Thoughts on being vulnerable after UK Election 2015
The Conservative Party forewarned us of cuts to the welfare budget of £12bn (12 billion pounds!) – but would not give us any details because they feared a public outcry. The cuts will be vicious and will take support away from people in need who will then have nowhere else to go for help. Some vulnerable adults and children will find themselves with no safety net. For some life will become a misery. Many will not survive.
How long will it be before it dawns on the new Cabinet that there is no reason to stop at £12bn? Why not 18 or 24? The new government is committed to a smaller state and that means we all have to learn to stand on our own two feet (if we are fortunate enough to have two). The Conservatives are happy to see the demise of the Welfare State and now they are in a position to bring it about while hiding behind the excuse that it is all the fault of the banking crisis of 2008.
The vulnerable people I fear for are those of any age who have a disability and then find themselves in a difficult and challenging situation or crisis. Examples are a man with autism becoming homeless, a disabled teenage girl leaving her care home with no aftercare, a mentally ill parent of small children having no job and living in poverty. The numbers are small enough to be ignored by ministers.
I realised during the coalition's programme of cuts that appeals by vulnerable people, or on their behalf, to ministers is a waste of time. They know the consequences of their cuts and it is a price they are prepared to pay to end dependence on welfare and benefits. Catering for the needs of vulnerable people is a costly burden that holds progress back – in their view.
Another safety net has been gradually removed over recent years. Many of our biggest charities are now working on national or local government contracts and have to be very careful what they say. If they judge that campaigning for vulnerable people will upset their paymasters they will have to hold back.
The threat that these cuts represent to vulnerable adults and children is so massive that I do not dare to offer any solutions. These are hard times and no mistake. But when vulnerable people who are denied benefits and get no support from public services do find some help, it is likely to come from the people around them or from small charities and local projects that are independent of government.
As the state shrinks, local initiatives must grow stronger. With the hardening of the government's heart comes the realisation that if we do not help each other, no one else will.
Please note that Interconnections has no allegiance to any political party.