February 27, 2014 by Nash Riggins
Ever since the coalition came to power in 2010, they’ve carried out reform after reform under the sanctimonious presumption that we’ve got to ‘trim the fat’ off of Britain’s social safety net. Yet by allowing that to happen, we’ve afforded politicians a golden opportunity to diminish the bulk of income that the country’ most impoverished families need in order to survive.
Less than a year into the implementation of these callous reforms, that same, self-inflicted shot in the foot has landed us on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster.
In just three short years, the number of everyday people being pushed into homelessness has soared by over a third. In places like Derby and Nottinghamshire, those figures are even higher – with local authorities being forced to shut down homeless shelters and various devolved housing schemes due to the criminally-reduced budgets they’re now being federally allocated. Yet whilst these vital facilities continue to close their doors at an alarmingly fast rate, government reforms are simultaneously pushing more vulnerable people out onto the streets than ever before.
How could we have let this happen?
To be fair, Westminster’s heartless take on homelessness didn’t start the day that David Cameron moved in to Number 10. In fact, the government’s erratic cost-cutting obsession began in 2009, when the Labour Party decided to destroy Britain’s primary line of defence for housing support services. One would hope such a devastatingly short-sighted cut was made under the presumption that devolved local authorities would then be able to take some initiative and employ additional funding to protect susceptible residents. Yet by pressuring those same councils to set fire to their budgets, it’s been our most recent government that’s seamlessly crafted this perfect storm.
The kicker is, just about everyone in government and their mum had enough foresight to see that storm brewing. And, with that in mind, a question begs the answer: what the hell have our politicians been doing all this time to put a stopper on the country’s rampant increase in homelessness?
At this point, the best answer our housing minister has been able to muster is that the government has tightened immigration rules to ensure all European nationals who’re sleeping rough can now be deported on sight. And that’s all well and good – but seeing as how some 80% of rough sleepers are born and bred right here in the UK, getting rid of a few impoverished foreigners is almost as ineffective at solving the problem as it is heartless. Meanwhile, the coalition’s haphazard Help to Buy Scheme and rampant IT cock-ups are pushing affordable housing further and further away from those in search of obtaining a permanent place to call home.
We need to face it: this government doesn’t seem particularly bothered about the 80,000 families currently wandering our streets. They may do well to reconsider; after all, with many of the ramifications of last year’s welfare reform package only just starting to materialise, poverty will only continue to fester. And sure, we can argue that times are tough, and the government’s no cash cow; but that doesn’t mean we should relegate downtrodden human beings to lives of penury.
Britain’s welfare society was built upon the presumption that everyone deserves a chance at success – regardless of race, creed or upbringing. What happened to that? As voters march blindly under the banner of economic recovery, it appears many within government are only too keen to forsake the well-being of countless friends and neighbours who are sleeping rough on the streets. Perhaps that’s just because Mr Cameron is under the impression this vast slice of society won’t make it to the polls in 2015; however, that shouldn’t prevent us from speaking for them. But until we stop asking for a change in policy and start demanding it, it’s difficult to say whether our leaders will ever make an honest attempt to tackle Britain’s ever-evolving homeless crisis.