Yesterday, a large group of people gathered opposite Parliament to lobby the Lords and protest against the welfare ‘reform’ bill that is currently being looked at in the House of Lords (there’s quite a nice webpage here that illustrates the progress of the bill which is quite useful http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/welfarereform.html). People from Single Mothers Self Defence, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Mad Pride, Kilburn Unemployed Workers, Boycott Workfare, the Right to Work, and other concerned individuals went along to highlight the extremely negative effects that the welfare ‘reform’ bill will have on the most vulnerable members of society, and to demand the bills defeat. The bill is an attempt to dramatically alter welfare as we know it – which in its present state is still highly inadequate – and to scrape together millions of pounds from the poorest in society to pay for the bankers’ crisis. The proposals in the bill, including capping housing benefits resulting in people being unable to afford their rents, scrapping the discretionary social fund which provides no-interest loans for the poor and for those who find themselves in crisis, and making changes to disability benefits so that those who are given money in recognition for the additional difficulties that they face in life are interrogated about their illness and given less money to support themselves. The proposals go on and on and are almost difficult to believe – that anybody could come up with such punitive measures that literally are an attack on the most vulnerable people in society is outrageous. Thankfully, some of the Lords have a fair bit of sense and are giving this bill the scrutiny it deserves – overthrowing vast swathes of it yesterday afternoon. As Lord Patel, a crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, described “If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality”.
Whilst it was uplifting to be amongst passionate, determined, and admirable people yesterday afternoon, I was also a little disappointed at the lack of support from other groups and the rest of London. In my opinion, the whole of London should have been outside Parliament voicing their disgust at perhaps the nastiest cuts. Perhaps people were working so couldn’t make it down. But what about those idealist students who stormed Millbank last year against tuition fee increases and who have a more flexible timetable – why weren’t they supporting us yesterday? I am all for free education, but these cuts are a matter between life and death.