From the SWAN Steering Committee, October 2010
Since coming to power in May 2010, the Con-Dem coalition has announced the biggest cuts in public spending since the Second World War. The figures are so large as to be almost incomprehensible. The cuts are a clear attempt to abolish what is left of the welfare state. The government are slashing a third of council spending by 2015. This will mean social work and social care services reduced and outsourced. It will mean poorer service for users, worse pay and working conditions for workers, and services which are less safe – the cuts affect us all.
We should not be fooled into thinking the cuts are an economic necessity, they are ideologically driven. If the aim was to reduce the debt then money could be found by scrapping Trident (saving £35 bn), by initiating a one-off tax on those in the city banks whose estimated Christmas bonus this year will be £7bn, by demanding payment on the estimated £125bn that the wealthy have ‘dodged’ in their tax payments or by ending the cash bonanza that have given guaranteed super-profits to those large companies involved in various PFI firms schemes.
The ConDem government aren’t interested in any of these solutions. Instead they want to use the ‘shock’ of the debt crisis to push through the wholesale privatization of vital public services.
Those most to blame for the financial mess – the banks, the private sector and business leaders – have been left untouched. The people who will be most hit are those with least money and resources, those that social work traditionally works with – older people, lone parents, disabled people, mental health service users, carers, those on benefits, black and minority ethnic communities and social housing tenants. The wealthy tax avoiders and tax dodgers are left alone – the poor on benefits are stigmatized and vilified for being poor.
British social welfare policy and practice has never been renowned for its humanity but the inhumanity of the Coalition Government is breathtaking as it removes billions of pounds of benefits and services. This is social violence and leads to even further fear, insecurity and anxiety to some of the most vulnerable in our society. Their hope that privatization will fill some of the holes will guarantee services that lack care and compassion for both users and workers. Profit and care just don’t mix and too expect otherwise is simply delusional.
But there is an alternative to austerity. In France, Greece, Ireland and across the globe there are growing struggles against such measures. In Britain we are seeing the beginnings of such a movement. Students are at the forefront of this with student SWAN members involved in marches and occupations against education funding cuts. We celebrate the resourcefulness, resilience and resistance of the student movement.
SWAN supporters have also been active in the growing anti-cuts protests and campaigns around the country – and we encourage all our members and supporters to actively engage in local anti-cuts groups.
The scale of the present assault on the poorest in our society is unlike anything any of us have witnessed for several generations. The time has come for those involved in social work to make a stand against the social violence being unleashed by the ConDem coalition: to speak out, campaign and join the movements of resistance.
Another world is possible!