Sunday, 18 March 2012
What government cuts mean to people on benefits in Barnet.
After I'd answered all of the questions (I must say that the young lady is a credit to her mum and her school), I asked my friend how she was getting on. I've known he since my days at Orange Hill School. At school she was a popular, attractive and intelligent girl. When she left school she started a successful career and was soon on a decent wage. She had a daughter bought a house and was earning £45,000 a year. Then she developed a debiltating chronic degenerative illness. She has been on benefit for the last few years, unable to work and struggling to bring up her daughter. She has a close local network of friends and family who help out with childcare and needs the help of friends.
As she is well organised and sensible, she was managing Ok. That was until this government got in. I didn't know, but for people such as her on disability benefit with a mortgage, the government used to pay 2/3rds of the mortgage interest. At a stroke, this was cut to 1/3rd. Can you imagine how this affects someone living with chronic illness and trying to raise a daughter? As we discussed it she said "Did you know that Free school dinners no longer exist in Barnet?" I queried this. I know of familys who get them. No they don't, she said. Barnet give an allowance of £1.80 a day. At the Wren Academy, the average cost of a meal is £3.50 a day. That is a shortfall of £1.70. Now to you and me that may seem like nothing, but to someone on a tightly balanced budget, it is a fortune. Her daughter is a diligent student. Wheras treats from granny for most children are CD's or chocolates, for her it is printer ink cartridges to do her homework. In all my friend has a £45 a week budget gap. She has had this since October. She spoke to the Council. They said "Sell your house and move". If only it were that simple, her daughter is studying GCSE's and will be for the next year and a half. Wren Academy follows a fairly unique syllabus, so she her education would be completely disrupted if she moved. She will also be cut off from her support network of family and friends.
As my friend told me this, I mused upon the various tribulations of the disabled in Barnet. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe Barnet have secretly embarked on a program of ethnically cleansing the disabled and downtrodden from the Borough. Every spiteful cut demoralises people more. Eventually they will be driven out, to cheaper parts of the country. The sickening thing about this is that Barnet is one of the richest areas of the country. The disabled are being sacrificed to keep property taxes low for the well off.
Do you really want want the local authority to drive all of the ill, disabled, handicapped out? Is that the sort of society you want to be a part of. My friend is quite happy to move, once her daughter has completed her education. In the meantime, she is absolutely stuffed and in a state of despair.
I helped filmmaker Charles Honderick make a film called A Tale of Two Barnets to give people such as my friend a voice. Please support the film and come and see it at one of the showings. The full details are on the Film website.