5 articles Tag government

Help Stop Companies from Robbing the Poor

Most of my readers know that I have strong socialist values and feel really strongly about equal rights for all people. Our current government has created a culture of keeping the rich rich and the poor poor, which has perpetuated food bank usage in the UK, huge levels of homelessness and the highest levels of child poverty in hundreds of years. What you might not know is that the huge tax-dodging companies which operate in the UK have a huge effect on poverty in other countries too. Companies dodge approximately £78 billion in tax in poor countries annually, stripping them of funds for vital services. Oxfam reveal that just a third of this amount would be enough to cover the healthcare that could prevent the needless deaths of eight million mothers, babies and children. Oxfam has created a powerful video to show what’s happening:

Showing it in such stark, literal terms of patients being directly deprived may seem provocative, especially when we see the part with the baby in an incubator, but the cold, hard facts are that this is exactly what happens when companies refuse to pay their taxes.

It makes me sick that even the lowest paid workers are expected to pay income tax and tax on almost everything they buy, but companies which turn over billions in profit get let off. I can’t even begin to get my head around how unfair that is and it’s time that we started demanding that the Government make changes.

Oxfam has started a petition and is asking people to follow this link and add your name to a list of people who wants to see changes happen NOW. It will take two minutes of your time and could make a difference, not only to us here in the UK, but also to people living in enforced poverty all over the world.

Do leave me a comment below if you have anything to say about the campaign or just to let me know you’re adding your name to the petition. I’m heading there to sign my name right now.

The Great Childcare Debate

childcareSomething which is on a lot of people’s minds at the moment is the issue of childcare, after the Government introduced free funding for 2 year olds from underprivileged families to receive 15 hours of nursery a week. The idea was to get parents back into work without having the expense of nursery hanging over them, but it’s a scheme which has been a bit of a sticking point for a lot of families. Until the age of three, working parents are expected to pay the full price for childcare and the prevailing attitude is that it seems unfair that familes who don’t appear to need free childcare are more entitled to it.

Let’s look at the brass tacks of it:

At the moment, Husband and I both work from home, which works for us and means we don’t need childcare. Now, let’s assume that I wanted to go back to work, full time, as a copywriter which is what I currently do from home. Let’s completely ignore Husband’s salary and assume that this is still going on things like rent and our bills, as it does at the moment.

The average salary for a copywriter is £23,047 per year before tax and National Insurance, so my take-home pay would be approximately £18,840, or £1570 per month. I’d probably have to travel to London to find this kind of work so I’d have to factor in £355.60 per month in season ticket fares. The nursery attached to Sausage’s school charges £4.50 per hour, plus £1.75 for a hot lunch, which would make my monthly nursery fees (assuming I’d need to drop her off at 7.30 am to get the train and not collect her again until 6.30pm) £1110.42. Of course, this also doesn’t factor in needing before and after school care for Sausage.

In travel fees and nursery fees alone, my monthly expenses JUST FOR GOING TO WORK would be £1466.02, leaving me approximately £103 which, as far as I’m concerned would make it absolutely POINTLESS going back to work.

I know that there are flexi options, sometimes family can help with childcare, or companies which allow a homeworking element during the week, but these figures are the exact reason that so many people are up in arms about the government’s scheme. Being a copywriter isn’t the loftiest career in the whole world but it sure as hell pays more than retail work or other minimum wage jobs, which means that even people with hopes of getting a mid-level job will struggle.

Obviously, this is all part of a MUCH bigger problem. The cost of living is too damn high in the UK, whilst wages are depressingly low. Family-friendly working is more-or-less non-existent and women are usually expected to bear the burden of this. I know that there’s a prevailing attitude that women SHOULD be the ones to bear the burden because they’re the ones who CHOOSE to have the babies (obviously the men have zero say in this and we’re all just sperm-harvesting lunatics…*sarcasm*) but this is a hugely outdated notion and many men also feel penalised because of their inability to contribute towards the childcare duties.

I don’t begrudge families who are on a low income the opportunity to have free childcare, I really don’t, but I also don’t think it’s a solution. It’s a really romantic notion, hoping to help people back into work, but let me ask you this: 1. how are they supposed to afford that childcare once the funding runs out and they’re on a low wage and 2. WHERE ARE ALL OF THESE JOBS THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE FILLING?!

I think we can all agree that the Government has well and truly got its head up its arse on this issue and that more help needs to be given to ALL parents who want to go back to work, not least of all because we’ve probably got a massive pool if untapped talent in this country, desperate to get back into the workplace but unable to afford it. It’s all very well for the hate-mongers in the right wing press to be content with demonising benefit claimants but the Government has basically created this viscous loop of never being able to AFFORD to come off of benefits, for so many people, who are essentially tied to living in permanent poverty.

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a Mum who’d love to go back to work but simply cannot afford to? Would you have a career if the childcare was cheaper or more affordable? Are you in receipt of two-year-old funding but still unable to find a job? Please leave me a comment below.

Has the Coalition Government Betrayed the Elderly?

Brought to you by Stannah Stairlifts

The care of our elderly citizens has been a popular news topic for some time now and the most recent reports are beginning to throw accusations at those responsible for allocating state-funded care to those most in need. Going under fire for betraying the elderly on earlier promises, the coalition government has come under great scrutiny lately – but are they really guilty?

Broken promises

According to a report on The Daily Telegraph, thousands of pensioners will be forced to sell their homes despite being promised that this wouldn’t happen. The scandal first gathered pace when it was announced that the government’s flagship scheme to stop old people having to sell their property while they’re paying for care at a residential home or in their own property would be means-tested.

The Government claims that this will improve prospects for the elderly so that they’re not facing unlimited care costs or being forced to part with their homes but other authorities have different opinions. They have claimed that thousands of pensioners could be put at risk but not qualifying for the scheme under the new means-test.

This would mean they would have to run down the value of their personal possessions and savings until it reached a figure lower than £23,250 at which point they would then qualify for the scheme.

Funding care

For those wondering what all the fuss is about, the crux of the issue lies with the cost of care. This has been rising for some time now, leaving older individuals struggling to cope with the bills. This led the Government to introduce a cap of £72,000 for the amount of money anyone should spend on their care over their lifetime with new rules on who can qualify for benefits and state-funded support.

The idea was that those who faced the idea of selling their homes to afford care would be able to talk to their local council and have their care bills settled via a long-term loan which was repaid from their estate so that they weren’t forced to relocate.

The means-test was introduced as a way to ensure that local councils were able to support this move financially but it is unlikely the battle will end here. With elections on the cards for parliament, social care is expected to be a big bargaining tool when different parties but their arguments forward. The coalition has already introduced a new model for elderly care payments with labour indicating that they are devising their own plans.

For those who rely on this care on a day to day basis, whether it be in the form of entering residential homes or adapting their own property with reconditioned stair lifts, this news is well worth monitoring. Checking eligibility for any additional financial aid or funding is vital if you need to pay out for regular care costs and the most important thing to remember is that the quality of service should not be sacrificed due to financial constraints.

Changing Our Political Options

It seems appropriate that I should be writing about politics on the day after we heard news about Margaret Thatcher dying, but this is a post I’ve been planning for a while, so the timing is coincidental.

What I want to talk about today are options.

I’ve been old enough to vote for 10 years now, but my political education began at a much younger age. I grew up in a staunchly left-wing family, a family of Trade Unionists, working class people who survived a Conservative regime which promised to ruin them. As far as my family were concerned, the UK wasn’t a two-party democracy as it would have been totally out of the question to vote for anyone but Labour.

As an adult I’ve had the opportunity to vote in two General Elections, one in 2005 and one in 2010. In 2005, I placed a family-influenced vote and helped Tony Blair get a second term as Prime Minister and then watched as the country got handed over to Gordon Brown. The less said about that, the better.

I didn’t place this vote because I knew about Labour’s policies, I placed it because that’s what I’d been taught. My vote automatically went with Labour and anything else was out of the question. I was 21, young, free and single and had no real interest in what was going on in the country, so long as the price of clothes, Benefit mascara and petrol didn’t go up by too much.

The General Election of 2010 met a completely different Jayne. By then, I was 26, a married mother of a two-year-old, renting a house and things like Tax Credits and funding for Education were suddenly a concern for me. I, like MANY people, was sick of the two-horse race and thought that a third party should be given a go, so my vote went to the Lib Dems.

Three years into this coalition Government and I imagine that most Lib Dem voters from 2010 are feeling rather like their fingers got burned. Instead of the Nick Clegg we wanted, we’ve ended up with a snivelling Tory lackey and one of the most shocking attacks on the working classes that we’ve seen in modern times. It’s no surprise, given his systematic dismantelling of public services, that Dave Cam is a huge fan of Maggie. I’ve been left feeling bitterly disillusioned by all concerned.

But here’s what I’ve realised; there ARE other parties.

Until 2010, we hadn’t had a party in power which wasn’t either Labour or Conservative for almost 100 years, which incidentally was another Con/Lib coalition government, but as long as we continue to regard the Big Two and the Main Straggler as the only two and a half parties worth getting our votes, the country will NEVER change. We need to alter the way we think and stop letting ourselves be led up the garden path by people who don’t care about us.

The three main parties have had their chance to prove themselves as worthy leaders, a task at which they seem to have consitently failed over the last few decades, and our cynicism at other parties not having the chops to run the country are quite frankly laughable, given the dross we’re still voting in, election after election.

The Green Party will be getting my vote next time. Having taken the time to give their policies a proper read, I think that they best represent my values and what I want for my family and our future.

This isn’t me telling you do vote for the Green Party, this is me telling you to investigate your options. Voting isn’t just putting a cross in a box, it’s about what is going to happen to us for a minimum of four years, and for me that merits a bit of thought and consideration. I know we’re stuck with the current bumbling halfwits for another two years, but educating yourself now might mean that you don’t walk into a booth in 2015 and just put your cross next to any old primary colour.

I’ve attached a copy of the short version of the Green Party policies below for you to read or download if you want to.

Green Party Manifesto

Too Average for Education.

Back in 2009, I decided that I wanted to use my experiences with Sausage’s birth to help other people in a similar position. I realised that I probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that without qualifications, so I embarked on some formal education in the form of a Psychology degree with the Open University. Despite not having A-levels, I was able to complete an access course which eased me into higher education and provided me with 60 of the 360 points needed to gain my degree.

I finished the course, passed, and enrolled on more as soon as I could. I started two at the same time, one a 60 pointer and another a short course worth 15 points. As often happens, life got in the way and I decided to quit the 60 point course and finish the short course before taking a break. I’ve done various things between then and now, working for myself, being a lady of leisure, working in a couple of offices, but it’s always been a niggly thing in the background, my unfinished degree so I made the decision to try to get it done.

I went to the OU site, chose a module, registered and waited for the forms to turn up. When I started the degree a 60 point course was, on average, between £650 and £750. This new course I want to do? £2500. And it seems all of the courses have gone up by that much. So, that means that from beginning to end instead of costing between £3900 and £4500, that very same qualification will now cost  around £15,000. Put simply, the cost has almost tripled.

Now, were my household income below the threshold or we were in receipt of certain benefits, I’d get the full amount paid for me. As it stands, I’d get a partial award of around £600 towards my course fees, so I’d still need to find about £1900 for the rest of it.

I’m not saying that I think I’m entitled to a free education, but I really feel like the message is all wrong here.

For a start, I’m 28. Not everyone wishing to embark on a degree is a grown up, most are 18, fresh out of sixth form or college and looking to improve their life prospects. This means that either they take student loans and get themselves in a ton of debt (really not what we should be encouraging, in light of our current economy), work while studying and put more pressure on themselves, or turn to their parents who’ll need to find several thousand pounds to pay for the education, not to mention food and shelter for their children. I feel sorry for anyone with more than one kid at this point.

The fact is that by increasing the fees by this much, the majority of ‘average’ people are simply unable to afford to better themselves. £600 is a help, but I simply don’t have a spare £3800 a year, which means I just can’t complete my course. I have no choice but to remain incomplete, no way of increasing my earning potential, a vicious circle if you will.

All I know is, as much as I try to stay away from politics on this blog, I’m genuinely despairing of this government. It’s patently obvious to anyone who takes the time to notice that the Tories are doing everything they can to keep the ‘lower’ classes in their place (menial labour and servitude, I’m guessing?) by depriving them of a chance to education and we’re just letting them do it.

I’m not condoning the riots, but the people who were rioting were doing so because they felt disenfranchised and abandoned by their country. That was a relatively small group but one by one, the Tories are managing to make other social groups feel that same level of frustration and abandonment. I hate to think what will happen if that, much larger, group decides to take matters into their own hands to make themselves feel listened to.

Welcome to Tory Britain.

Welcome to the Middle Ages.