We are not all in this together. Benefit changes and service cuts will have cumulative and often profoundly disruptive and painful effects on the lives of poor people, especially as they interact with existing deprivations and difficulties. Citizen’s Advice Bureau adviser Deborah Padfield sets out the bottom-up perspective on the government’s plans.
It is important to be cautious about what we say in time of retrenchment, for cuts and reforms are rarely welcome, always producing predictions of disaster. It would be easy to produce a doomsday scenario, ignoring both deficiencies in the system as it was and shrewd ideas amongst what is proposed. It is also easy to overlook the Labour government’s endeavours to fix the system, evidence not least of the difficulties of the task. The job of Citizen’s Advice Bureaux is not to comment on the government’s direction of travel in response to the deficit. We have to work with it. But we also have to analyse its impacts, highlighting the areas where vulnerable people will be affected in ways which render hypocritical our claims to be a fair society honouring the needs of vulnerable citizens.
Deborah Padfield is an adviser with the Citizens Advice Bureau in Cambridge. She has written this article in her personal capacity.