A friend of mine spent a couple of years working for VSO in Eritrea. When she came back she described to me a system that I simply could not believe. When Eritreans are young it is decided for them what career path they will take, and they are then lead through the system to that path. They do not have the choice that we do. I was horrified. Ok, so as a teenager I had no idea what career path to take (as a child, I knew I wanted to run an insect hospital), but I would not have been happy for someone I had never met in a government building somewhere, to write down next to my name 'road sweeper', or 'football player'. I can't imagine living in such a society.
Yet, it seems, some of us may be headed in such a direction. Both The Mirror and The Daily Mail have published shocking articles about our countries benefits system in the last couple of days. What is most shocking about them is that both newspapers are actually disgusted at what our government is doing to the sick and disabled. Both have previously played heavy hands in the propaganda against us, aiding the stigmas of 'lazy people' and 'scroungers', so to my mind, if these papers have picked up on how horrific the situation is, it must be seriously dire. (Though the cynic in me wonders if they've just realised they can scandalize a new market of reader).
Taken from Sonia Poulton's article in The Daily Mail:
"Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with getting hands-on experience that will enable progression in your chosen path, and we've all done plenty of that, but there is everything wrong with being forced to work in a place that has nothing to do with your aims and ambitions and everything to do with creating a labour force that verges on slavery to the system."
"Disabled people will now face the prospect of unlimited unpaid work or they will be subject to cuts in their benefits. For millions that is nothing more than a line on a page but for many terrified and suicidal others, it is anything but."
Obviously, I understand a fair amount about of how the new system works. I am in the WRAG group myself. I had not realised though that I could be forced to take a work placement. When talking with the Job Centre, they conveniently left that piece of information out. Take a look at the job advertisement from Tesco above. The salary is "JSA plus expenses". Many of those commenting on the article are horrified. It is assumed that this is less than minimum wage, slave labour. It may well be, but since the hours are 'to be confirmed' we cannot be certain. I will be looking at similar job advertisements to work this out though. I have always believed Tesco to be a good, even generous, employer, so I am dearly hoping these assumptions are incorrect. That aside, I am still horrified that I, a graduate, who was so looking forward to developing her own career before I became ill, could be told to take a job pushing trolleys, which would very quickly disable me further. What no one seems to have noticed when looking at that job advertisement is that JSA plus expenses is a lot less than ESA plus expenses. Not good!
"We, as the country, are, quite literally, paying the consumer giant to make even more money. And we are doing that by having our taxpayer funded job seekers work free for the company."
It isn't right that large corporations such as Tesco benefit from free workers. If this is how the system works, it is most unfair. I would have presumed that the government would actually be making Tesco pay the worker the equivalent of JSA though. Ever the optimist aren't I.
Taken from The Mirror:
"Neil Coyle, of pressure group Disability Rights UK, said: “The idea that disabled people should work but receive no financial recognition for contributing is perhaps a level of abuse in and of itself.”What is perhaps most alarming is how the country, has made such an about turn. As Neil Coyle points out it was not that long ago that that the notion of the disabled working for less than minimum wage was laughed out of the news, and yet it is now a reality. How has the government manufactured this situation? Colour me a conspiracy theorist, but there has been an awful lot of disability hate articles appearing in the media over the last few months. I can't help wondering if these facts are related.
"He added: “When Conservative backbench MP Philip Davies suggested disabled people should work for less than the national minimum wage he was castigated. But it now appears to be Government policy.” "
Quoting Sonia's article again:
"If nothing else the Coalition are proving themselves, over and over again, to be worthy defenders of the rich. If you're in the top percentage of income earners in this country then you, too, should be OK."And this is what most annoys me. Tax breaks. Not just generous salaries, but salary increases. Bonus's. All for the rich, not for those of us at the bottom of the ladder. How can they not care that they are literally taking from the pockets of the poor?
There are three million unemployed in this country. How would you feel as one of those unemployed if you knew that jobs were being made unavailable for you because someone who was sick or disabled was being forced to take the position you could have had, that the company 'employing' them is not paying their wages, and that the person taking the job will probably be made a lot more ill by doing so?
I have one final thing to say on this. I believe there will be an epidemic of sick and disabled people who have no income soon. It won't take many years. Those on contributory ESA (ie, those who have actually paid their taxes to be able to afford to be ill) will cease to receive ESA after one years illness. The government has put a time limit on how long you can be ill for. So, what happens when after a year you are still ill? I have been ill for over ten years now. Many others have been ill nearly as long, or longer than me. Under this system how will they survive? Who does the government think will support them? Care for them? If I was not with C, there would be no one to care for me! Without benefits these people will lose their homes, their possessions; they will end up on the streets.
I would not be surprised if we see people leaving the country. When people realise how dire the situation is, I believe some will take the last of the money they receive or have saved and seek refuge in other countries. I am not suggesting that other countries will support us in the way that we support so many asylum seekers in this country, but that living in a country that is cold, damp, and mouldy is not conducive to good health; those who realise this may well seek a warmer, drier, healthier climate, and simply live on the streets there. I will not be surprised to see English refugees abandoning this country.
I will leave you with some of the comments from Sonia's article in The Daily Mail:
"Sonia writes about the workfare scheme. The ad from Tesco offering permanent night shift positions for benefit (£67.50 a week) plus expenses is reproduced above. This is slavery and madness, and will affect everyone who works for a living by driving wages down even further. Personally, I will not darken Tesco's doors again.
- Jane, Brighton, Sussex"
"Wherefore now, Britannia? Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?
- Dystopian, UK"
"Well said, Sonia. I honestly think these measures are getting through because people don't really believe it's happening. Soon we will have sick people dying on the streets (having been 'sanctioned' for being too unwell to work for nothing) and unable to pay for healthcare. Councils will keep moving them out of sight. It really IS happening ... And you're right, it's happened before. [... cut]
- Cherry, Herefordshire"
"If people knew the true horror of this they would be marching on the streets on how badly the government spend our money. Take it from me an income for a couple/ person /family of £140 a week and less than £6000 savings very little complicated state help is within your reach.........out of work, sick or disabled it just does nt matter...your ok. £26000 cap is a load of rubbish on benefits if your lucky you have £10 a day to cover every thing. Homelessness yes will be on the rise and they don t want them or people on benefits in the areas like Westminster, NASA cos they are rich.There's a lot more if you want to go and look at them. There are a lot of angry people out there!
- Janet, York "
Since I wrote this post, Tesco have publicly stated that the advert you can see above was a mistake. I am relieved!