Student debt dominates debate – but where’s the political sympathy for people crushed by council tax debt, DWP loans, rent arrears and sanctions debt?

I have an article on the debts people owe in austerity at politics.co.uk today:

Student debt dominates headlines – but why don’t we hear arguments for writing off debt for people who austerity has crushed with council tax charges, DWP loan repayments, sanctioned benefits, rent arrears, court fines and all the rest? Where’s the political sympathy for writing off debt for these people? Where are the headlines for that?

“Staying housed, battling bailiffs, fighting councils for housing, sorting out benefit sanctions and paying rent arrears, fines and DWP loans really is a full time job. Benefits are constantly threatened and sanctioned by the DWP. Housing benefit and paying rent becomes a mess when people shift their claims to Universal Credit. People end up with rent arrears because their local housing allowance doesn’t cover their private sector rent. They are charged court costs for eviction and struggle to get council help for a new place… People are paying council tax arrears. They’re paying back loans to the DWP which go on and on. The letters and demands pour through the door. They’re in hock to the state and its providers forever. That’s the point. The system isn’t helping these people. It owns them. They can’t get out, because they’re not allowed out. It’s time that the political class stopped insisting they try.”

Read the rest here.

6 thoughts on “Student debt dominates debate – but where’s the political sympathy for people crushed by council tax debt, DWP loans, rent arrears and sanctions debt?

  1. The irony of all this is that these civil “SERVANT’S” were established to HELP those less fortunate. The system has been totally corrupted by the systematic erosion of the very benefits that we have paid for.
    But if the government need a few billion to prop up a majority in parliament , money is no object. It’s about time that the people showed the government ALL of them what a crap job they are doing for our country . The Pole tax was sorted by the people and it’s what we need now.

  2. I know a student who has over £50,000 of debt and he worked part-time while the debt mounted up if he hadn’t worked then it would have been over £60,000

  3. My own student debt on leaving uni when my ‘entitlement’ to ‘Mandatory Award’ expired in 1997 was £4k. With no substantial salaried employment in the interim, it had reached over £5k through interest by the time my student debt was written off at age 60 in late 2013.

    One thing about ‘Mass Higher Education’ is that it has been used to alter the appearance of the unemployment statistics while never really investing in the advancement it was supposed to bring the individuals conscripted into becoming ‘more employment ready in the Knowledge Economy’. I also suffered as an underfunded learner with an invisible disability.

    The Blair Government went on after I had left uni to make finances worse for undergraduates, bringing in tuition fees, etc. Blair ‘sang the praises’ of ‘meritocracy’, but would have been at odds with Prof. Michael Young’s original, satyrical use of the term in his 1959 book ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’.

    I would say that a hallmark of an educated person should be what a person does with their education. One of the tragedies of student debt is that it corrupts the essence of what further and higher education should be about. Debt can do that to people. In my undergraduate days, arms manufacturers dominated the recruitment fairs, for example. Theresa May has gone further than Blair regarding ‘meritocracy’ through her calls for more grammar schools.

    In 1979, after a 26-year-old Occupational Psychologist with an MSc in Experimental Psychology at a government-run ‘Employment Rehabilitation Centre’ had steam-rollered over my ‘vocational assessment’ career prospects with the words, “birth defect” and “you will be terminated at the end of next week [sic]” I became a Community Service Volunteer. CSV’s were more generally students on gap years gaining a greater understanding of the world and the variety of human experience, as well as being people on Community Service Orders and people fed up of ‘unemployment’ like me at the time.

    I dare say that, if Theresa May and the likes of the YouGov pollsters had had a strong community service element attached to their educational processes, the society we live in would not be as blinkered as it is. I quote from an earlier Kwug Blog post I wrote:

    “YouGov’s strapline is, ‘What the world thinks.’ Its Mission Statement reads:

    “’It is our ambition to supply a live stream of continuous, accurate data and insight into what people are thinking and doing all over the world, all of the time, so that companies, governments and institutions can better serve the people that sustain them’.”

    What understanding do such ‘visionaries’ have regarding the life circumstances and prospectuses of the adults with learning difficulties you have helped highlight? I am reminded of when a more enlightened educational accountant within my family referred to my writing around 2004 regarding the now defunct ‘Learning & Skills Council’ having “little understanding” of the needs of adults with learning difficulties. The educational accountant concerned commented, “I would say that you were being too kind.”

    On a more satyrical note, there is the song ‘Kick the Cat’.

    PS: I wonder how many of those facing benefit sanctions and the like have degrees?

  4. I’m still paying off the gas bill from the last place I lived nearly 3 yrs ago. I’m pretty much up to date with Council Tax, it’s due today (Tues.) but I have no money at all ’til Friday. And I’ve managed to avoid getting Sanctioned. As for my student debt, havent repaid a penny of thetudent Loans, last time I looked I owed about 6 grand,i think, but don’t have to repay til I’m earning over £24 K per annum and that’s not likely to ever happen. Still paying off my student overdraft & credit card though from 17 yrs ago! I can’t see my situation ever altering or improving, til I retire. For many people in this country today, myself inc. , life is devoid of hope. Totally skint & no chance of ever getting any money.

    • I should just add that I am not yet on Universal Credit, still on the old JSA. If/when I do go on to UC it will be disastrous, having to wait %6 weeks or more for a first payment would mean I’d be unable to pay existing debts & current bills & would inevitably end up in Rent arrears. It’s not like you can even work your way out of poverty anymore, with min.wage jobs that involve traveling 20 to 30 miles per day, I’d be no better off than on the dole, or maybe £20 to £30 per week better off IF THAT, bigddeal, thats not going to change my life.

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