Yesterday evening, when my lovely carer came to get me ready for bed, she found me watching the divisional vote on the Labour amendment concerning Tax Credit cuts in the House of Commons. She asked what it was and what it was about. So I told her.
After listening intently to my explanation she, very rightly in my opinion, asked what she, and her family, should do when her tax credits are slashed next year.
And I didn’t know what to say.
She works full time as a carer, her husband also works full time in low paid job and she has five children under sixteen, the youngest being nine. They live in a council flat on an estate near to where I live, not the wealthiest of neighbourhoods. As far as I know, they have very little spare cash and certainly do not have an extravagant lifestyle or luxury holidays. I did my best to answer her question but I’m not entirely sure that her less than perfect English was the main reason why I couldn’t make that explanation, or give here any reassurance that she would still have enough money to enable her to feed her family after April.
What explanation could I give her?
I could talk about tax thresholds but that won’t really help her. It won’t help her afford to pay her rent, heat her house or feed her children. The tax free element in her salary and her husband’s salary will increase but that won’t compensate her for the Tax Credits she will stop receiving. She will be losing money from her weekly budget and has no realistic prospect of being able to make up the shortfall.
I could talk about the new National Living Wage but that is not coming in next year and, anyway, I have no influence on her employer or her husband’s employer to ensure they are both paid that amount. Neither of them are receiving the pay they should be getting anyway. The current London Living Wage is £9.15 per hour, my carer is paid £7.50, what am I supposed to do about that? Suggest she petitions for a pay rise? Tell her to go on strike? The agency would just send me another low paid worker to provide the care I need and my carer would be out of a job. Tell the agency I won’t accept workers who are paid under the London Living Wage? Social Services won’t pay the agency enough to do that and I would have to top up wages myself which is an impossibility as I am on Benefits myself.
I could talk about using foodbanks and charity handouts but if that’s the only solution to the loss of income caused by cutting Tax Credits, my carer could, very rightly, question what the point in going out to work was. She and her husband have found jobs and work full time so they don’t have to go down that route and, anyway, the role of charities and foodbanks is not to prop up their employer’s salary schemes or the Government’s inability to legislate effectively for low paid employees. My carer and her husband have every right to expect their hard work to be sufficiently well rewarded for them to be able to bring up their family and live safely, securely and comfortably without having to worry about where every penny will come from.
I am longing for the day when we will have a Government that cares for the people that elected it. I am longing for the day when we will have a Government which does not say one thing in their manifesto and then does something different and detrimental to the country as soon as the final vote has been cast. I am longing for the day when we have a Government that will allow me to tell my carer not to worry and that everything will be all right. The problem is, with things the way they are, I can’t. As things stand currently I don’t know how to respond to, what is, a simple question and, until the people at the top change their methods and start caring for others instead of just for themselves, I don’t know when I will.