My trip to the supermarket last weekend.
Picture this. At a local low cost supermarket in Blackburn me, my wife and children witnessed a tragically distressing scene. Whilst waiting at the checkout we see shop security confront a guy who must have weighed no more than 6 stone; dressed in tired old clothing. They search through his pockets and find that he’s shoplifted some bread and mince meat. To their credit the security men were pretty sensitive. They clearly saw no point in calling the police as it was clear that the chap was without any money whatsoever to pay a fine. And judging by what he’d taken, I doubt very much that the goods were for anything other than personal consumption.
Apart from the distress of having to witness this humiliation of a fellow human being what is more troubling is that these are scenes we are seeing more and more of in our sad society.
You can come to all kinds of conclusions about what this person’s background is but here’s a reasonable guess – benefits sanctioned for six months because he was judged by the Jobcentre to be ‘not looking hard enough for a job’ or not providing the ‘appropriate evidence’, or perhaps not accepting a part time job on minimum wage that would make him no better off as he would lose whatever other subsistence benefits he was receiving – Housing to pay the rent; or perhaps the fact that he couldn’t find a job because he’d been fighting for the same low pay part time work that others recently made redundant from full time work with mortgages to pay are also searching for. With his benefits sanctioned and zero money coming into the house resulting in empty kitchen cupboards (empty meaning empty – there are plenty of people in this situation). In these circumstances it’s difficult to see many other options than shoplifting.
Benefit reform may have been needed – but not the way this heartless Government has chosen to do it – if you really want to get people back into work you need to provide the support to help them find work – the schemes previously in place were disbanded by this Government because public spending ‘needed’ to be cut. It’s clear that this Government’s only motivation is saving money to cut taxes for the better off. To really tackle unemployment and benefit dependency you need to invest in the people and make sure there are jobs for them to go for – two things that Cameron and Clegg are grandly failing on. Apparently the economy is picking up. Not round here it’s not! But of course towns like Blackburn don’t matter to Cameron and the Eton boys – as long as London and the home counties are doing ok that will do nicely.
After thirteen years of relative prosperity under Labour it saddens me that our country is heading back to the Victorian era. How long before the workhouse returns?
We cannot and must not allow this to go on. On Sunday 29th September there is a demonstration at Tory Party conference, opposing the cuts and the Government’s austerity policies. I’ll be there. I hope you’ll join me.