Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cuts, cuts and more cuts...

It's all very well the Chancellor talking about his triumph in getting Departments to implement 10% more cuts but what of the consequences? 

Massive cuts to social safety nets have led to "destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale" in Britain, with more than half a million people now forced to rely on food banks for sustenance. This is the warning from key poverty charities in a report published recently.

Welfare changes and mistakes by Jobcentre Plus staff are causing delays in benefits and errors or sanctions, which push vulnerable people into precarious situations. All this is known by those working in charities but Government seems impervious to the growing problem. So well done Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam. These charities want an urgent parliamentary inquiry.

They are right to call for this.

And the story is backed by a particularly nasty report in the Times yesterday of a woman who had major transplant surgery and was dying but following a 20 minute review by our friends ATOS and a decision by DWP she was deemed fit for work! She received the news via her husband in her hospital bed just hours before she died. This disgraceful story is bad enough but it is one of many. When will DWP review their contract with ATOS and the way they handle these decisions. The statement from DWP about this case was a classic “problem? What problem?" one. It's simply not good enough. I do hope that in the light of these growing case studies that Mark Hoban MP, the DWP Minister in charge will take a grip and review the contract. Of course we all want disabled people to be in work where this is sensible and helpful but stories like the above are a clear indication that things are going badly wrong.

Overall, we know that public spending needs to be constrained. The problem is that if we carry on trying to provide services in the same old way but with less money we will fail to provide the public services people deserve. The shame is that the public service reform agenda- “Open Public Services" has been stalled. We need it revived and given a kick start. Our charity and social enterprise sector could deliver public services more effectively and in a way that delivers real choice for citizens and communities. So cuts should be the spur to reform. So often they are not.

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