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For the Benefit of All? 04/11/2010

Posted by pcsdwpsheffield in Uncategorized.
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The mainstream media and many politicians paint a horrendous image of people claiming benefits, often insinuating there are two categories – the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor in their justification for making ‘fair’ cuts.

One young member provides a glimpse of what life’s like for those unfortunate enough to be in a situation of financial despair and warns of the consequences these cuts will have on jobs and communities.

I’ve been working on crisis loans for two or three months. It’s a window into the sort of mass pauperisation that is present today amongst the most deprived and down trodden layers of the working class in Britain.

The people who ring up for crisis loans almost all live by a hand to mouth existence. They ring up for money for food, gas, electricity, toilet paper, baby milk, nappies; for the very basic necessities of living.

Without our service, these people would face an even bleaker future. They’d be stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. The devil of starvation, begging, stealing, or sitting cold in a dark house, empty of possessions sold at pawnbrokers (or cash convertors, as they’re now called).

The deep blue sea of parasitic insurers who magnanimously offer pay day loans then charge extortionate rates of interest that can stack up to over 100%. Crisis loans on the other hand, don’t charge interest because they’re a remnant of the gains the working class has made over previous generations through the introduction of the welfare state.

Crisis loans are delivered in a national network of call centres. In the week ending 20th August 2010, there were over 500,000 attempts to contact our service. 70% of callers got through but 30% were left unanswered. Out of those who got through, 11% of callers got through within 30 seconds. The target is 90%. The average wait time just to get through is way over half an hour.

Between 2002 and 2008, over 30,000 DWP posts were eliminated. When the recession exploded, our service was woefully under staffed. The government was forced to step in and employ over 15,000 staff on 18 month contracts. From late November, the sackings of Jobcentre plus staff will begin.

By March, they’ll be on the other side of the dole queue. We need all the staff we can get. What a waste of training and experience our temporary colleagues have built up. Consider what I’ve just said and then consider what will happen if the proposed cuts of 1.3 million jobs are carried through.

The PCS in DWP has taken 28 days of strike action, three this year. I’ve no doubt more action will be needed. The inability of capitalism to provide employment for everyone who wants to work is a complete indictment of the economic system.

If capitalism can’t afford jobs for everyone, I say we can’t afford capitalism. The PCS alternative to the cuts is a way forward – we need tax justice, an end to the war in Afghanistan, democratic public ownership of the banks and big financial institutions and utilities and an end to the Trident nuclear warhead. Money should be re-invested to create decent job opportunities, housing and education.

This would be a fairer society, although many young people are questioning the ability of the current economic system and asking the question – how can society be run better, for the needs of the many instead of the few at the top? 

• This article highlights the real life situation for people claiming benefits and the need for more investment in public services. PCS members’ are rightly outraged and worried about cuts, so it’s clear that if we’re to campaign effectively to protect public services and defend the right of the poorest in our society, we need more people to join the union, recruit others to the union and to actively participate in anti cuts initiatives, both in the workplace and in the community – especially if you’re young.
• If you’re not already, you should join our union and ask your colleagues, friends and family to join and get involved in a trade union. If you’re aged 27 or under, join our young members’ network – email youngmembers@pcs.org.uk or speak to you local branch youth officer. 

This article was originally published in the autumn 2010 edition of the PCS young members’ newsletter.

YMN News

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