The confident "We're all in it together" speeches from the government when they arrived in power were supposed to pep us all up ... make us believe that such a thing could possible be true. I would suggest that nothing could be further from the truth, and, what is worse, the situation is getting worse ... for the needy, the bottom 10% of society in income and opportunity terms.
This very week I read a startling account of how a teenage underclass is rapidly developing in London. While the Shard rises high and other accommodation for the wealthy stretches into the skies, there are problems that are not talked of and which threaten to create a huge divide in our previously fair society. It has been revealed that there are teenagers - not just a few - who ride the buses at night. The article (in the I newspaper, January 17) says: "For these boys, it is not really a means of transportation. Tonight it's a bed, a shelter, a home, a refuge." The article describes these boys as "too scared to go home very often". 'The system' does not take these hundreds of cases into account ... 'the system' can't deal with this.
For us - in Birmingham - we are well aware of the need for voluntary food banks for the poorest in society and, yes, the Christian element in society has responded to this need; these facilities are there. And it is just as well they are there as the ConDems have condemned so many to have to resort to this source of help. Even we, I as a basic pensioner and my wife virtually crippled with arthritic conditions but without getting additional financial help, feel conscience-stricken to supply what we can to the food banks from time to time. I don't like to boast about that (if it is such) but I want to emphasise how serious the problem is.
We're also getting to be aware of how those who were previously getting a disability allowance are having to fight their cases to an extraordinary extent to retain their allowance, and what sort of stringent and unfair tests they have to go through to keep them, very often having to go through an appeal procedure.
Yes, we know there have been shirkers and hangers-on who milk these benefits, but we also should know that they form a small percentage of such claimants. The real claimants are suffering... badly.
There is more. The council tax system is changing ... and again it will mainly affect the less well off. Council charges will rise, and yet the debt management problem of councils is also escalating. They cannot collect what they are owed already, so how will they be able to collect much of the extra charges?
The Bishop of Liverpool says that cities such as Liverpool risk succumbing to what he termed "urban diabetes". "Urban diabetes is where the blood pumps around the heart but fails to reach all parts of the body", he said. "The challenge we face is to ensure that the wealth is shared in such a way that it flows around the whole body. If in social terms it fails to do so then we face the danger of parts of the body atrophying and dying." (my italics)
It is patently obvious that services in certain areas of the country (mainly the midlands and the north) are being stretched too far. Liverpool is being asked to share the equivalent of £252 per person while affluent areas of north Dorset are losing just £2 per inhabitant.
If matters continue as they are ... and they will because no-one is responding to the issues to correct them ... this time next year could see the beginnings of massive unrest.
The situation is not fair! While MPs refuse to drop their salaries (and are even thinking of going for an increase, I hear) they reduce the start pay of policemen and also expect the most vulnerable to pay more than their fair share.
Can we sit at home and be comfortable doing so? What would Jesus think of what is going on here ... and in the rest of the world for that matter.