“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
(Article 25, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
I came across Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was suddenly struck with a thought: will residents of the eighth richest country in the world find themselves in a situation akin to a smaller, third world nation?
Ok, so that comparison was probably a little dramatic, but not as far away from reality as some of you may believe. You only have to be a casual consumer of the news to know that we are well and truly screwed. With unemployment on the rise and many people finding it hard to make ends meet, how long will we be able to maintain our stiff upper lip before we start crying out for a change we can believe in.
As it stands, there are already 13 million people in the UK living below the poverty line; half of those are actually in employment. However, the government is calling for us all (excluding the wealthy) to pull in our belts so tight it may actually cut us in two. With the welfare system about to undergo an extreme makeover; and many public services (including the jobs they generate) being scrapped, is Great Britain about to become Grim Britain?
According to MGM Advantage, if you want to just maintain the standard of living that you had last year, you will need to spend an extra £678! So where is this money supposed to come from? With the price of food, rent and travel all increasing, but wages and benefits going in the opposite direction, it seems we are being asked to become conjurers of some sort.
The Office of National Statistics released figures stating that the cost of food is rising three times faster than the average wage. Many families are now faced with a tough choice: beans or bills. Who would have thought that the supermarkets’ buy one get one free deals were still out of the budgets of some of the people living in this country? To combat this, food banks are popping up quicker than spring daffodils, but are still unable to reach some of the country’s neediest. The thing about food banks is that they are primarily charitable organisations who have to fundraise and rely on the good will of ordinary folk to keep them afloat. The other problem is that with them working on a referral only basis, people who are not in touch with services for any reason have no way accessing the emergency supplies.
On the topic of food, I’m just going to throw something out there: I think it is no coincidence that as there is demand to provide food at a cheaper price, we are seeing our meat products produced with alternatives we would not normally consider eating. Worse than that, traces of veterinary medication have also been found which implies to me that these animals could have been unwell before they were slaughtered. Things have got so bad over here that people are literally eating scabby old horses.
If you are reading this, tucking into your free range organic chicken from Waitrose, you probably are not experiencing the same level of concern as me. But then again, has your landlord informed you of your rent increase yet? I was alarmed to find out that in some cases, Londoners are spending about 59% of their income on rent (this doesn’t even include the amount it costs to maintain their homes).
So what happens when the rental rates are soaring and the demand for affordable housing is dwarfing the actual supply? You only need to walk through the most built up parts of the country to see people with nowhere but a shop doorway to call home. In 2011/12, London alone saw 5,678 people sleeping rough, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. It is hard to quantify the amount of people that are without a home, because the majority of them don’t make it to the streets. Many are living in hostels, bed and breakfasts, or just sofa surfing with fingers crossed they will be able to find somewhere permanent to lay their heads.
The government has decided to put a cap on the amount of housing benefits a claimant can receive, leading to prophesies of people being forced to live in ghettos outside of inner cities as they can no longer afford the rents these areas command. But wouldn’t a more universally beneficial alternative be for them to put a cap on what landlords are allowed to charge? With less money spent on rent, there would be more money to spend on food, savings and the other essentials set out in Article 25.
With services for the elderly and disabled being slashed, and the future of the NHS as we know it looking shaky, I’m really worried for the people that are not in any position to fend for themselves. The government’s brutal cuts will appease those who don’t believe that anyone deserves a free ride in life. Unfortunately, it is these very services and welfare aid that sets a country like ours aside from others in the developing world. Countries that do not have the money or infrastructure to fend for their weak have no choice but to cast them aside; but I find it hard to believe the same to be true of the UK.
W| By Taytula Burke @Tayekova