Today the real April fools are those who voted Tory or Lib-Dem at the last general election (and that includes myself :()
Under the pretext of reducing the government deficit, the coalition government has been systematically reforming significant portions of the welfare system. Shamefully, those hardest hit will be the poor and vulnerable, who will see protections and support they have relied on for decades reduced or stripped away entirely.
The Guardian has an excellent summary of the changes, but the short version is: if you’re poor, disabled or otherwise need help from the Government to live a dignified life, you are screwed.
The changes include the introduction of the bedroom tax, which will see many people in social housing penalised for the crime of having a spare room. They will have to either pay , or leave homes that they have had for years to downsize to smaller accomodation (even though, in some cases, they are unable to move as housing is not available). Local victims of this policy include A woman who lost her teenage son at Hillsborough and a disabled woman whose spare room is now a lift shaft, but still counts as a spare room for bedroom tax purposes.
Major changes have been made to the Legal Aid system. Many categories of legal work are no longer eligible for legal aid and the means testing criteria have been changed, meaning that access to justice will now only be possible in many cases if people are prepared to pay solicitors privately – costs that, in many cases, they will be unable to afford.
The benefits system is being altered, with various benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Disability Living Allowance being gradually phased out from today and replaced by the new “Universal Credit”. This will, we are told, “simplify” the system. However, there are concerns that the new online system, which new claimants will use, is not ready. Still, anyone who has trouble will be dismissed as a lazy, skiving benefit fraud in the eyes of this government, so don’t expect any sympathy from Iain Duncan Smith.
Perhaps worst of all are the big changes that are coming to the NHS. As Owen Jones points out in his column for the Independent, this has not received the coverage that it should have:
The Health and Social Care Act is more than three times longer than the legislation that established the NHS in the first place. When I asked journalists adamantly opposed to the Tory plans why they had failed to adequately cover this travesty, they sheepishly responded it was too complicated: it went over their heads.
It is very complicated, but the biggest change is that large parts of the NHS will become open to competition, with private companies bidding to provide healthcare services. It’s a bit like how the railways were privatised. Remember old inefficient British Rail and how the private companies improved services and drove costs down? Oh…
The NHS’s own web page confidently states: “Healthcare will remain free at the point of use, funded from taxation, and based on need and not the ability to pay.” We shall see.
The Daily Mirror, alone amongst the tabloids in that it occasionally does stand up for the poor and oppressed, has an even more succinct summary:
SHAMEFUL is absolutely right. We will not be able to toss this uncaring Government out of office until May 2015. I just hope that it won’t be too late by then.