Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Fairer Society - Letter to Weston Mercury

An edited version of this letter was published in today's Weston Mercury:

I was saddened to read the letter from Esme Heal informing us that only 2 of the 11 residents who were moved from Poppyfields Dementia Care Home when it was closed are still alive. And in a separate article, the National Housing Federation’s claim that the cuts to Supporting People funding in North Somerset are the second largest in the South West, after Cornwall. This funding is used to support the most vulnerable people in our society including the elderly, people with physical and learning disabilities, people with mental health issues, homeless people and people fleeing domestic abuse.

I really think it’s time for us to decide what sort of society we want to live in? Do we want to live in a society where we give our most vulnerable people the ability to live their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve, or do we want to provide them with the lowest level of care for the least amount of money? Why is it acceptable in our society for our state pension to be under the poverty level? Why is it acceptable that wages are so low that many people have to have more than 1 job to survive? Why is it also acceptable in our society for some people to “earn” so much money that they don’t know what to do with it. We live in a country where the gap between the richest and the poorest is the second largest in the developed world, with only the U.S.A. ahead of us.

There is another way and we really need to choose it soon. We need to close the gap between rich and poor and distribute wealth more evenly through a fairer taxation system and clamping down on tax avoidance. We need to turn the minimum wage into a living wage, and ensure all our senior citizens live above the poverty level. We need to stop believing the lie we have been fed that we can pay low taxes and still get good services – the next 4 years will show that this isn’t the case. We need to realise that paying taxes allows investment in public services to support our most vulnerable citizens, and which ultimately benefits all of us. We will all be old one day, we may become disabled or homeless, we may suffer mental ill health or domestic abuse. When that happens to us, or members of our families, we will need our public services. But if we’re not very careful they will be gone. The former residents of Poppyfields were, and are, of the generation who fought so hard to create the welfare state, including its greatest achievement – our National Health Service, which is now under threat. As their descendants we must do all we can to protect their legacy to us.

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