The government is failing the most vulnerable – and doesn’t care

by Jon Trickett

At the start of the New Year most of us look forward with anticipation and hope. But there are increasingly large sectors of the population who are to some extent excluded from those aspirations and dreams. For many, the stark reality of life today is one of great uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety about what the future holds.

Here in Britain a family faces being made homeless every two minutes. Every day more children are being pushed into poverty as a direct result of the Chancellor’s policies and 5 million households are living in fuel poverty, of which half owe more than £250 to their energy supplier.

Some will argue that the increase in the numbers of people who are socially excluded is the inevitable result of the recession. But the over-riding test for any government is how well it treats the most vulnerable in society and the truth is that the coalition’s policies are making the situation worse.

And they knew that this is what they would do.

This can be the only explanation why my opposite number in the cabinet office, Francis Maude, abolished the social exclusion task force.  A deliberate, cold hearted and conscious decision to remove the coordination functions within the heart of government to lead the drive against social exclusion.

There has always been a need to address social exclusion, but in these difficult economic times with young people, pensioners and families being hit hardest, it is more important than ever not only to understand the causes of social exclusion but also to find solutions.

Of course issues surrounding social exclusion are multiple and extremely complex.  But this government’s spending cuts and tax rises are undoing much of the progress which Labour had begun to make.

The coalition seems to manifest an almost ideological drive to kick away the few existing routes out of poverty for many of the most vulnerable people. Pre-election talk of social mobility and “we’re all in it together” were unsurprisingly just part of a cynically-crafted illusion aimed at winning votes.

We are now seeing hard evidence that the government’s cuts are hitting the most vulnerable in our society hardest while leaving the top 10% of earners in the UK almost untouched. Measures which Labour had put in place to allow the younger generation to begin to climb out of poverty such EMA and the future jobs fund were quickly abandoned.

With cuts to transport and care support many older people who are already isolated become unable to access the services they need and run a greater risk of being excluded from wider society. The social services budget has been cut by £1 billion this financial year, leaving older people without vital pastoral care, limited social opportunities as well as facing reduced home-help, with potentially isolating effects.

On top of this the government scheme meant to help low income families with spiralling fuel bills currently reaches only 3% of families at risk of fuel poverty. In their report, Save the Children has found that 800,000 of the poorest families qualify for the warm homes discount scheme but a huge funding shortfall means that only 25,000 families will get it, excluding hundreds of thousands of children from basic rights.

It is clear that the government is making it too easy to fall into the trap of social exclusion.  Over 35,000 families are now homeless, an increase of 13% in just one year.  Homelessness takes away a vital foothold into society leaving whole families isolated. Without a home address it is virtually impossible to claim vital welfare benefits, including job seekers allowance, preventing people from interacting with society and perpetuating the cycle of social exclusion.

One in five young people are now out of work and, as we saw last month, the number of “NEETs” has reached a record high of 1.16 million at a time when the government are making it harder for those out of work to claim the necessary benefits. On top of this, access to education is being restricted at a time when we should be using it as a weapon to reduce social exclusion in the future.

Labour recognises the importance of addressing social exclusion; this is why we are calling for a bank bonus tax which would combat the need for jobs for young people and the lack of affordable housing. Also, any small firms that take on extra workers should be given a national insurance holiday. These measures would be the first steps in tackling the increasing social exclusion many people experience as a result of the coalition’s policies.

The Tory-led government’s policies are short-termist and reactionary.  They fail to consider the longer term impact increasing social exclusion will have on society as well as our economic recovery.

Jon Trickett is Labour MP for Hemsworth and shadow minister for the cabinet office.


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5 Responses to “The government is failing the most vulnerable – and doesn’t care”

  1. Nick says:

    Here in Britain a family faces being made homeless every two minutes. Every day more children are being pushed into poverty as a direct result of the Chancellor’s policies and 5 million households are living in fuel poverty, of which half owe more than £250 to their energy supplier.

    ==========

    Look at their costs.

    50% taxation.

    Reverse Robin Hood taxes where the rich get the government to force the poor to pay the feed in tariff for ‘green electricity’. [Labour policy. You were winging when the FIT was cut]

    Biggest impact – government.

    Reason – government debt. 7,000 bn of it.

    The poor are having to be taxed in order to pay the inflated pensions of civil servants. 4K pensions on average, but not bad for an average 5 year career is it.

    Here in Britain a family faces being made homeless every two minutes.

    Yep. Main reason – not enough house building to keep up with Labour policy of lots of immigration.

    his can be the only explanation why my opposite number in the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, abolished the Social Exclusion Task Force.

    Or because they need the money to pay your legacy of 7,000 bn of debts.

    The coalition seems to manifest an almost ideological drive to kick away the few existing routes out of poverty

    You’re not in a position to lecture. The current young have had 14 years of Labour run education. The current mess is a result of your educational policy. Certificates for all, but bugger all learning.

    We are now seeing hard evidence that the government’s cuts are hitting the most vulnerable in our society hardest while leaving the top 10% of earners in the UK almost untouched.

    Evidence is against you. Top rate taxpayers have had increase in taxation of thousands of pounds a year. Way more than the increase for the poor.

    Discount scheme but a huge funding shortfall means that only 25,000 families will get it, excluding hundreds of thousands of children from basic rights

    There is no such right.

    Also, any small firms that take on extra workers should be given a national insurance holiday

    So what will happen. Sack existing workers, then rehire them or others as extra workers to drive down your costs.

    Meanwhile, you’ve forgotten to winge about the poor being excluded from living in Knightsbridge on 170K tax free benefits a year.

  2. ‘The coalition seems to manifest an almost ideological drive to kick away the few existing routes out of poverty for many of the most vulnerable people.’

    *************************************

    And who led many of them into poverty in the first place? Surely you cannot deny that it was a Labour government that doubled the not insignificant marginal rate of income tax for the working poor and many pensioners by abolishing the 10% tax band?

    Then there was the breathtaking recklessness with which public money was shovelled into the public sector and when that wasn’t enough, flogging off our gold reserves on the cheap as well as forcing PFI on dozens of hospital trusts, even though the cost of servicing the debts thus incurred were going to be greater than foreseeable net income.

    It was Labour’s ‘ideological drive’ with Gordon Brown as its arch proponent that has caused this country to brought to the verge of bankruptcy and which led to the present government taking over when there was ‘no money left.’

  3. Jim Caddis says:

    Good article by Jon, lately I have become worried that Labour was deserting the working classes to appeal to middle England whose votes are required for re-election. For many, support of the working class and long term unemployed was seen as leftest and a turn off for voters (Milliband’s squeezed middle) Yet the average turn out at elections is around 35 – 45%, for many working class voters I speak to, their comment about who cares who gets in they are all the same rings true. Yet these very people were the core Labour vote of years gone by.

  4. Madasafish says:

    Anyone who writes about “using education as a weapon” has at best an odd choice of English.. and at worst a distorted view of what education is for: which is to educate and train people.

    Given the prostitution of education standards under Labour I suspect a distorted view.

  5. Clr Ralph Baldwin says:

    Some humour for you all but also to show you how politics never changes, except now this applies to all the main players….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTXBbaM5yJY&feature=related

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