorways or their lifestyle pre-disposes them to do that’. So the public don’t particularly feel that way, they realise that people are victims of circumstances. They would like to help, they don’t know exactly what to do, but they would like to help.  Or they think that the government should help. But it’s very unclear to the public what you would do with a problem like homelessness.

 “I think the hostels said you’ve got to come either all the way into the system and you’ve got to sign up for housing benefit and we’ll process you though the hostel or if you don’t want to play, just stay outside.”

“The last government was generally positive towards homelessness but I think they have been lead by some of the big homeless charities to put all their efforts into hostels. And I can’t see hostels being the answer because there’s too many homeless people and not enough hostels and also hostels just aren’t good enough. They are not a solution to the problem of homelessness. They can be a kind of halfway house between street homelessness and prison. So in effect, you’re going into a hostel which has got lots of rules and you’re going to be in there for an indefinite amount of time. That’s what very often happens to people who get into the hostel system.”

Nightwatch Logo

Nightwatch Logo

You say big homeless charities have influenced the government, how so? 

“The government wanted to do something about homelessness very reasonably, and it was when homelessness was quite low. We hadn’t had a lot of Eastern Europeans coming in at that time, and the government was told that homelessness could be eradicated by the end of 2012, at least in London. And that clearly did not happen. The target of ending homelessness was nowhere near reach.

“So clearly we ought to say, ‘Oh right, it was a gallant effort but that was the wrong policy, let’s do something different.’ And no one seems to be saying that. I didn’t like to criticize the policy at the time because at least they were trying and some people indeed were helped. I can’t say that no one was ever helped by the policy of ‘No One Left Out’ but clearly that wasn’t a success, and we ought to be looking at other ways to help homeless people, other ways of getting people part-way into the system. Because I think the hostels said you’ve got to come either all the way into the system and you’ve got to sign up for housing benefit and we’ll process you though the hostel or if you don’t want to play, just stay outside.

“The charities had stopped looking at themselves as primarily charitable organisations and had started seeing themselves as businesses, that had to maintain a certain level of supply and a certain level of money running through in order to maintain their career structures and premises and so on.”

“I would much rather go to homeless shelters, where people can enter at will. They can refer themselves, they don’t have to be referred by some professional, which aren’t reliant on the stream of housing benefit, which is so difficult to get anyway. But once you’ve got it, it’s difficult to get out of.

“There were some specialist operations. There was some attempts to help people with substance abuse problems for example. Notably, the Westminster Drug Project has been very good in this field. But there was an awful lot of filling up hostels just for the sake of filling them up, in order to make sure the money supply continued to run through the charity. The charities had stopped looking at themselves as primarily charitable organisations and had started seeing themselves as businesses, that had to maintain a certain level of supply and a certain level of money running through in order to maintain their career structures and premises and so on.”

Why did that happen?

“I think that happens because that’s what organisations do. They get ossified. When you start pumping money into an organisation, it realises it wants to get bigger and get more money, and own more property and do more things and bid for more contracts and compete with other people that are doing the same things. That’s the way organisations work and it’s certainly the way they work in commercial fields, but I don’t think they should be working that way in the charitable field.”

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass
Like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

1) Energy prices begin to rise and more winter deaths anticipated as families choose between heating and eating. Meanwhile, PM David Cameron advises wearing a jumper.

British Gas announced a 9.2% price rise this week ahead of winter, and others of the Big Six are expected to follow suit forcing many more families, poor, vulnerable and elderly to choose between heating and eating.

Following the announcement, British Gas made a PR faux-pas in allowing the public to ask questions through the Twitter hashtag #AskBG

Thousands used the hashtag to hit out at British Gas for the price hike and the expected deaths caused by the increase.

PM David Cameron then made a bad move in suggesting that people should wear jumpers in order to keep warm – a suggestion that has inflamed the public and politicians alike. Labour MP John Robertson branded the Prime Minister “patronizing and out of touch.”

Read more about this story here. 

2) DWP Secretary to resign over Universal Credit ‘fiasco’

Robert Devereux, the permanent secretary to the DWP will be criticised in a new report highlighting the problems in the government’s Universal Credit programme.

Deveraux has said to colleagues that he will resign if he is personally criticised in the report made by the Commons Public accounts committee.

Image: Civil Service World

Robert Devereux – Image: Civil Service World

Minister for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith is thought to have fought with Devereux in the rollout of Universal Credit, which puts several benefit payments into one monthly sum.

In August, a leaked survey of staff working on the scheme revealed chaos, a lack of management and frustration. One employee described the work as “soul destroying.”

A report by the National Audit Office in September said it suffered from “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance” and could miss its 2017 deadline for implementation.

Read more about this story here.

3) 150,000 complain about ATOS

Sky News have obtained figures showing that Citizens Advice has had 150,000 complaints about the fit-to-work test administrators ATOS.

Citizens Advice say that the tests are failing genuinely sick and disabled people across the country.

Doctors are also warning that the service is “unfit for purpose.”

Read more about this story here.

Image: The Backbencher

Image: The Backbencher

4) Widow speaks out against ATOS on treatment of husband: “Cancer killed my husband, but ATOS took his dignity a long time before his death”

Lyn Coupe has vowed to continue the fight against healthcare group ATOS following the death of her husband David, who lost his life to cancer.

David Coupe had been ill for 24 years with a back injury, diabetes and a heart condition.

ATOS found David “capable of limited employment” and cut his benefits by £50 a week – a decision he appealed against, though he was told that a ruling would take a year.

Shortly after, David found he had cancer, which left him in even more pain and took his sight and hearing. He died before the appeal ruling. Lyn now says she will continue the fight:

“One night I heard him sobbing downstairs. He was blind, almost deaf and in terrible pain, yet they still said he was fit enough to work. He told me ‘I can’t go on. I’m done in duck’.

“All David wanted to do was stay alive long enough to see them pay back the money he was entitled to. Sadly he didn’t live long enough.”

MP Dennis Skinner brought the case to light in a speech to the Prime Minister, in which he called on David Cameron to end the fit to work tests and the “monster” that is ATOS.

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

We found this excellent freestyle from MC NextGen about Tory Britain. We strongly advise a listen and share for this refreshing talent. The message needs to get out.

We meet in her flat, paper print outs of her mother are tacked onto the walls, pictures of her son and grandson are pinned up on one of the kitchen cupboards. The floorboards are bare, and it is cold. “I don’t have any normal tea, I’m so sorry, is chamomile okay?” I tell her that chamomile is fine, really, and she limps over to the counter to put the kettle on, visibly in pain. Her brow furrowed, she pours out the tea slowly and covers the two mugs with little plates before walking over to the table.

Originally from Jamaica, Audrey Francis has been living in her estate in South West London for 31 years. Recently, things haven’t been going well. Caught up in the middle of the current welfare reforms, she is helpless, angry, upset, frustrated and sad all at once. “ I don’t want to be all like ‘woe is me’, and I don’t want you to think that, or for anybody to think that. But it is really very hard. I want you to know, I used to work.  I worked at my most recent job for eight years before I started getting ill…”

Her story unfolds quickly and urgently. Diagnosed with Lupus –an uncommon and complex disease characterised by joint swelling- Audrey was forced to stop working, and began receiving incapacity allowance as her sole source of income which she has been living on for the last four years. Her rent has been climbing every year, but her incapacity allowance has been frozen at the same amount. Making ends meet is tough with expensive gas and water bills. Plus, Audrey explains that there are other hidden expenses tagged onto the overall bill. She shows me, and there is clearly a monthly window cleaning expense –“Do these windows look like they’ve ever been cleaned by the council?”

As a result her rent arrears have mounted up, but she tells me that she had never been notified about her debts.   It was only when the bedroom tax was introduced, as of April this year, that she was told that she owed a significant amount of money. She currently receives £129 every two weeks for her incapacity allowance, £54 of which goes straight on the bedroom tax and paying off her arrears. This, obviously, leaves very little income for other necessities.

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

Bedroom Tax Protest Image: birminghamagainstthecuts.co.uk

The situation is a catch-22: Audrey is keen to downsize her property, but the current lack of available smaller housing means that she is stuck in a situation where she can’t afford rent, but cannot move, either. “This place is too big for me anyway, and I can’t afford this bedroom tax. But there is nowhere smaller to go. Nobody from my housing association nor the council offered me any options at all. They just want us out.”

A friend told her about a scheme where it is possible to downsize your property by way of an exchange. Audrey quickly signed up, but was abruptly removed by the housing authority due to her rent arrears. Thrown back to square one, she once again had no option but to pay and stay, and work herself into further debt.

With no option of where to go or what to do, one housing officer suggested that she would be better off looking for a smaller property out of London. He suggested Lincoln.  “My family all lives in London, they always have. What the hell would I do in Lincoln?”. She is also anxious about being moved to another London estate, because she would have to “establish herself again”- estates are complex sub societies with their own rules and laws, it isn’t easy to just move from one to another.

Audrey has kept all of the letters from the housing association and from the council. She knows what she is talking about. She pulls all the different official letters out and goes through them, distressed. Through tears she tells me that she has tried to ask “them” for help, but because of her rent arrears, “and just because of who I am, where I’m from and what I look like”,  she is told that she didn’t attend meetings which she wasn’t told about, or that she didn’t adequately fill in forms she had never received. “Life is not life anymore, it’s an expense. They make it as hard as they can so you just break”.

“I’m educated, they think we’re all stupid, but I went to university”, Audrey was mid-way through an archeology and history degree at Birkbeck before becoming ill. She told me that as soon as she is able to graduate she’s getting out of the UK, “to Gambia or Ghana, but to be honest, anywhere away from here. They treat people like me like shit”.

Audrey places her story in the context of a broader issue of race and class in Britain. She tells me about being black in the 1970s “I have a tendency to kick off, yeah, I shouldn’t, I know. But we’re angry; if you were Jamaican and went to school in the 1970’s you would be angry too. These estates were scary places, and racism was pervasive, everywhere”.

Audrey isn’t surprised at the way she is treated, she sees it as another manifestation of preference and levels of privilege in this country. She strongly alludes to the idea that the area is being socially cleansed. To Audrey, the current measures to cut back on benefits are just a new wave of obstacles to make life more difficult for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

We sip our chamomile, and she tells me that she is trying to be brave.  Her illness is seriously aggravated by stress, and the last few months have been nothing short of a tumultuous and upsetting uphill battle.  “It is obvious what is happening. All the old tenants are being moved out and they want us to feel like strangers here, but I’m not going down without a fight”. Audrey expresses her discontent to the authorities; a bold move in the face of persistent intimidating letters. “I try not to get angry. I try to be articulate and calm. When I get angry I know they don’t listen, and I just reproduce a stereotype which they want”.

Right now, the bedroom tax, escalating rents and cuts to benefits are creating situations which are unlivable. The current welfare reforms are clearly making many members of our society feel trapped and deserted. If life is indeed experienced as nothing more than a dismal expense that people can’t keep up with, then we are just forcing deeper poverty cycles on people like Audrey. We need to press for a more humane approach.

Saara Jaffery-Roberts