With the economic downturn and the numerous changes to the welfare system instituted by the current Conservative led coalition with the Liberal-Democrats, many are finding themselves in a worse-off situation financially. With many finding out that they are paying far more for the essentials than they used to with little or nothing extra coming in.
What is even more shocking is that those in power are convinced that their changes are good for the economy. And also believe that these changes could inspire those with the entrepreneurial spirit to go ahead and start a business. Then there is the idea of “The Big Society” in which the community is expected to look after those in need.
But what has become more apparent, is that there are many falling through the holes – stuck in a cycle of debt trying to meet the need for heat or just simply to get something to eat!
You see, many are stuck in low paying jobs, with little or no pay rises for a number of years. And they cannot take the risk of attempting to leave these jobs in search of the illusive better one. As if they do, they face the possibility of being laid-off or being made redundant, as many companies operate a last in-first out policy when they need to downsize. But being a long-term employee is not even a guarantee of job security – as it is also common for some employers to get rid of older more experienced employees in order to take on younger and less experienced staff that they can pay lower wages.
And for those who do lose their jobs – even the benefit system is no longer a guarantee of a safety net! As the current changes mean that there are a myriad of reasons why one could actually receive nothing!
For example, to receive the Job Seekers Allowance, one has to show “evidence” that one is seeking employment by filling out a Job seekers diary that has to be brought in every time one has to sign on or meet with the Adviser at the Job Centre Plus. And due to the suspicion that this might have been fiddled by some, one now has to do these job searches online at the Government provided website dubbed Universal Jobmatch. (https://www.gov.uk/jobsearch) Even to sign on these days one has to register online! Something that could be quite tricky if one has no internet access; and has to go out to either the nearest library or pay to use a computer at some internet cafe.
And it would seem that to enforce this; Job Centres have been closed all over the place, leaving just a few to serve a large section of the population over quite large areas. Currently SE8, SE14 and SE16 have no Job Centres of their own. Which means that those who live in the northern part of the London Borough of Lewisham, have to travel all the way to the one in Rushey Green, Catford. While those in Rotherhithe have to go all the way to the London Bridge Job centre plus which is actually nearer to Elephant & Castle. And the journey cost at least £1.40 each time one hops on the bus, money that the unemployed may be hard pressed to find. And if one fails to attend an appointment, one could get sanctioned, that is having the payments one should receive stopped.
The most ridiculous thing is some people are required to attend the Job Centre Plus daily. Which would cost one at least £14 a week, to get there and back home. A good chunk out of the £56.80 a week, one will get if their under 25 with those over 25 faring only slightly better as they get £71.70 a week.
Now imagine if you have had payments stopped or delayed and you are required to attend the Job Centre Plus. You would have to find a way to get there even having to borrow. Thus beginning the slide into debt!
This brings me back to the point I started with…
People with homes but no heat or food to eat; hence the rise in the use of Food Banks to supplement their incomes that have dwindling purchasing power when compared to the prices one now has pay for everything.
And for those who are alone, this can be very lonely times as they have no one to rely on. With many of them stuck and at risk of joining the homeless as paying their rents even with housing benefits. Which could even be stopped if they are deemed to be earning too much or reduced if they have an “under occupied” home!
So it has been a cold, broke, and for many a lonely winter!
But it is time we see what we can do to change this. As for now, we cannot bring about a change in Government until the next election. And even then, there is no guarantee that the next Government would be easier on the disadvantaged.
We in the community have to open our eyes and seek out those in need of our help or companionship. We have to get back to the time when we actually knew our neighbours and did build relationships with them.
We need community once again!