The UK’s Independent reports a tragic story from Scotland. It reports that a bed-ridden stroke victim was told to use food banks after an administrative error left him and his wife facing extreme poverty. Alan Buchanan, 65, has been bed bound after suffering several major seizures since he had his first stroke 15 years ago, and the once successful businessman is now entirely dependent on his wife Heather and the occasional visits of carers. The couple, from the small Scottish town of Callander, near Loch Lomond, said they now fear homelessness after their benefits were stopped because of an administrative error.
Source: Bed-ridden stroke victim told to use food banks after DWP admin error leaves him without benefits | The Independent
Whilst this is an extreme example, it highlights the impact of austerity and what happens when the social safety nets are removed. It also questions the wisdom of outsourcing to large consulting firms like Atos, who are probably more interested in their own profitability than social care, driven by partners with massive incomes.
Of course, even if this is an isolated story, the growing dependence on food banks highlights the realities of austerity.
With a general election looming, it surprises me how few people realize that matters will get much tougher post Brexit. The media should be presenting independently commissioned risk analysis showing the worst case scenarios post Brexit with higher taxes, fewer jobs, slashed public services and limited real change to immigration. The election is about more than Brexit.
Dr Alf brings us a heartrending story in which we are asked to ponder the actions of the DWP,Atos the outsourcer and the plight of a once successful Scottish businessman reduced to relying on food banks.
To begin with, we do not really know how he came to lose all his money, having been a successful businessman. Was it decisions he made whilst still compus mentis? Was he fleeced in a business deal? Did the Financial Director run off with all the money under an assumed identity and disappear to South America? Or were all the calamities which befell him and his company down to his progressive and terrible afflictions?.
I know from some of my activities and past interactions with the DWP that it is filled with mendacious and sometimes incompetent people, devoid of common sense and that it pays out promptly to some people and the wrong and the undeserving whilst making others wait up to three months for money.
It uses ATOS and firms like them to try and reduce the PIP benefit bill which is riddled with fraud, malfeasance and what Dr Alf calls “financial irregularity”. Examples of this are mini drug barons in Bedfordshire and other parts of the country being assessed as eligible for PIP yet somehow able to travel, drive, deal in drugs and attend family courts. When such people are visited for social work assessments by a friend of mine a senior social worker, she and her many colleagues marvel at how such individuals are able to afford wall sized television screens, ultra modern smartphones and expensive German limousines yet still qualify for PIP. Frequently such people are unmasked as frauds not by Benefit fraud investigators but by barristers in these family courts asking searching questions.
Others, seemingly unable to do much more than breathe are able to go on cruises arriving at Southampton docks with zimmer frames, walkers, walking sticks and mobility aids in the manner of Moses leading his people out of Egypt before making the Red Sea part and then engulf the pursuing Egyptian charioteers. Then when the ship reaches international waters these disabled and afflicted people are able to disco dance, “large it up” and engage in all manner of debauchery–A metamorphosis comparable to Lazarus rising from the dead or at worst the work of a Voodoo practitioner.
We also know that food from these Knights of Malta funded /Trussell Trust foodbanks is used as a currency the length and breadth of the land by fraudsters and petty drug users. The 400,000 figure for foodbank users has therefore to be taken with a very large pinch of salt and many of the Foodbank recipients are there because of very poor budgeting because in the past they would have received crisis loans and would have remained invisible because Foodbanks did not exist.
In this seemingly genuine case there is of course a 4th culprit,namely the SNP and the so called “Scottish Government”,where were they during this alleged debacle.
That said,some form of Universal Minimum income combined with the abolition of the DWP and moribund and unnecessary entities like the Scottish Parliament might be a better long term solution.