The Government are feckless, neglectful and abusive – my speech at the #TUC2013

An article in the Guardian recently claimed that ‘austerity has been hijacked by the moralisers’ – and judging by George Osborne’s latest announcement that ‘austerity works’, it seems they were right. As though it’s all just ‘cosy frugality’, as though we are all just living in a snapshot of a nostalgic poster of post-War Britain. I’m surprised the posters haven’t made a reappearance, unaltered, to back up the chancellors claims.

Eat less bread. Food is a weapon. Your own vegetables all year round. Dig for victory. Home grown food. Make do and mend. Keep calm and carry on.

But there’s nothing cosy and nostalgic about missing days of meals, turning the heating off for two consecutive winters and every bloody day and night in between.

There’s nothing cosy and nostalgic about unscrewing the light bulbs so you can’t accidentally turn them on, or selling your son’s shoes, or drinking the formula milk that the food bank gave you because there’s nothing else. If that’s cosy frugality, the moralisers and apologisers ought to try it. For a month. Or six. Or eighteen.

Turn off the fridge, because it’s empty anyway. Sell anything you can see lying around that you might get more than a quid for. Walk everywhere in the pouring rain, in your only pair of shoes, with a soaking wet and sobbing toddler old trailing behind you. Drag that toddler into every pub and shop in unreasonable walking distance and ask them if they have any job vacancies. Try not to go red as the girl behind the counter appraises your tatty jumper and dirty jeans before telling you that they have no jobs available. “For you”, you add in your head, and you drag that toddler home, still soaking, still unemployed, to not-quite dry out in your freezing cold flat.

Put two jumpers on that you’ll wear all week, to keep washing to a minimum. You sit at home in your coat anyway, and nobody’s there to notice.

Drag yourself to the cooker to pour some tinned tomatoes over some cold pasta, and try not to hurl it across the room in frustration when your toddler tells you he doesn’t want it. I want something else, Mummy. But there isn’t anything else. But aren’t we supposed to just keep calm and carry on?

You get up the next morning and give your child one of the last weetabix, mashed with a little water, with a glass of tap water to wash it down with.

Where’s mummys breakfast? He asks, all big blue eyes and innocent concern. You tell him you aren’t hungry, but you weren’t hungry last night either, and sooner or later he’ll notice that mummy never seems hungry any more.

Hunger hurts. Hunger distresses, and depresses. Admitting that you cannot afford to feed your child is both terrifying and humiliating. Professionals that signpost people to food banks for help often report that they are reluctant to go, because it feels like begging. And my god, it feels like begging.

And you think if you admit to skipping meals, to feeding your child the same cold pasta for nights on end, you think if anyone notices the badly damaged wrists from your recent suicide attempt, that you might lose your son. He might be taken into care. And despite the cold and the despair and the mind raging with doubt and fear and uselessness, there’s a little boy that relies on you to provide his meals – no matter how rubbish they are – and to put his jumper on before he goes to bed at night. So you say you’re fine. But you’re not. You’re full of rain and heartache and anger and it’s starting to seep through the cracks in the kept up appearances. But don’t you just keep calm, and carry on?

My circumstances were not unique to me. The Oxfam report – Walking The Breadline, published in June this year, states that half a million people in the UK rely on food banks. Yet the Government puts their fingers in their ears, blaming feckless parenting and scroungers. Half a million feckless parents. Half a million scroungers. They claim that there is no link between cuts to welfare and the growing demand for food banks.

Lord Freud claims that people ‘turn up for free food’ – painting a picture of people waltzing in and topping up the Ocado delivery with a few battered fruits and some dented tins of tomatoes. Such comments display a complete disconnect from reality. You can’t just ‘turn up’ to a food bank. You need to be referred – by a childcare professional, a health visitor, social services or similar agency. Someone needs to recognise that your household is at serious risk of going hungry if they don’t intervene. And intervention is a feared word. So people become adept at pretending they don’t need help.

Michael Gove blames child poverty and hunger on reckless parenting – with no acknowledgement to the fact that many people using food banks are doing so because of benefit delays, sanctions, low income, and unemployment. No acknowledgement that many people who use food banks are IN WORK. What sort of a society do we live in where people who go out to work to support their families, need emergency food handouts?

Many parents tell of going to bed hungry themselves in order to feed their children. Gove would call that reckless parenting. And they repeat, they bleat, that food bank use has nothing to do with welfare cuts.

So here’s a figure.:

Since April 2013, and the introduction of the Bedroom Tax, food bank use in the UK has increased 175%.

The number one reason cited for food bank referral is cuts or delays to benefits, including sanctions and Bedroom Tax.

And while food banks are meeting a real and desperate need for half a million families in the UK, surely the responsibility for feeding the poorest and most vulnerable lies with the Government, not with charity? Isn’t that the entire point of the welfare state?

So in terms of feckless parenting, it is the state that is sending its children to school, to bed and to work hungry.

By cutting welfare lifelines, the state is the abusive parent.

By casting around to blame anyone else, by ignoring the cold hard face of true poverty in the UK, it is the state that is feckless.

By refusing to tackle poverty at its root, it is the Government that is being neglectful.

But until they change housing benefit to monthly payments in line with people’s rent and mortgage payments, until they commit to a living wage legislation that is not age discriminatory, until they reinstate the crisis loan, revoke the bedroom tax – we need to carry on talking about it. Get angry. Get noisy. Use the collective voice of 6 million union members to lobby and campaign and not stop until children are not going to bed hungry any more.

As Desmond Tutu said – there comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.

Jack Monroe at the TUC, 9th September 2013. Twitter @MsJackMonroe

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81 thoughts on “The Government are feckless, neglectful and abusive – my speech at the #TUC2013

  1. Bravo Jack! You saying it all. The worst of it is that there are so many times when one feels quite helpless when confronted with truth because the only answer is a collective one and collectivism is out of favour.

  2. I agree with a lot of what’s in here – which is new for me as I’m on the right side of the fence rather than the left.

    I do disagree with the hatred of the Bedroom Tax. My mother is alone in a 2 bed council house (with a small partitioned room my Dad made which was a bedroom, now an office) with a large garden – a great family house that housed 4 kids plus my parents for YEARS. She wants to stay there, with the office and the spare room for guests. In doing so, it stops the council from putting a family in there.

    If she wants to stay there, why should the public fund it entirely?

    But of course, that means that some peoeple will be unfairly hit – which is actually a horrid fact. But then that is the same with all benefits – it costs too much, so the gov lowers it. Not only does this affect the minority who claim when they shouldn’t, it also hurts those that it is meant to help.

    If only the people that needed to claim where claiming, and claiming only what they needed – then cuts wouldn’t need to be made. But we can’t talk about that or people think that you’re calling all people who claim “scroungers”. I’m not, I’m really not.

    But there are SOME people out there that are using the safety net as a play area, and that means that there isn’t always room to catch those that are falling. And that’s a horrid fact

    • Umm….well not sure I entirely agree. Is the precarious state of the nation’s finances purely down to the benefits system? What about the banking bailout(s)? Tax evasion by the wealthy? Then there’s the fact that a great many claimants are in work, so essentially, the government (and by extension, you and I as taxpayers) are subsidising the low wages paid by employers (quite a few of whom seem to be quite adept at avoiding tax, in a double blow…)

      I agree that there are people playing the system, but my question is this: does benefit fraud (or even suspected benefit fraud, since I struggle to see how you could accurately quantify it) significantly outweigh these other drains on the nation?

      • I didn’t mean to imply that the precarious state of the nation’s finances purely down to the benefits system – but whether or not it would be in line for cuts if the bill wasn’t so large.

      • Ah, I get your drift. Although it would appear that if the gov was just a little more energetic in pursuing the topic of corporation tax, it would probably be the case that few if any benefits would require cuts. Perhaps also, we might see the end of the involvement of ATOS….

    • Well one argument is “she doesn’t need that room.” However one crucial question for you – is there a smaller house for her to move into?

      The answer across most of the country is “no, these smaller properties do not physically exist. At all.” So how is it in any way fair to demand that your mother moves to a smaller property; and when she can’t because there’s nowhere for her to move into; fine her for her inability to wave a wand and magic a house into existence?

    • I see two problems with this argument: First, there seems to be an assumption that it would save costs if everyone received only their due. Pensioners Campaign UK disagree: they ask, ‘Benefits Fraud: would the taxpayer save money by giving every citizen their due, not a penny more, not a penny less?’ And they reply, ‘Actually, it would cost £12.7 billion extra.’

      http://www.pensionercampaignuk.webspace.virginmedia.com/page326.html

      Second point: Saying, ‘there are SOME people out there that are using the safety net as a play area’ seems to suggest that a substantial portion of the benefits budget is lost to fraud, and that is indeed the public perception. The trouble with public perceptions is that they are sometimes quite wrong. Ipsos-MORI reported the following at a recent joint seminar with the Royal Statistical Society: ‘Benefit fraud: people estimate that 34 times more benefit money is claimed fraudulently than official estimates: the public think that £24 out of every £100 spent on benefits is claimed fraudulently, compared with official estimates of £0.70 per £100.’

      http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3188/Perceptions-are-not-reality-the-top-10-we-get-wrong.aspx

      • That’s assuming that those who aren’t claiming start to do so. That’s a big assumption. From the figures quoted, if the over payments and underpayments were fixed, it would be 1.8 Billion pound less based on the 2009-10 figures.

        Talking about those who CAN claim, but don’t, and then assuming that they SHOULD claim just makes it worse. While some of those people might well need to claim some benefits, it is clear that not all of them need to do so.

        Taking money that you don’t need just because you can do so is one of the things I was talking about in my post. It’s then not a safety net.

        Please again note – I’m not saying that everyone does this, and I think that many people should be claiming more because they need it. But in some cases, entitlement is not the same as requirement.

    • I think that what some don’t think about is that if you have lived in a house for years it is not just a building within which you live, it’s a home – your home, your safe space, where you are grounded and can feel secure and safe. You invest a lot of emotion, love, feeling, memories in your home. It’s not as easy as just packing up and going, it can cause huge heartbreak.
      J x

      • It’s not her home – it belongs to the people. The idea that it is her home is part of the issue. It might be hard to leave it, of course, but that doesn’t mean that she should be able to stay because she wants to do so, leaving a family in unsuitable or temporary accomodation.

    • Even the government estimates that benefit fraud amounts to 0.7% of the welfare budget. That is a tiny proportion, and give the lie to the claim that benefit fraudsters take so much money that we cannot pay the rest. As a previous contributor says, compare that to the billions give to the banks to see where the problem is really coming from.

      • A tiny proportion of a very large figure!

        But please clarify – is this 0.7% from the entire welfare budget, including pensions, or just the benefits budget, which is much much smaller?

    • Would you apply the same argument to wealthy people doing every (legal) thing they can to reduce tax liability – after all, few people really NEED more than £100k a year.

    • According to the Department for Work and Pensions,less than 1% is due to fraud.
      That’s bugger all, and certainly not a valid reason for the safety net to not be there for people who need it.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/222892/fem_1112.pdf

      The estimate for the percentage of total benefit expenditure overpaid due to fraud in
      2011/12 is 0.7%, which is a decrease when compared to the 2009/10 and 2010/11
      estimates of 0.8%. The overpaid value in 2011/12 is £1.2bn which is the same as the
      2010/11 estimate. In 2009/10 it was £1.1bn

    • The trouble with the bedroom tax is that the basic thought behind it is sound. It’s just that basic thought seems to be all that’s gone into it. There are so many situations that do, or should, call for exceptions to it – and yet few seem to have been taken into account. Ideally a person would be assessed properly based on their own situation, instead of being hit by sweeping cuts – but then that would require a human instead of a computer.

  3. Incredibly moving post, you’re an amazing woman.

    I had no idea that food poverty to this extent existed in the UK until I saw your video on the Guardian. It’s crazy, and it just shouldn’t be happening.

    I’m running a half marathon next weekend, and your blog has inspired me to raise money for the Trussel Trust. I feel genuinely proud to be doing something (although something is never enough) and I hope that all the people I’ve been talking to about it will find your blog and realise the reality of the situation.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. It’s so important.

  4. Absolutely spot on. Brilliantly written and straight from the heart. You ARE the voice of millions – well done for supporting the ‘feckless’ xxxxxxxx

  5. Blimmin WordPress, not sure if my comment was saved or not, so I’ll do it again

    Every time I read these posts from you Jack, I cry. It brings it all back, the fear, the desperation, the please, please, won’t somebody help me make it better.

    We never actually slept rough, by my God, it got close sometimes. My eldest daughter went to seven schools in her first term we stayed in so many different places.

    These things leave an indelible, invisible, mark.

    I was 19 then, I’m 62 now. It can still make me cry

    • Sorry I have nothing better to do so am going to be pedantic – and it is food related so partly relevant. This is a great example of history being written by the winners. What Marie Antoinette is supposed to have said is “Let them eat Brioche” when advised that the people had no bread to eat. The point being that Brioche requires less flour than Bread (allegedly). It was then used by republicans to show how out of touch the royals were.

      I really must get back to work

  6. They have been turning down people at our local foodbank unless they have a child with them. That is how desperate things have become – for people like me who are childless, we can starve if necessary.

    • Foodbanks work by giving food to people who have a voucher. If you are referred to a foodbank and therefore have a voucher, you will be accepted, no further questions. If you pitch up with no voucher, then according to the way it was set up,you’re absolutely right, you would quite likely be turned away. This sounds a bit like hearsay that’s got twisted.

      • To be fair, having read a recent article on the Guardian website about food banks; there’s a finite supply of vouchers doled out to the various organisations / people who can refer people. So if that CAB office (for example) have 20 vouchers they have to work out which 20 of their clients are in the most desperate need. It’s not surprising that faced with such hard choices they’ll prioritise families with children.

        I don’t blame the food banks for having limited resources. I blame the government for making them an essential part of the welfare state.

  7. They have been turning down childless people at our local foodbank so for people such as me, it is such a desperate situation that we can just starve.

    It is the only way that they have of dealing with the amount of people coming to them and although the children are innocent and DO need feeding first, it is still unfair.

  8. I’m not sure why moving housing benefit to monthly payments would help in any way? Our housing benefit was paid 4 weeks in arrears so our rent was always in arrears. Our housing association expects the rent to be paid, at the very least, weekly in advance so monthly would be as bad as it is now. To not be in rent arrears receiving monthly payment we’d have to find some way of paying monthly in advance. At one point it took housing benefit 5 months to sort our claim out to pay us anything. They can’t cope with variable working hours at all. Housing benefit is the worst benefit. We might be able to claim a little to help with our in work poverty, but we don’t because of the heel we’ve suffered before.

    • This is the crux of the matter – local (and sometimes city) councils are ill-equipeed to administer benefits. The more complex the rules, the less likely the benefit will get where it is most needed, on time. And by ‘ill-equipped’ I mean the staff, not the hardware.

    • She did say “in line with people’s mortgage or rent payments” – so my guess would be not only monthly; but monthly in advance rather than arrears.

      Would that help do you think?

  9. It’s going to get a lot worse before it can get better if the politicians are pretending not to notice it or playing it down as mostly scroungers who can afford it but are trying to get something on the cheap. This is precisely why the government won’t use the Welfare State to take at least some of the hit. Acknowledging the issue honestly implies fault on their part that things are at this horrible juncture. That it’s not the fault of previous administration’s but a failing of successive governments.

    Any aid or succour given to those in need is anathema to Tory dogma. It just won’t happen.

    People like yourself need to keep shouting from the rooftops. You are being heard.

    • Politics is for rich folk now; the Tory party is for the wealthy, the semi aristocratic and the Upper Middle classes generally, and the Labour party is now a vehicle for the Metropolitan London Middle classes. Both parties have largely abandoned the poor and Working classes, even though the Labour party is/was supposed to be about us. And In truth, the voices of ordinary people are not being heard because again most institutions like the media, BBC, business, law, charities and even equal rights organisations are largely populated by Middle class and affluent people who either don’t really want to know or just pretend to care when it’s obvious by their actions (inaction) that they don’t.

      There is, and always has been, a sneering contempt for poor people and Working class people and at the moment it is being manifested openly from many quarters. Even the so called ‘Left’ Middle classes are demonising poor people to a certain extent. Why is this? Why are people so cruel and callous to kick people when they are down and to add insult to injury? It is the way of the world.

      • I agree with your first paragraph not so much your second. The issue is a lot worse than it was 30 years ago because the nature of society has changed. A lot of the working class had indirect political representation due to the influence of unions on the Labour Party. Coupled with this, a large proportion of people were living in council houses which created a shared experience for a lot of people which made it easy for them to identify with eachother. Any sneering contempt was kept private away from view and there certainly wasn’t any demonising.

        The disintegration of these blocs coupled with the largely successful Thatcherite policy of privatising the individual (successful doesn’t imply approval on my part) meant that the working class were no longer a powerful bloc of support that shored up the Labour Party. This led to, in 1994, the repeal of Clause 4 of the Labour Constitution which meant that the parliamentary party no longer had to seek approval for any of it’s policies from it’s supporters which allowed Blair to follow policies that were populist and essentially get into bed with Mr Murdoch till we get to a situation much like now.

        That’s a very brief and slightly messy description however it contains the basic elements for which I believe to be true.

        The reason I read this blog is because I admire the author’s honesty, and I believe integrity in highlighting the issues that many people face. I hope that more and more people in similar siturations follow her and in so doing create a bloc of people that will have enough ‘oomph’ to force a change in the narrative so that it is widely reported and recognised that the current state of affairs has to change. The only danger I fear for Jack is if there is an attempt by the media or by the establishment to co-opt her viewpoint which would end up watering down the original message so that loses some of it’s original truthfulness.

    • Yes, it’s not easy to understand it I think Simon, and I certainly don’t pretend to know all the answers, I can only comment on what is happening at the moment. At the same time as poor people, disabled people and unemployed people are being targeted for cuts by this government I have noticed that there is contempt being added to the mix and unhelpful comments from various sources now and again. Adding insult to injury in effect. It seems to be always the way.

  10. THis is a genuine question which you have probably already addresses somewhere else on the blog,i am just curious,WHY were you so skint?

    I know you lost your job but why did you have such little money for such a long time?I was on benefits for a short time after i had my first son and from what i recall it was around 120 a week all in,income support,child benefit and child tax credits.That was obviously before anything like housing benefit.

    Was there a mix up in your payments or something?LIke i said no nastiness here just a genuine question :-)

    • I would like to know this too (read: terrified it happens to me!). I know that it can take months to sort benefits, especially housing benefit out sometimes. And there can be hold ups if you left your job voluntarily even if it was to take care of your child.

  11. Moral arguments aside – if possible – it’s a stupid government policy too, because people with little money take their benefits and put it right back into the local economy instead of it being wasted for off shore endeavors with zero return to the taxpayer.

  12. Moving speech about not having enough money for bread and jam for your son’s breakfast.

    However, since when was jam and toast a rubbish breakfast? How did you manage to mess that up?

    Also, too bad you didn’t have any money left after spending it all on getting a haircut for the event.

    • Ha. I’ve not had my hair cut for months, hence the fringe-in-eyes thing. I trim the long bits around my ears myself with embroidery scissors, if you have to know. Thanks though, you obviously thought it looked nice enough to comment.

      • Having seen you on TV recently I think that your hair looks rather natty. You’re a lot more competent doing your own hair cut than I am.

        (Genuine compliment btw – promise.)

  13. An excellent and heartfelt piece, there are no words to describe the wickedness of the current administration.

    Whilst millionaires, and bankers get rich the Government continues its war on the poor, the disabled and the unemployed.

    Sadly, I fear that even if the Labour party gets a landslide victory (however unlikely) they would do little different. Liam Byrne has gone on record as saying that all benefits should be limited to only one year, and Miliband and Balls refuse to abolish the wicked bedroom tax, or Zero Hour Contracts…

    Sadly I fear that unless there is serious civil disorder which emulates the French revolution, with a similar outcome, people like you and me are simply garbage, as are our children and our lives….

    Best of luck!

    MontyBest

    • They can always find money for millionaires can’t they?

      The attacks on the poor and the disabled and unemployed seems like something out of Nazi Germany, the self righteousness that accompanies, the condescending attitude, the jeering and sneering of those who are not affluent and privileged and well heeled. And where are all the people who should be speaking out about this?

      Speaking of the Labour party, and Ed Miliband, whilst he should be speaking out against this government, he is engaging in a bitter one-man war with the unions(!), making him look like a deranged Don Quixote tilting at windmills, where he seems set on a course almost pathologically to destroy the Labour party and destroy any chance of winning the next election long before it takes place. He’s like Captain Ahab, chasing the white whale, to his utter destruction and everyone else on board as well. I really do wonder about Ed Miliband and I think many people think that he isn’t a good opposition leader at all. When he should be stating what he will do to reverse the awful policies of this present government and be talking about a decent minimum wage, and perhaps the renationalisation of gas, electricity, water and train transport and to stop the worst of corporate tax evasion, he is doing the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and going ‘lah lah lah’ like kids do when they don’t want to hear something.

      If they then say that benefits should last a year, and this is implemented, and you can’t find a job; what then? I fear for my future and the future of this country, and we should all start seeing it this way. Is there a future for those at the bottom anymore? Will things get better? They can’t get any worse; can they?

  14. As a Christian, I will quietly say that there are people doing things to others in the name of ideology or political expediency, cruel and unnecessary things, who then hide behind smug rhetoric and self important airs, those who are riding high now whilst making other people’s live even worse than they already are, who one day will face a harsher judgement and all the political power and wealth and private education will not count for anything at all. There is a deeper moral issue to all of this that must be addressed; I believe one day we will all answer for our actions.

      • No, but it can put things in perspective to a certain extent. And my Christian values mean I give to charities often, even though I am poor, and I give to homeless people as well when I can. It’s a small thing but it makes the world a slightly better place.

  15. Rather than thinking of them as a crutch, one should foster the mindset that the government and the unions are something to avoid as much as possible. Take what you can from them and do what you can to help the people who want your help (want NOT need). But don’t for one second think that changing the guard, or changing a policy can fix things – they can only tip the balance in favour of a different group. Whenever a rule or policy is applied to everybody it becomes a blunt tool that always disadvantages somebody. No different to a blanket statement that all the poor are feckless or should get rid of their big TVs in how they fail to recognise the diversity that exists amongst a population of 60+ million people.

  16. Well done again Jack. A hero of mine was President Jimmy Carter, one of the few moral leaders in my lifetime. Two of his quotes are…

    ‘Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. People have the right to expect that these wants will be provided for by this wisdom.’

    ‘The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens’

    We now have a government who ignore the BASIC human needs of its people. They are intentionally running to ground and persecuting those living in poverty and deprivation. It has become the new red-coat hunt whipped up by IDS – the Master of the Privileged Hounds

    Keep on keeping on Jack, and for the dark days of doubt here’s another of his sayings for you…

    ‘You can do what you have to do, and sometimes you can do it even better than you think you can.’

    • Carter was undoubtedly one of the more honourable of world leaders in my lifetime; though also one of the more catastrophic presidents. In some ways it is he we have to thank for Reagan and Thatcher

  17. That article is almost Freudian. You could just replace the word ‘government’ with the word ‘husband’ or ‘Father’ and it would still make perfect sense.

    Perhaps you should stop looking to government to solve all your problems for you.

      • The way you write, it is almost as if you consider the State to be your husband. Writing that the State is ‘abusive’ because it doesn’t solve all your problems for you.

        That is a pretty weird attitude.

      • The phrase was that cutting off welfare lifelines from vulnerable people is abusive. I stand by that. You only have to google ‘ATOS deaths’ to see the effects that cutting assistance is doing in this country.

        Not understanding that, or refusing to, now that’s the pretty weird attitude.

    • Could you please clarify how the article is “Freudian” and can you give us an example of where you could sensibly replace the word “government” with “husband” or “father”? Otherwise people might think your comment is stupid.

      BTW, I seem to have missed the evidence supporting the assumption that Jack is looking to government to solve all her problems for her, unless you mean they could stop giving all our money to the banks and the super rich. Could you please point me in the right direction? Thanks.

    • You haven’t been here long have you? Your comments suggest that Jack is sitting back waiting for the government to solve her problems. If anyone has shown initiative and worked hard to make a life for herself and her child it is Jack. That doesn’t mean that most of us don’t need help during a time of difficulties and it is the state’s job to provide.

      If you really want to trade philosophers – I bet you were pleased with yourself when you put the Freud reference in -I suggest you read Thomas Hobbes. The reason we allow a government to rule us is that without it life would be “Nasty, Brutish and Short. Sadly over the last few years life has become more nasty and brutish – and I suspect for some shorter also.

  18. Thank you Jack for offering a voice of reason and honesty. It’s become fashionable to demonize the poor and we must fight it. In the states the terminology and names are different, but the situation is the same. Governments have allowed businesses to internalize profits and externalize costs. The burden is shifted to the general public.
    You are articulate and graceful, you offer a glimmer of hope in an increasingly sad and frightening world.
    Stay strong and truthful, and don’t forget, a sense of humor is priceless!

  19. Jack ,you are so right ,though it is such a pity that you had to become so wise because of the extreme circumstances you ,like so many others found your selves in ..love Jan xx

  20. Well spoken Jack ,it is such a shame you have had to suffer these extreme circumstances {like so many others } in order to become so wise ,I so admire the stance you are making ..love Jan xx

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  22. Jack, there are parts of what you write I would not disagree with, however, as someone that came from a family of nine growing up in the 60′s and 70′s, poverty these days means something completely different as to it’s meaning back then.

    When I hear of demands for Government to make the Internet available to all, I hold my head in despair, as having the internet is not going to put food on the table, shoes on your feet etc.

    if you think you had it rough, try living in a squat at the age of 16, homeless, no income, no food, no electricity or gas supply and guess what, that was in the last recession caused by a LABOUR Government.

    Pumping money into people does NOT work, the last government proved that by bankrupting the UK and leaving the divide between the rich and the poor at the highest level ever.

    I worked up to 18hrs a day to get what I have today, no government hand outs, no charity hand outs and despite still earning below the national average, I live in a nice house, I drive a nice car and I can do this because I don’t buy anything on credit (except the car and mortgage), I don’t own credit cards and I do without what some expect that I call luxuries such as foreign holidays etc.

    • Good points, but the game has changed since the 1980′s. High high prices and rents. Low wage growth. No more defined benefit pension and reduced job security. So in all, it’s very much harder to now do what you did previously.

  23. Pingback: Poor forced to use food banks? They’ve only got themselves to blame for making bad decisions, says Michael Gove | Atos Victims Group News

  24. Jack – your post reminds me of an article I read about North Carolina teachers here in the US. Despite the fact that they have college degrees and often masters degrees, the pay is often so low that many of them qualify for food stamps (US Gov’t food benefits), medicaid (healthcare for poor people that is limited and usually reserved for children and their mothers), and free school lunches. It is ridiculous to think that if you are working full-time that you can’t provide basic provisions of living for your family. So many, such as Mr. Resnick in your comments, complain about “government handouts”, apparently in your country as well as mine, but fail to recognize how government programs helped them coming up and that those programs either no longer exist are have been harshly cut.

    Jack, I am not in your position and if I am honest, I haven’t really been close to it though I have wavered above it as a child at various points, but I do know that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, poor is poor and it is a hole that is too deep to get out of without systematic and regular help.

    • Meg, in the UK people who get low paid jobs often wonder why they bother because suddenly they are worse off than being on benefits. This is certainly the case for the crappy low paid jobs at the bottom for the Working classes, not so much for the affluent Middle class and absolutely not for the millionaires at the top. This could be changed by having a proper minimum wage and making the rich pay their taxes.

  25. Well said Jack. It must be hard to put your head above the parapet, but those who are down need people like you to enlighten others and to make a change!

  26. Todays news about the bedroom tax policy just proves this is still going on. I originally thought “Shapps is an old-Etonian, not living in the real world”, then I discovered he’s not an Etonian at all, but from what it says at the bottom of this article he clearly doesn’t know what world he’s living in! And they put such a liar in a position of authority over real people?? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grant_Shapps

  27. I seem to have to point this out almost every day. The average length of a benefit claim in the UK is a matter of months. The vast majority of benefit claimants will have paid more in taxes in the last year than they will take in benefits. It isn’t somebody else’s money they are getting. It is tax they paid themselves on the understanding that the state would, in return, help them through the bad times.

    People CANNOT be separated into one group who are always employed and another group that always claim benefits. The vast majority of people will spend some of their life working and some of it unemployed. Only the extremely wealthy are not in the same boat.

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