This week the UN released a report criticising the British Government for its austerity measures since 2010. The report concludes ‘that austerity measures and social reform breach the UK’s international human rights obligations’. You can read more on that here: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/news/uk-in-breachhuman-rights/00287.html
The report also criticised the government for hitting women harder than men, something Jeremy Corbyn raised in the commons during his first Queen’s speech back in May. As a woman, a mother, a cancer patient and a mental health patient I’m in the front line of the Tories’ so called austerity measures.
I’ve seen my household income reduce by £6,000 in 6 years – and I’m facing further reductions later this year.
Local children’s centres have seen their budgets reduced and many have been forced to close, despite the service being used by over a million families in the UK.
Last year the government slashed £25 million from the NHS cancer drugs fund. This meant that end of life treatments for breast cancer patients were removed from the list. I can’t imagine how I’d feel knowing the Tories had stopped me spending an extra few months with my children, but that was the case for many thousands of breast, prostate and bowel cancer patients last year, and it’s ongoing.
Mental health services have been cut too. In 2015 mental health beds were cut by 8% and £35 million was shaved off NHS spending on mental health. In January David Cameron pledged £1 billion to help with the current mental health crisis in this country, but it is estimated that more than £11 billion is actually needed to tackle the problems the country faces from increased depression, suicides and reliance on antidepressant medication – all of which have shot up since the Tories started their austerity programme.
And this is before you get to the cuts to substance misuse, the changeover to the Personal Independence Payment, cuts to Police, the fire service, the loss of the Independent Living Fund for disabled people, overall NHS cuts, child benefit cuts, the slashing of the social care budget for the elderly, cuts to the domestic violence budget, the bedroom tax, the benefits cap… The list is exhaustive, and it is a bitter pill to swallow when corporations aren’t being asked to pay their taxes and the Prime Minister himself has benefited from off shore tax havens.
I’ve often felt at breaking point. I actually broke last year. I don’t blame the government for that, it was Zoladex mixed with the effects of childbirth. But I was treated for several months in the community before I was admitted to hospital, and it wasn’t until I was literally at death’s door that I received the help I needed. And don’t get me started on the anxiety I feel every time I see a letter on the doormat from Child Tax Credits…
Because of all this, I joined the Labour party when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. He is the only voice in Westminster speaking out against the injustices the Conservative government are inflicting on me, my children, the sick, the elderly, the poor and the voiceless in our society. The leadership challenge within the Labour party has angered me and motivated me to do more at a local level to engage in politics.
Portsmouth City Council have cut over £74 million from their budget since austerity started, and are looking to cut a further £34 million from April 2016. Their own budget report warns that a large part of their money is spent looking after vulnerable adults and children, so it’s clear where these cuts are going to hit hardest. The vulnerable. The sick. The people who can’t fight back.
I’ve started going to Labour meetings, I went to one this week. There was obviously a lot of focus on the leadership challenge and the poison that is Westminster politics at the moment. I find it repulsive that the Parliamentary Labour Party would call for the resignation of a leader who was elected with the largest landslide in political history, especially when the Labour party has gained 60,000 new members since the EU referendum vote last week.
I’m also getting involved in a new project with a friend to take local issues to the council and the Constituency Labour Party for action. I will attend meetings, go on marches, do whatever it takes to shout loud enough to be heard because I am sick of the way this country is being run, sick of the inherent racism that has emerged since the leave vote last week, and sick of my local council’s treatment of the weak and vulnerable in our community.
I don’t think I’m alone.