News From Nick Palmer
First a quick note for anyone interested in my New Deal for Beeston project –
I’m organising a public meeting in the evening of Saturday, January 11 at John Clifford School with numerous interested people.
I’ll post full details in the new year, with some new proposals to think about, but please save the date for now.
I also have some further input on the open cast mine proposal that I’d like to share and discuss.
I’ve now had 11 requests urging me to comment on what our MP said on TV about another politician.
I’d rather not: I try not to comment publicly on personalities, and hope that supporters and others alike will accept that.
Most people know what type of MP we’ll get with each of us, and can choose what they prefer in May 2015.
What seems to me fair is to criticise policy and the stances that other candidates take.
My article below on food banks and their causes was published by the Beestonia blog/paper yesterday.
And aside from all that, let me just wish you a very merry Christmas and the happiest of years in 2014!
The food bank tragedy
A recent Parliamentary debate was called by Labour to discuss the rise of food banks and urge the Government to take action against the causes.
It’s fair to say that the governing parties were notably uninterested (IDS wandered out of the debate in the middle), various specious comments were made that were frankly out of touch with reality, and Broxtowe’s MP voted with the government, as per usual, to dismiss the call for action.
The issue here is what is causing the undoubted rise in food banks both in Broxtowe and elsewhere. There are, I think, three reasons:
1. Focusing the cuts on the poorest
The cuts in welfare support are hitting a minority of people hard, again and again. I’m well aware that the general idea of “cutting benefits” has majority support in the opinion polls, and no doubt government MPs feel that makes it all right. Most people are not affected, and many vaguely think that all that’s happening is that life is getting tough for scroungers. That isn’t, generally, the case.The fact is that if you have difficulty getting a job – for instance due to mental or physical health difficulties – the support system is being quietly, steadily whittled away. I’m not currently the MP, but I am still getting quite desperate letters from people about it, and they are heart-breaking to read. Unemployment has remained low as people have accepted real wage cuts to hang on to jobs, but if you’re out of the job market and, say, suffer from days of intermittent depression, or have difficulty in walking, your chance of getting a job is very small at the moment. It’s a cruel deception to make you jump through all the hoops of JSA when everyone involved knows the outcome. Yes, help people get into work wherever possible, but support them decently meanwhile.
2. Assuming that claims are wrong until they have been leisurely examined
The system is cumbersome, slow, and doesn’t offer support when you need it. The MAJORITY of people visiting food banks say the reason is that their claim for support is stuck somewhere in the system. Many say that Job Centre staff have quietly encouraged them to go to food banks to tide them over while their problems are considered. This is also the reason why Wonga and the like do well. If you literally have no money, the fact that the system may eventually help you is irrelevant. You can visit a food bank, take a high-interest loan, or go hungry. You do not have any other legal choice.
3. Endemic poverty
There remains a fair amount of endemic poverty in our society. In general, the last government was quite good for the “working poor”, because of working tax credits and the minimum wage, not so good for people with long-term problems getting work. The position has worsened under the current government. So the availability of food banks has offered a little relief in one aspect of life. All partiesincluding my own need to pay attention to this, and I’m glad that Labour picked the issue as the one it wanted to debate on the rare Opposition Day when they could put down a motion.Food banks are a good thing in the current situation and the people who run them are doing a fantastic job. But they should not be seen as a long-term part of the system that makes up for the gaps. They are a symptom of things in our society that are very wrong, and the governing parties are flatly wrong to look the other way.
It is not the Big Society, but the Failing Society.