A raft of Tory policies have been dismantling what is left of the British welfare state (after Thatcherism set them on this destructive and inhumane path). This includes the so-called “Bedroom Tax” which will cut the amount of benefit people can get if they have a spare bedroom in their home. In today’s NZ Herald Toby Helm and Tracy McVeigh report that this has been called “bad policy and bad economics”:
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said the tax – which will cut the amount of benefit people can get if they have a spare bedroom in their home – would harm the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
It comes into force this week alongside a range of other tax and benefit changes.
On Saturday (UK time) there was a protest against this tax. On Saturday, opponents to the tax
… launched nationwide protests against the tax which will hit 660,000 households with each losing an estimated average of £14 a week.
Crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square yesterday to protest against the measure and simultaneous protests were being held in towns and cities across the UK.
Protester Sue Carter, 58, said: “I’m a working single parent with a tiny boxroom and now I’m faced with the choice between food, heat or paying the bedroom tax. People have looked after their homes, improved them, why should they be turfed out?”
Among the other changes happening this week is the stealthy privatisation of the National Health Service, largely ignored by the UK MSM. The website, Liberal Conspiracy has extracts from an interview, originally published in the British Medical Journal, about how the privatisation of the NHS begins this week.
LUCY REYNOLDS: We’re not going to have a big bang privatisation for the NHS. We’re going to have a very quiet one.
What has happened is that all of the rules that control health financing have been gradually changed since the New Labour times. Overall, we now have the NHS reorganised in such a way that it can be relaunched as a mixed market, so not just the public health sector service, but also a healthcare industry. The rules are structured in such a way that there will be a gradual transition between those two groups. The public sector will shrink away, and the private sector will grow.
But because there will never be an announcement in parliament that the NHS is privatised, and because the private providers will be allowed to use the NHS logo for anything that they are getting NHS funding for, it is very likely that the general public will not be aware that the private sector has in fact come in and taken over whatever bits of the NHS it finds profitable until probably service provision gets fairly bad.
This kind of stealth is similar to the NAct government’s sly dismantling of NZ’s conservation protections, as I argued in that post. Both the NZ and UK governments seem to be approaching their anti-democratic and unpopular agendas by quietly setting up a range of seemingly small and unconnected provisions, which will eventually amount to a comprehensive and major change with huge social and economic impocts.
And very often the changes to social security and other public provisions that NAct are bringing in, are modeled on ones already in play in the UK, as, for instance was argued by opposition MPs debating the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill. During the 1st reading, Jacinda Ardern said:
The use of outsourcing of assessment of work capacity and the ACC-style model of vocational independence assessment process bears striking resemblance to that used in the UK. The Department for Work and Pensions in the UK made use of contractors like Atos to perform work capability assessments, at a cost to the State of ₤300 million. Since that time an estimated 500,000 people have been wrongly assessed. People with terminal cancer have been found fit for work, and people with mental health issues have been ignored. Not only should we not lose sight of the lessons from abroad but also we must apply our own values around the role of social security in our country.
During the 2nd reading, Phil Twyford said:
We remain concerned that the Minister has signalled a UK-style medical assessment regime for people who are on a sickness benefit or an invalids benefit. …
We have seen a huge increase in the use of sanctions under this Government in the social development area. There is no assessment in place, there is no evidence that the increase in sanctions has had any kind of success, and we should see an assessment regime that actually looks to measure the harm or benefit that families have received as a result of the sanctions regime.
A recent survey in the UK shows how poverty is increasing under the “austerity” regime.
The Poverty and Social Exclusion report, the biggest survey of deprivation across the UK, found that a third of adults now suffer from some form of financial insecurity, with more than a quarter admitting they can neither save £20 a month nor put money away for a pension.
Just under one in ten households say they are unable to heat the living areas of their homes, up from just 3 per cent in the 1990s. People now say they consider around 33 per cent of Britons to be suffering from a lifestyle of “multiple deprivation”.
In his on-going series of posts on poverty, Anthony Robins has been monitoring the way poverty is damaging so many lives in NZ. This week he focused on the impact of poverty on Kiwi children.
First Britain and the US, then NZ: so goes democracy, social security and a fair and functional economy and society.