When last we met I was banging on about poverty and how cuts to services are making things worse and how charities are picking up the slack, and getting all right-on and ranty and shooting a barrel-load of fish like a pescatarian Charlton Heston on an all-American killing spree. Perhaps sensing I hadn’t been sufficiently depressed by it all, the welfare rights people in the office set up an information session on how changes to the benefits system are going to affect our service users, a morning about as uplifting as your average bout of bone cancer.
They started with Housing Benefit, the one for people on low or no incomes struggling to make rent. There are a couple of changes coming that will helpfully make poor people poorer, vulnerable kids more vulnerable and a whole heap of people more likely to end up homeless. It’s the kind of social policy you’d assume has not been created by government so much as pooped from Hitler’s bumhole into Satan’s mouth and through the mouths and bumholes of Margaret Thatcher and the staff of the Daily Mail, Human Centipede style.
From April 2013, people will lose 14 percent of their Housing Benefit for having a spare bedroom and 25 percent for having two or more spare bedrooms. The definitions of spare come from the aforementioned mouths and bumholes and are suitably malicious. If people have a couple of kids who move out, the bumholes say they have to downsize or lose their 14 percent. If people have two kids under ten with a bedroom each, the bumholes say they should be sharing and lose their 14 percent. If people are foster carers and the rooms they’ve set aside for a stream of kids in varying degrees of crisis are empty, they lose their 14 percent. Also from April 2013, Housing Benefit will be paid to claimants rather than directly to landlords or the gender-neutral equivalents. That’s actually a decent move for responsible claimants wanting more in the way of independence but a disaster for chaotic families who struggle to go a day without blowing their cash on crack. Any social worker who’s done a duty shift will tell you how some people spend their benefits on the day they arrive and then claim destitution for the likes of food and heating. They’ll now have a few hundred quid more to blow, and even Mr Magoo has the foresight to figure landlords won’t see it and children who at least had homes, even if they didn’t have food in them, will now face eviction.
Next up was Employment and Support Allowance, the replacement for Incapacity Benefit similar to having a hot poker jabbed in your eye being the replacement for having a cold poker jabbed in your bumhole. Contribution-based ESA is now only good for a year, the hope being chronic illnesses will stop dicking around and only last for 365 consecutive days and ill people in relationships will become wholly dependent on their partners. Fortunately, fewer people than feared will have to suffer that indignity as tougher criteria means loads of ill and disabled people will be kicked off ESA long before their year’s up. Then there was the Social Fund no longer offering cookers and beds to people who need them. Then the arbitrary benefits cap to round down everyone’s suffering to the same level. Then how benefits will be paid to only one person in each house to give abusive men more power and abused women less means for escape.
It’s hard to describe the sense of doom and foreboding in the office after that morning-long shitfest. It was like being thrown into a dystopian future sci-fi thing, like seeing the Eloi pushing the Morlocks underground, like Biff Tannen walking into Downing Street with his Sports Almanac and declaring himself in charge. This is an ideological assault on the poor, the ill and disabled. This is the government confusing benefit claimants and benefit fraud, figuring they’re the same thing. This is their lousy, hateful “incentive to work” agenda, the incentive being if you can’t work you’re almost completely fucked. And there’s no carrot, just stick. And the stick’s covered in barbed wire and stinging nettles. And it’s not actually a stick, it’s Iain Duncan-Smith’s cruelty-induced erection.