Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Wikipedia Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Wikipedia

As shattering arbitrary cuts to bereavement payments come into force this week, Kara Bryan exposes the sheer barbarity of austerity ideology

As Theresa May defends the latest cuts to bereavement payments as ‘fair’, a dying father of two described the shattering difference a day could make to his bereaved family, should he die after George Osborne’s arbitrary cuts to bereavement payments come into force this week.

Giving an interview to the BBC from his hospital bed ‘Alan’ described the cuts to bereavement payments - under which families can no longer expect financial support until children reach 18, but for a mere 18 months after the parent dies - as ‘callous and savage.’ He expressed his disbelief that a benefit that has been in place since the establishment of the welfare state was being so brutally attacked.

Like so many other terminally ill patients, if Alan dies after the cuts take effect on April 6th, his family will lose £54,000 in bereavement payments. Bereft partners just beginning to come to terms with their grief will now face the additional burden of financial hardship, and those already experiencing financial difficulties will be hit hardest.

In addition, under changes to Universal Credit which remove the family element for third and sequential children, families with three children will be £2,870 worse off annually – particularly pernicious because it places a value on some children, but not others. 

When Theresa May took office she commended her predecessor David Cameron on his premiership and remarked that his legacy was one of ‘social justice’ - to the resounding disbelief of those familiar with the callous and inflexible benefits system so brilliantly portrayed in Ken Loach’s award-winning ‘I, Daniel Blake’. 

Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ rhetoric was to be re-branded as May’s visionary ‘Shared Society.’ She spoke of fighting the ‘burning injustice’ of being born poor and declared that her government would work not in the interests of the privileged few, but for the many – promising to make Britain a country that works for everyone, not just the rich. 

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister seems to suffer from selective amnesia, attacking the poor in her first budget and giving big business a £10bn tax cut.  

Instead of progressive welfare reforms May has done exactly what she swore she wouldn’t, working in the interest of the privileged few at the expense of society’s most vulnerable, and so the great austerity swindle continues unabated.  Axing the Child Poverty Unit and housing benefit for young people then fining them once they’re homeless, benefit cuts to the disabled, the bedroom tax, deliberate underfunding of the NHS…  the list goes on and on. 

In spite of her relentless attack on the underprivileged, last month Theresa May had the audacity to tell Vogue magazine how much she enjoys fashion and that she would like the superpower ‘to end hunger.’ Theresa, you do have the superpower to end hunger! At least in the UK.  How desperately sad that the Prime Minister doesn’t enjoy fulfilling her promises and helping the needy as much as she enjoys spending £1,000 on a single pair of trousers and selling weapons to terrorists.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies the number of poor children living in the UK is set to rise by 50% to 3.6 million by 2020. Let that sink in. It is expected to increase by half again in the next three years. This is the direct result of savage welfare cuts.  It’s a new low even by Tory standards and epitomises the sheer barbarity of austerity ideology.

Kara Bryan

Kara Bryan is a writer and activist and regular contributor to the Counterfire website. She is a member of Counterfire and Stop the War

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