current affairs

The government needs to stop discriminating against the poor

Camden Council, North London, has recently announced that they plan to move 750 poor families from the capital as it claims it can no longer afford to accommodate them on the basis that ‘it i

Camden Council, North London, has recently announced that they plan to move 750 poor families from the capital as it claims it can no longer afford to accommodate them on the basis that ‘it is not right that benefit claimants can receive higher incomes than families in work.’ Around 2,817 people will be affected by the government’s benefit cap which limits welfare payments to £500 a week later this year, meaning that poorer families will no longer be able to afford to live in the borough as the welfare changes require families needing a further £91 for rent.

In a period of grave economic downturn, why is the current government making everyday life more difficult for poorer families? Despite Camden having average levels of prosperity in the region, there is serious deprivation in the borough, with 44 percent of its deprived quota in the bottom 30 percent. It is yet another example of the Tory Party’s inability to understand the common struggles of the working man and appears to have a limited capacity for strategically visioning the country.

Camden Council has blamed lack of available housing and high private rents, with the Labour-stronghold borough viewing areas as far up north as Bradford, Leicester and Birmingham with lower housing rents. Councillor Sarah Hayward, leader of Camden Council, said: “The scale of the cuts and the lack of provision by this government for high living costs in the capital mean that some will have to look outside London. It will be impossible for families to continue to live in their current accommodation.”

The media depict benefit claimers as lying, cheating, and alcoholic dependents on the state but being a resident in Camden, I am aware of the financial struggles of single working mothers as well as families living on the bread line. Pick up any daily copy of the Daily Mail and emblazoned headlines such as ‘getting £1000 a week on benefits…why should I work?’ creates uproar, hysteria and resentment towards benefit-claimers who view them as unfair to people who work. Yes, there are benefit claimers that are fit to work and choose not to and yes this shouldn’t occur, but at the same time we cannot discriminate against those who desperately need it to feed their children and survive in a period of severe economic decline.

Additionally, many benefit claimers do work but do not earn the required amount needed to provide for their families. Regardless of political affiliation, people cannot defend a policy which results in families being evicted and sent hundreds of miles away. Rents are far too high, and wages are lower and these areas need tackling. Benefits cannot be based on subjective formula; they need to be calculated in terms of the needs of the individuals.

Camden Council’s proposal to remove people and rehouse them further away is certainly not an isolated case. April 2012 witnessed Newham’s council, East London, attempting to find homes for families 160 miles away despite Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith stating that there had been “thousands of houses” within the five mile district. Westminster council is also considering a similar scheme, with an estimated 2,372 households affected.

In a society which claims to be founded on equality, it appears that ‘social cleansing’ appears to becoming more and more institutionalised. The council are viewing poorer people as ‘undesirable’ while the Tories appear to be looking in another direction. Society should be collaborating together to end this social apartheid that the Tories are implementing yet nothing is being done against the constant victimisation of the poor in contemporary society. What else needs to happen for society to realise that the government’s cuts are simply not acceptable?

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