Books I'm reading ...

An interesting book has come my way which addresses some of the issues social welfare is supposed to address. It is an area that is of interest to me ever since I began to research the society that pertained in Britain, and London in particular, in the first half of the 19th Century (see Limehouse Boys). If one's only knowledge of that period comes from the classic novels of Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters or Dickens, it can come as something of a shock to discover just how large the gap between the wealthy and the 'labouring classes' was. There was no such thing as support for the disabled, and what little there was in the way of 'welfare' support usually came through the Workhouse system which was often demeaning and extremely exploitative. 

Since the First World War the pressure for changes to that have grown, and the Labour Government of 1945 to 1951 took several brave decisions to make bold changes to society. The result was the universal healthcare system of the National Health Service, unemployment benefits, support for the chronically ill and disabled and much more. Until the 1970s these enjoyed, largely, support from all the major political Parties, but from the 1990s that began to change. Since the 2007/8 financial crash it has, increasingly, come under attack. And this brings me to the subject of the book I am reading, Austerity's Victims by Neil Carpenter.

In his own description of the book, he states -
It is based on my work as a volunteer advocate for Cornwall Advocacy. It aims is to show how adults with a learning disability have been affected by UK government austerity measures since 2010 and to bring their situation into the open. It concentrates on five men in Cornwall with a learning disability, precisely comparing their income and spending with national and county averages so that the extent to which they have been left behind becomes clear. It also examines their quality of life as the support they are given shrinks. In those five case studies, the men’s spending is compared with the Minimum Income Standard of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as well as UK and Cornwall medians. Their spending averages 48% of the UK median, 55% of the Cornwall median and 71% of the Minimum Income Standard. It goes without saying that their income is below the relative poverty threshold. From the case studies, other common features emerge as well as relative poverty. • All have had their support hours at home or their day centre attendance cut. Three of the men who have support hours have seen them cut by an average of 27%. The other two attend day centres: one now has his place only half-funded; the other has had Adult Social Care funding removed completely. • When the book was published, two of the five men had had their benefits cut. One failed to have his DLA transferred to PIP. The other, a man called Danny who suffered a life-changing brain injury in 1980, was suddenly deemed 36 years later to miraculously have changed and therefore be fit for work without his Employment and Support Allowance. Since publication, one more man has fallen foul of the system. • To state the obvious, their quality of life has suffered. Most of them lack the friends that many of us may take for granted and so loneliness is a real problem. For all the men in the book, their lives fall a long way short of the ‘wellbeing’ the 2014 Care Act says they should be experiencing. One component of ‘wellbeing’ is ‘personal dignity’. If you read the chapter on Danny and his Work Capability Assessment, his tears at the initial outcome showed how little ‘respect’ (another word from the Care Act) was shown to him. ‘Personal dignity’ doesn’t even come into it. The links below show where ‘Austerity’s Victims’ is available. Print version: Kindle:

I will confess that I am finding it difficult to read simply because it exposes an almost brutal disregard of the disabilities of the subjects, and a bureaucratic process that puts people like these at a disadvantage.

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