By publishing today’s report on benefit sanctions it feels as if the Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee has caught up with what the churches, campaigning organisations, and benefit claimants have been saying for a long time.
On International Women’s Day, feminist organisations and campaigners who haven’t been active on austerity and welfare reform really need to have a rethink. Otherwise, to the millions of women around the UK struggling to survive, they could look as out of touch as the politicians.
For a few weeks I’ve been trying to write a general critique of welfare reform, addressing each policy point by point, looking at the assumptions on which it was based, what it aimed to achieve, and the effect it has had in practise. It’s been a disturbing and depressing experience.
People often suspect that the purpose of recent welfare reforms was not to make the system more efficient or more fair, but to make the system so hostile, punitive and humiliating that people would be deterred from claiming. A decision by the DWP has just fuelled this suspicion.
There is a new kind of poverty in Britain. It is made by politicians, and could easily be ended by politicians. The people enduring this government-enforced poverty are not on low incomes: they have no income whatsoever. They sit in dark cold homes with no money and no food. For them, budgeting and belt-tightening would be the luxury option.