Sacrificing sick, disabled and elderly people for economic gain? This ain’t exactly new

For thrills, I’ve been reading violent arguments for and against ongoing lockdown. I should give social media a swerve on these things, but in lockdown’s longer hours, there is something to be said for focusing on a lockdown thread and trying to decide which side is more revolting.

I’m thinking dead heat at the moment. You have on the one side the righteous types who feel that anyone who breaks lockdown should be tasered out as a human canker and on the other, the (often younger) people who believe that a) their economic chances should trump any flu for geriatrics and b) that covid’s cull of the Boomer and Gen X demographics is one of its selling points (climate and pangolin rescue being the others. I am 51, so am more on board with the last two).

There is a disturbing aspect to this reading though. It’s the fact that so many people seem to think that the Time Before Covid was different – that this furious debate about a stark choice between a strong economy and abandoning thousands of inconvenient people to a grim death is, somehow, new.

You see the word “normal” bandied around a lot, and with a wistful note – as in it could be 6 months before we return to normal, or when will things return to normal? I can only assume that by “normal,” people – or whoever thinks or writes this stuff – mean a time when they didn’t know, or didn’t have to know, that there was already a body count on the economy vs altruism front (altruism having been outgunned for longer than I care to recall). To those who know the austerity scene, there’s nothing new on offer in these covid debates. The economy vs lockdown-to-save-lives dispute is just the latest chapter in a bloody years-old battle between those who champion a nation’s economic fortitude (read “the one percent’s right to rampant personal wealth creation”) at any cost and those who are horrified by that cost. The cost has generally been the deaths of thousands of sick, disabled and/or poor people who were and are cut loose from benefits, care and housing, because those people are considered a financial drag.

Sick or disabled people and anyone with an underlying health condition (I count poverty as such a condition) have been sacrificed for years for the purported economic good (see earlier note about the one percent and wealth creation). The coronavirus has simply brought a hot-news angle to situations where you hardly hoped there’d be one. For example: careworkers have been working for next-to-nothing in godawful conditions for years (weekend pay removed, no pay for travel time, sick leave slashed to the statutory minimum where the first 3 days off sick are unpaid, etc). I’ve written about this many times myself over the years and can confirm that absolutely nobody cared. However – things have improved for careworkers – on the visibility front, at least. The working conditions of careworkers are suddenly centre stage, because covid-19 is killing them and wiping out their clientele. Talk about scoring in extra time. Who says that fortunes can’t change? I don’t suppose that many of us imagined the day when reporters would stake out resthomes for retweets and the latest action, but here we are and there you go.

One more point before I return to the forums: whatever happens next, it’ll be people without economic power who’ll pay. We’ve learned this one over the years as well. Lift the lockdown and people who are at increased risk from covid will die. Plenty of people who don’t have the coronavirus will die as well, because the NHS and care systems will be stretched too thin to meet other needs. If lockdowns go on, though, it’ll be people who need to work to feed their families who will sink. Low paid people who have no savings will probably be knocked out altogether.

The real problem is that millions of people were living on the edge before the coronavirus turned up to push them over it. Sick, disabled and elderly people were dying. Millions of low-paid people couldn’t feed themselves and meet the rent. Lifting lockdowns, or keeping lockdowns doesn’t really take us anywhere new. There has to be a structure that gives everyone a chance. The pre-lockdown structure isn’t it.

37 thoughts on “Sacrificing sick, disabled and elderly people for economic gain? This ain’t exactly new

  1. TBH my finances/income (JSA) are more secure now under lockdown because it’s being paid automatically without the need for a signature and the obligatory grilling once a fortnight about what jobsearch I’ve done. Normally I have to submit myself to DWP/JCP scrutiny and never really know if my JSA is going to be paid until I walk out of the Jobcentre breathing a huge sigh of relief. In truth the lockdown hasn’t made that much difference to my life in other respects (apart from the PDSA being closed just when I needed them) , I usually do spend most afternoons watching daytime Freeview tv anyway, so nothing new there. The pubs and restaurants being closed doesn’t make any difference to me as I can’t afford to visit them anyway. And it’s nice not having the traffic noise.

  2. Just 10 minutes ago, the brother of a close friend of mine (who both live about an hour away from my town), dropped off a heavy duty mask for me. Irrespective of the ‘mask ineffective/mask IS effective’ advice (I’ve seen fresh opinions on both in the last 3 days), I am going to need it, my instincts tell me to use it.

    My new dwelling was put ‘on ice’, (their quote) with a ‘let agreed’ status on it, until lockdown was lifted (it was occupied to 25/3)—-a new tenancy agreement to be signed when the move was to occur–. It was full of reassurances by the managing agents, ‘don’t worry/no cost to you/landlord wants you as tenant’ etc. It was lovely, as removers in my area have all quarantined. But call me a cynic; I didn’t trust it…

    On Friday I just checked in with them by email, as they had requested; no problems……..but I also checked ‘my’ place; – It was up for let again showing ‘immediate occupancy’ available!
    I sent an urgent email, and their main contact who IS a nice lass, sent a reasurring response that this was just vagaries of system etc, ‘don’t panic, don’t worry’. I felt a little better, but still uneasy, -why did it show ‘immediate occupancy’?

    The reality hit yesterday morning when I got an email from the managing company director himself, advising that the owner wanted this done, and if there was interest shown, they would get in touch with me-‘about my position’.
    This place generated a lot of interest (and bluntly I can only afford it with LHA), I was lucky to get it. Lockdown or no bloody lockdown, it will happen again.

    I responded to this man and complimented him on his ‘diplomacy’, because we both damn well knew what he meant.
    I am making this move with the backing of a military group; remover quotes went through them, and at the time I talked with a remover in my new county-which has not quarantied at this time.
    I spoke to them again last night, and they have agreed on an ‘airlift’ type of emergency move, in 10 days from now. They have been lovely about this, and have agreed the same quote of the in abeyance remover. I need the approval of the RBL for this.

    I’m 75, with some health problems, but only age puts me in the vulnerable category. I am going from a county which has an acknowledged ‘cluster’ infection rate (way higher per population than ‘normal’), to a county with about the same population, but 8 times less infection. And I will be in the cab with the removers, the only way I can get down there.
    That MD’s email was heavy with ‘read between the lines’. It is coercion. I didn’t travel down twice on the damn train to get somewhere, to now lose it; so I take the risk.

    ………….and the friend who arranged that mask? A dedicated care home worker, with a ‘Manager’ who will not allow them to wear face masks because that don’t have enough of them (one staffer being told to take hers off; -she walked out). My friend a heavy asthmatic, who will not wear any mask, from any source, unless her colleagues can, -is now facing their first resident with Covid symptoms.
    She TG, is prepared to walk out to save her life, but that is breaking her.

    AND—-I checked again yesterday with what she told me a few days previously: the NHS are sending Covid 19 cases……to care homes. They are INTRODUCING infection to these homes, one Manager in the south, calling it deliberate culling of the frail and elderly.

    I KNOW my situation is better than most, but I had to tell somebody about this, and it also gives me an opportunity to relate how bloody decent some people are, in the midst of all these fucks.

    • Well best of luck with the move Linda, when it finally happens. It would be more reassuring if you had something in writing with a signature. As for the mask, if you’ve got one then you might as well use it. I’ve just got one of those ordinary surgical masks, but I don’t wear it when I’m out walking about just when I enter a shop. I tried using it whilst working at the foodbank but it was hopeless because it made my specs steam up and I need to wear glasses to be able to read the sell-by dates on everything when sorting the food donations. We have disposable latex gloves though and hand sanitizer, plus we keep the roller door open for fresh air whilst working so its almost like being outside.

      • Cheers, Trev.
        I actually signed tenancy-twice, There was a cock up with access on an overnight visit, so we re did it, and I signed again. Then the fires of hell were visited upon us and it was agreed sign closer to occupancy. If that second signing had remained in place, then I would have been responsible for rent. Having assistance with rent here meant obviously that I could get no assistance with rent there, and must pay full whack. Two rents;- so what they did was kind, but it seems it lasted for about a week; I was supposed to move on the 7/4.

        I bet I’ll steam up! I wear sunnies all the time, but if that occurs, the sunnies come off and the mask remains.
        I know that you struggle at times Trev, so it is brilliant that you give some time to the foodbank. Stay as safe as you can. I applied for ours here, but didn’t hear from them; they are a very efficient husband/wife team.
        We also have one of those ‘people’s cafes’. It does a rollocking job feeding people decent tucker on a Wed/Sat.

  3. I can echo what you’re saying there Trev, the lockdown hasn’t made a lot of difference to me either, apart from the early stage when I came down with some kind of flu bug which was a little worrying given that I’m 63, but the symptoms were thankfully mild, though I don’t know if it was Covid 19 as there are no tests… I did my bit and self-isolated for 14 days

    And yes, less traffic, I can even cross Newport Road at the end of the street with ease without having to walk up to the crossing – normally it’s car to car all day. And the air quality is so much better too.

    Kate, is it a case that what constitutes ‘normal’ has changed and that the reality of what is normal for people like us has become something of a new normal for the rest of society? I’m becoming a little fed up of reading articles in the Guardian regurgitating the notion that things can never be the same again, blah, blah, blah. I have a sneaking suspicion that after the crisis subsides the old normal of castigating and killing the poor, sick and disabled and demonising the unemployed and foreigners will return with a vengeance. After all someone will have to pay for all the money the government has spent. Already the Tories are beginning to spin a narrative of a heroic leader at the head of the nation fighting a monstrous foe. Parallels with Dunkirk are there, and sadly people seem to be buying it. All kudos to those elderly people who have been raising money for the NHS, but already the news stories are being written that focuses on this and allows the government, who should have been funding it properly in the first place, off the hook.

    I really do hope that there is a day of reckoning, and that we get the kind of government and society that we need instead of the one we’ve got. However, the cynic in me isn’t holding my breath, and now we have New Labour 2.0 in existence, I don’t hold out much prospect that they’ll be offering us anything other than a warmed over version of what we’re already getting from the Tories.

    • I have to say that I share your cynicism there… It’d be nice to think that when we go back to the so called normal days, we’ll keep some of the recent add ons such as a better tone from the dwp (directed no doubt at their new middle class universal credit claimants) and the extra staff who’ve been put on to make claiming benefits easier… but I wonder how long all of that will last. Probably not long.

    • I suppose we can hope that Johnson’s rescue by the NHS will lead to his arguing for better funding for it but it’s hard not to think that all that NHS staff will get out of the whole shitshow is a couple of thank you cards. And maybe a badge. That’s the staff who live through it all, of course. The ones that don’t might get a minute’s silence at the next rugby match. A minute or under.

      • And they have to pay for that effing badge! (Or so I believe). MPs get £10,000 extra to help with the ‘hardships’ of working from home, and even I get an extra £20 a week for the next year, but NHS staff? A poxy badge, that they have to pay for! What planet are we living on, cos I’m blowed if I know!

        Though all this does have it’s lighter side. I’m spending far too much time on social media dissing total morons trying to associate 5G with Covid 19, but a rather incredulous thread about people totally gobsmacked about agreeing with Piers Morgan has given me many a giggle. The world is upside down.

    • Padi, the lack of traffic has made an enormous difference, this is normally a busy area but I can get up in a morning and sit out the back with a cuppa &fag and it’s so peaceful all I can hear are the birds singing. There’s a little bit of traffic builds up during the day but no where near as much as usual, and the streets are pretty much deserted.
      As for Labour, it’s not looking too promising so far with Starmer sitting on that report into the shitty actions of the Rightwingers during Corbyn’s reign. And some of his appointments leave a lot to be desired – Rachel Reeves? “We’ll be tougher on Welfare than the Tories”. And Miliband? It was under him that Labour HQ told me that they supported the use of Benefit Sanctions as a “vital tool in helping people back to work”. Fuck that.

      • Totally agree with you there about New Labour 2.0. I have no confidence, and I suspect that Labour in Wales will be routed come the next Senedd ( used to be known as the Welsh Assembly) elections – which are next year. Sadly it’s likely that the Tories will benefit the most, and will be the biggest party, or so polls are suggesting at the moment. However, it’s unlikely that they’ll have sufficient a majority to form a government, so we’ll probably get yet another cosy coalition between Plaid Cymru and Labour and possibly the single LibDem left in captivity in Wales – who was given the poisoned chalice of education in the current Labour government. Starmer has said he’s committed to Labour’s manifesto outlined at the 2019 election, but I’m waiting to see if it gets watered down. I suspect that that is a foregone conclusion, given who is in the shadow cabinet. Most of it will be quietly dropped.

        I’m also enjoying the better air quality, though it’s usually not too bad here on this quiet leafy Victorian street. We have the advantage of a very large double garden as the 8 flats here are a conversion from a set of semis. It’s a nice place to live, and has been home for 30 years now. However I’m now thinking of moving back to West Wales to the coast and to be near my ageing mother, or to North Wales to a Welsh speaking community, though they are increasingly hard to find.

  4. It’s blatantly obvious that the Tories don’t give a shit about the poorest people. They’ve only increased Universal Credit begrudgingly because thousands of workers are now being forced to claim, and even then it’s only been increased for one year if I understand that correctly, but people on JSA have been left to rot on £74 a week (less Council Tax = £69 p/w), nowhere near enough to survive on ordinarily let alone during a National emergency when unexpected expenses may arise due to unforseen circumstances. Also, what of those who were already Sanctioned when the lockdown began? I haven’t heard of a Sanctions amnesty being declared. Thousands more people are now of necessity being referred to foodbanks, but there were already thousands of people using them to begin with. Lets not forget that a decade of Tory spending cuts and the wholesale destruction of the Social Security system wrecked Society long before Corvid 19 was ever heard of.

  5. This lockdown situation is making another form of inequality all the more obvious to those without broadband. Whilst the rest of the country are keeping themselves amused by watching YouTube vids, and downloading movies & music, as well as keeping in touch with family & friends via Zoom or Skype or Facebook or whatever the hell it is, those with little or no internet access are all the more isolated. There’s never been a better case for free broadband. I have a limited amount of internet access on my phone, but many don’t even have that. I don’t have a smart tv, I can’t download Netflix or watch Cable or Sky channels, just stuck with the standard freeview shite. I can’t watch so much Youtube on my phone either as it quickly gobbles up the available data. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. It’s all very well having all this technology in existence but if you’re too poor to be able to use it then it may as well have never been invented. When it comes to technology a two-tier Society exists.

    • I never though of that. I have a love/hate relationship with technology, refusing to use any social media or have a smart TV/phone.

      It works for me; I refuse to work for it. BUT; I was thinking that technology has really come into its own during this plague. It hasn’t though, has it, for those who don’t have any of those things?
      Christ! How do they cope?
      During this moving thing, EVERYTHING has been ‘use the website’, and 8 out of 10, it did not provide assistance……but their marketing is still thriving, automated of course.
      Yesterday, I talked to a robot (I mean a robot!) for water supply bill cancellation, Today I get a text, asking me ‘out of ten’, how they did!
      The world has gone to hell in a handbasket, and they expect me to cooperate with that shite!!

      I’m sorry Trev, and for folks worse off than you. What is there to say? No wonder I’m a damned misanthrope!

  6. Agree with you Trev really….I can understand the whole security around JSA having been through the system myself. It’s strange 5 me not to be stressing about money and paying the a schools worker I’m automatically being paid so I know I can pay the rent and I’ll be as “well off” as I am usually lol!!
    My life hasn’t changed under lockdown all I did before was go to work come back go shopping come back. As working poor I could never afford even a day trip never mind a holiday and the horrible disc pain I was enduring has gone now while I’m resting up.
    I know a lot of ppl thrown onto benefits for the first time are surprised how little they are. I’d like to think the extra 20 a week will stay though I’m not hopeful… what do u all think?

    • The extra £20 ought to continue beyond a year but should also apply to JSA too as it’s 6 years since the Council of Europe said that UK Benefits are being paid at an inadequate level:

      The only other thing that has changed for me (and everyone else) is that shopping is now more difficult with big queues to get into Aldi and Tesco. Being on a tight budget I normally shop around and get a few things in different stores, such as Home Bargains and B&M , as well as the other supermarkets and some stuff local. And to shop local I need cash but the ATMs are situated either in the town centre or outside Tesco, or inside Aldi. There’s a ATM inside the local newsagents but it charges £2 for withdrawals, and also whereas I can get some things local they don’t have everything I want, e.g. Veggie sausages or soya milk, and I can get a sliced loaf in Aldi for 47p but local it’s £1.40, so it’s a pain trying to work out where to shop and in what order.

  7. Yes I’ve noticed prices go up too and I have to keep an eye. Again as working poor my cash is limited and by the time rent bills and union dues and tv licence and phone are paid I’m about £8 a week better off than I’d be on benefits. I admit to stockpiling cat supplies!! I’d like to think after all this coronavirus a new society will be built like after WW2 ( and I know it’s maybe a poor comparison given the horrors of rhat) but I can’t help thinking it’ll go back to an I’m alright Jack mentality!
    I really feel for all those isolated with no Internet connections or wifi or devices. I’m so lucky wifi is included in the house bills and I have both a smartphone and a tablet. I really need it for my Union Stuff and I know I’m bored bcoz yesterday I watched back to back Derek Acorahs ghost town lol on my 5 ( I’m not proud of myself lol?!)
    In solidarity with you all and Trev it’s a disgrace the old style JSA isn’t uprated. Makes a mockery of “the law” that says now you need 94 a week to live on but old style claimants only need 73.10 or whatever it is!

    • LOL 😂 I watch all those haunted house shows too, but I’m convinced Derek was a fake (I call him Derek Pakora), he was caught out a few times.
      I’ve just got back from shopping, was lucky, no queue at Aldi as it wasn’t very busy and I was able to walk straight in.

  8. Government urged to increase child benefit to help poorer UK families

    The Department for Work and Pensions said:”

    “We are doing whatever it takes to ensure people are supported through these unprecedented times, implementing an enormous package of measures, including increased universal credit payments, the coronavirus job retention scheme, statutory sick pay, mortgage holidays and greater protection for renters.”
    Blah, blah, blah….

  9. Starmer not in favour of Basic Income:

    “Labour’s new leader has said it would be inappropriate to impose a Universal Basic Income (UBI) benefit system during the coronavirus crisis.”

    “His spokesperson has said that Labour will “be making arguments for a new settlement that is more simple, more effective and offers proper protection to people” after the lockdown ends”

    He hasn’t said WHY it would be “inappropriate” or what the “simple and effective” settlement would consist of, but I’m guessing it’s not a pile of free cash for everyone (unless you’re an MP).

    • ”As well as applauding the NHS staff and key workers each Thursday how about booing the Government every Friday?”

      What brilliant ideas you have Trev…..

  10. Well the economy has fallen off a cliff now so we’re all screwed, and probably for some years to come. Mass unemployment combined with a dysfunctional and punitive Social Security system, and when foodbanks are already operating at maximum capacity, is a recipe for a Humanitarian crisis. And of course the ongoing health risk…

  11. UK Working on New Programme to Help Long-Term Jobless: Sunak

    By Reuters, Wire Service Content Oct. 2, 2020

    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government is working to provide more support to people facing long-term unemployment because of the coronavirus crisis, finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday.

    Sunak said the government’s Department for Work and Pensions was looking at developing a new version of its Work Programme that was launched in 2011 to get people out of welfare and into work.

    “We’re actively looking at what a version of that might be that we could put in place,” he said in a question-and-answer session with members of the public on LinkedIn.

    “That will provide that intensive support to find new opportunities for those who have been unemployed for a long time, so stay tuned.”

    Unemployment is expected to rise sharply as Sunak’s huge job subsidy plan is replaced with less generous support from next month.

    (Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden)

    Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters

  12. The phrase “the new normal” was used by the Guardian as far back as 2017 but in relation to food poverty:

    And now we hear this:

    How we’re helping to end child food poverty – Dr Therese Coffey

    Anger as Tories ‘have to be dragged kicking and screaming’ to help hungry kids

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