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Hazard lights

The pesky coalition government is upsetting me again and I really would like to protest … but who hears me?

This week, Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) continued to unveil his proposals for welfare reform to a, not unexpectedly, polarised response of – and I exaggerate for effect:

  • Fantastic – about time welfare scrounging scum were made to work for their bread and butter, why not send them to the stocks for a good whipping too, or,
  • Diabolical – people will be reduced to serfs working for a pittance, starving and thrown onto the streets in a 21st century version of workhouse Britain.

I despair. Where is the voice of reason in this? I feel, uncomfortably, that the whole debate seems to have been hijacked by extremists of both left and right with, at the moment, the left being totally trounced n the PR stakes given that public opinion appears to favour an even harsher benefits system and an even higher bar for ‘proof’ of disability than the coalition government is currently proposing.

It seems to me that the working, tax-paying majority have lost sight of the reality that, but for circumstance, bad luck or chance, they too might lose their income, health and independence and be forced to join those of us already dependant on the contract of social welfare that binds us as a society and which is represented, practically, amongst us through the welfare state.

The corollary of this is that those in receipt of benefits surely should be welcoming of a reformed system that has regular and reasonable checks and balances to ensure fraud is minimized, that those in need get the help and support necessary to improve their own circumstances and that no-one in our relatively well off economy suffers undue hardship.

At the moment, there is no debate or agreement even on the basics. It’s all hurling of insults, abuse and the taking of extreme positions, for or against this or that, and a lot of people are scared stiff for their future.

In their eagerness to reduce costs, this generation of politicians would appear to care little about individual rights or realities whether through ignorance or ideology, I don’t know and nor do I care! But, with media help, they are pounding their 'undeserving lazy scroungers' message across every day, mustering public support, to the detriment of those who are currently in genuine need.

With disparate needs, the poor, jobless and disabled, have not yet been able (willing?) to establish a simple cohesive message to rebut this charge; maybe there is not one that we are all able to agree on.

I do see organizations and individuals protesting but they have, so far, failed to have a significant impact on the pollitical process or public opinion and none seem to have a pragmatic, generic, agenda that speaks for most social welfare recipients and addresses mainstream concerns. 'Change will be bad for us ...' just isn't pro-active enough for me.

We need a message, in simple language, rebutting the scroungers tag, that the politicians, the media and, yes, the working public too, hear and understand. Until we get one, users of social welfare will continue to be undermined by the ignorance, lies, disingenuity and poor policy disseminated by the political parties and media and believed in by a public who, understandably, fear for themselves in a time of economic uncertainty.

I want to make a protest for the voice of balance and reason in reform … but where do I do that?

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