I've heard everything now! I mean, don't get me wrong, it's a long time since I've seen a great deal of difference between Labour and the Tories. And from time to time you read something that demonstrates what a great impersonation they do of each other. But the latest news that the Labour Government in Britain are considering charging interest rates of up to 28% per annum for social fund loans, is nothing short of outrageous. And it is proof if ever it were needed that the Labour Party has abandoned ALL of its founding principles and switched to the dark side altogether.
The Social Fund is there to help people on the lowest incomes to get through desperate times. And yet now, they may have to pay more than they would pay using a credit card. I say "may" because although the news only came out today, already they're backtracking like mad blaming the wording on the document - how you can confuse "interest will be charged at ..." I don't know. Clearly, however, the backlash is worrying them and I cannot see it going through now. That, however, is not the point - it takes a cold, unfeeling heart to sanction that kind of policy development James Purnell, Gordon Brown et al.
As a footnote, I was a voluntary Welfare Rights Advisor in the Gorbals in Glasgow many years ago and I will never forget the guy who came in for advice one day. He'd lost his job the year before and had struggled to find another. This was the late 80s when the UK was referring to the recession in the past tense whilst everyone in Scotland was wondering when it would end up here.
Anyway this guy had heard there was work going with a company in the shipyards in Greenock but there was no phone number, only a name of the guy he should contact. He got the train down twice but didn't manage to speak to the guy. He couldn't afford to pay another trainfare so the next time he walked ALL THE WAY TO GREENOCK - that's 25 miles. Finally his luck was in and the guy offered him a job but there was a catch. He had to provide his own safety boots and hat. "No problem" he thought "I'll get a loan from the social".
The reason he came to see me was because the social said no. Loans were only for emergencies and back to work related expenses were not emergencies!!! No matter how I fought with them, "rools was rools" and they would not (could not) budge. He lost out and carried on signing on. That story was one of many, now joined by today's news, that left me in no doubt that people living on benefits are the least powerful, most vulnerable in our society. I struggle to keep my composure when I hear folk talking about "folk on benefits living the life of Riley"! They have no idea ...