Friday, 2 October 2015

Poor on Details

We create poverty in many ways. We create it by getting richer - because poverty is a relative measure; the OECD define "relative poverty" as earning less than half the median income. We create it when we vote for neoliberal parties - as we have done since Mrs Thatcher came into power; in that period the UK's wealth gap has grown at double the rate of other OECD countries.

And we create it by law. The details of the law. The kinds of details that you and I don't read, but that trip up poor people every day. The details in documents with names like "draft Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015" where you will find the phrase "in paragraph (2), for '£6,420' substitute '£3,850'."

This specific document cuts the level of income at which people get tax credits. It sounds and looks arcane. But a 19-year old single mother in Glasgow working 16 hours a week on minimum wage will lose £2 a day, starting 6 April 2016. A family with two children working 24  hours a week at £8 an hour will lose £28 per week - a wee trolley full of shopping (figures from CPAG Scotland.) 

That wee empty trolley is why the Trussel Trust gave 117,689 people in Scotland a three-day emergency food pack in 2014-15. As CPAG points out, it is the details in the legislation that count; the new legislation makes it more likely that some people will get over-payments of benefits...meaning that they will find, one week, that no benefits are paid at all or worse that they must repay benefits. That's the week when the weans go hungry and everyone has to traipse round to the food bank.

The ivory towers of Westminster are a long way away from Robbie and Donna and Aileen and Maddie and Neil who are trying to work, look after the weans, and survive. But the stroke of a pen in London, a line in a "Draft Statutory Instrument" that neither Robbie nor any of the others have heard of will wreck their lives, starve their children and leave hundreds of thousands of others in Scotland too poor to eat. 

Westminster is poor on the details.

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