Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

2013 – There and Back Again

30 Dec
Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

Image by dickdavid shared under a Creative Commons License

If you, like me, have emerged bleary eyed but largely unscathed from the annual festive fuckwittery that descends during the seemingly never-ending Christmas season, you’ll probably be reflecting on the events of the last year. (I’m not much of a Christmas person.)

2013 was a mixed year for lots of reasons. A divisive political figure died and had a big funeral that a much-hated politician cried at. Another divisive political figure died, and a bunch of world leaders took a selfie during his memorial service. A woman gave birth to a baby boy, and everyone had an opinion on it. A woman twerked on American television, and everyone had an opinion on it. Far too many of the UK’s most vulnerable continue to suffer because of benefit sanctions, welfare cuts and increasingly inhumane policies brought in by an increasingly inhumane government has continued their mission to punish the poor with nonsensical expenses and create tax breaks for the rich.

And I still can’t twerk or take a decent selfie. But, I digress.

This time last year, I worked full-time for an online marketing company. I’d taken the job because it was better paid than the one I’d had before, and, as I’d reasoned at the time, working 9-5 during the week gave me ample time to write, review and do everything else that I wanted to do.

However, I had a dream, a few dreams, in fact; I wanted to write, and I wanted to write on a freelance basis on my own terms. I longed to be my own boss and work on projects that I could see to fruition. I wanted to get out there, network and meet more people, not be stuck at a desk everyday, working on projects that might never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Yet, the logical part of me (there is a sensible voice somewhere in my head) told me to stop dreaming; that my job was more than enough, that it was paying the bills and for a while, my dreams were pushed aside. It wasn’t long before they resurfaced, bobbing up and down in my subconscious, like the remnants of magnificent and mighty shipwreck. There they remained, always on the horizon, always waiting, and always just out of reach.

My day job kept me busy – too busy – and before long I realised that my writing had taken second place next to a job that I didn’t enjoy, that I didn’t want to do, and was taking up more and more of my time. I felt constantly tired, I was taking work home with me, getting stressed, not sleeping, and always worrying, worrying, worrying about what I hadn’t done, and what I needed to be doing.

I knew life as a freelance writer would be difficult, and that money wouldn’t be guaranteed, but I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t let the fear of failure hold me back, and as far as I was concerned, I’d already lost enough time working in an office when I wanted to be anywhere else but there. So, in August, I made the proverbial leap of faith; I gave my employer five weeks notice, and set about applying for jobs.

It was tough, a lot harder than I thought it would be; over a month after I left the relative safety of the 9-5 world, and after many, many rejections, unanswered applications and ignored speculative emails, all I managed to get was seasonal work delivering flyers for a well-known venue. There were days that I would go around town with my CV, handing it in to any business that was advertising for staff: shops, bars, coffeehouses – anywhere. I never heard back from any of them.

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I remember, and I knew I had to give it my best shot. Eventually, and through a dear friend, I managed to get some regular writing work, working on articles and blog posts for, you’ve guessed it, an online marketing company. I also work part-time in a restaurant, thanks to another old friend who was looking for staff, and so, I have days off during the week, where I can balance my personal writing with my work writing. It’s not the most comfortable way of living; I’ve made sacrifices in order to pay the bills (gone are the days of Spotify Premium, LoveFilm and buying brand new clothes whenever and wherever) but it’s a much better way to live.

I may have made a few mistakes along the way, and leaving the comfort of a stable job to follow your dreams without a back up plan isn’t the most logical thing I’ve ever done (whatever happened to that sensible voice in my head?), but sod logical. I’ve made the first step on a long journey of happiness, and I’m really enjoying this new beginning. In fact. I’m proud of what I’ve done, what I’ve achieved and I’m looking forward to what I will do in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Now Is The Spring Of Our Discontent

30 Mar

Iain "Ratbag" Duncan SmithSo, it’s Easter. Not that you’d know it, of course, because it’s been snowing for about two weeks and as of today some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets were reporting that they had run out of Easter Eggs. It’s also the start of Spring; the clocks have gone forward, and just about the worst thing that some of us can complain about are the fact that we’ve lost an hours sleep.

But from Monday, some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country are set to lose money and even their homes, as some of their vital benefits are cut. The “Bedroom Tax” as it as come to be known, means that people in social housing with empty bedrooms will have their housing benefit cut and could lose at least £14 a week, or £728 a year. Those with one spare bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14%, and those with two or more spare bedrooms will see their benefits cut by 25%. These drastic cuts are supposed to encourage people to move to much smaller properties, and save the government £480 million a year in housing benefit, according to David Cameron. In fact, the only good news to come out of this mess is the news that Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary and outright hypocrite, was called a “ratbag” by a protester in Edinburgh last week.

There are many problems with the Bedroom Tax or “Spare Room Subsidy” as the coalition government call it. Across the UK there is a shortage of social housing, specifically properties with one bedroom. This means that thousands of single people are already living in homes with more than one bedroom, because that’s all the council could give them. In fact, the National Housing Federation have stated that some 180,000 households are currently “under occupying two bedroom homes” in England. In Scotland, the Bedroom Tax is set to cost council and housing association tenants on housing benefit £5.3 million a year, and up to 95,000 people across the country will be affected by the new tax.

But this isn’t the only new cut to be enforced in April; the government have reformed the council tax system, the very safeguard that helps people who cannot afford to pay their council tax which is to be cut by 10%. The coalition government is also to transfer responsibility for the new system to local councils, who must decide whether to maintain the current levels of support, make cuts to support. Because of this 150,000 low-income households will have to pay £300 more a year.

And that’s not all. The coalition government have created a £500 a week  – that’s £26,000 a year – cap on benefits paid to an out of work family can claim in a year. This cap will be introduced in London from April and then enforced nationwide from September. The Children’s Society have warned that this could lead to 80,000 children being made homeless as their families are priced out of renting homes in the private sector. There’s also the 1% benefit cap increase, which is set to last until at least 2015/16, means that benefits will not rise with inflation. This means that those people receiving working-age benefits and working tax credits will suffer a 4% loss in their benefits, or to better illustrate it, 2.5 million households without someone in work will lose an average of £215 per year in 2015/16 and households with someone in work will lose an average of £165. For the countries poorest, and most vulnerable, including disabled people, this will mean that they will have to choose between heating their home and feeding themselves.

Elsewhere, Britain’s millionaires will receive a 5% decrease in their income tax. From the 6th of April the 1.5% of the population that make £150,000 a year will pay 45% tax on their income, instead of 50% meaning the 13,000 millionaires in the country will save an average of £100,769 a year.

Meanwhile the rising cost of living has seen hundreds of thousands of people turning to food banks across the country, as they can no longer afford to put food on the table. In the past year, the Trussell Trust, which operates the UK’s network of food banks, sent out 300,000 food parcels in the last year; double the figure they sent out the year before. There are more than 325 food banks in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, and thankfully, these changes which tax the poor and benefit the rich have been met with widespread condemnation. This weekend thousands of people protested against the bedroom tax, with 2,500 people turning up at a rally in Glasgow. Yet, in the face of universal criticism, and in the middle of one of the biggest celebrations in the Christian calendar, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey attacked the coalition government, not for their ongoing persecution of the poorest people in society, but for their “persecution” of the “Christian minority” because of the coalition government’s support of equal marriage.

Yes, a major figure in a religion which seemingly promotes supporting the vulnerable, the sick and the *poor used his position to protest the treatment of other Christians, and not his fellow-man, who has, one can argue faced a lot more persecution of late, and could do with a bit of a hand.

If this is Spring, if this is what is happening to the UK’s most vulnerable right now, with the weather and the economic forecast this bleak, then this Winter will be the UK’s darkest yet.

Don’t let the ratbags win.

*There are many. many quotes in the Bible about helping the poor, such as:

Deuteronomy 15:11

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land”

Psalm 82:3-4

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”

Proverbs 3:27-28

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow” — when you now have it with you.”

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