In just under two weeks Isabel and Sarah Counihan Sanchez will be speaking at the SWAN Conference 2013 in the 'Alternative social care futures: radical social work in practice' session. Their story is told in this excellent short video which covers their struggle for housing and their institutional abuse by a local authority in the feverish grip of austerity (in this case, the London Borough of Brent). The Counihan Sanchez family's experiences are just one example of the injustice and brutality being suffered by working people simply wanting a roof over their heads both in London and across the UK. This is true across Europe and internationally too, as house and rent prices have skyrocketed to absurd levels, benefitting private landlords and property speculators at the expense of working people. Where there is injustice, however, there is resistance - a good example is the Platform for Mortgage Affected People (PAH) movement in Spain (there is a great feature on this in the latest edition of New Internationalist magazine).
Notably, the Counihan Sanchez family and thousands of other people have experienced this housing crisis before the imposition next week of the Spare Bedroom Tax, Council Tax Support, overall Benefit Cap and amongst a malicious arsenal of other welfare retrenchment measures. Polly Toynbee, writing in today's Guardian, calls this an earthquake of social destruction. As the socialist lawyer in the video says, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with those under attack and that means supporting collective non-payment of rent and collective resistance against evictions. The future of the welfare state and alternatives to this neoliberal destruction will be the focus of this year's SWAN conference - join us on 12-13 April at London South Bank University.