On Thursday a man tied himself to the railings outside the Job Centre, poured a flammable liquid on himself and set himself alight.
Such a desperate act is a sign of how some people are being driven to despair by the continuing government attacks on the unemployed, claimants, homeless and disabled people.
Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith are continuing their relentless cuts in welfare. Cameron recently proposed that under 25s should have housing benefit removed. This would leave young unemployed workers entirely dependent on their relatives for housing. This would also include employed workers on low pay. Anyone who has looked at the jobs in a job centre will see that many are on the minimum wage, far too low to cover most housing costs.
This latest proposal follows on the heels of the endless Workfare scandals, where unemployed people are forced to work for their benefits, but with no extra pay. The Work Programme was brought in by the ConDems less than a year ago and it is unknown how many people it has ‘helped into work’. We do know that thousands of people are being forced into unpaid work.
Protests earlier in the year against Workfare forced many companies to withdraw from the programme, and others to demand that it should not be compulsory. The Work Programme hit the headlines most recently when young unemployed people were left to sleep under a bridge before working through the day at the Jubilee.
Currently Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson are challenging the government in the High Court after being forced onto Workfare schemes.
In a welcome development UNITE the Union has announced a total boycott of Workfare denouncing it as ‘state-sponsored slavery’.
There are over 1 million under 25’s currently unemployed with 2.61 million people currently unemployed. The government see them as an easy target and seek to save billions more by attacking their benefits and forcing them to work for free.
The desperate man in Birmingham who set himself alight is a reminder of the human cost of the ConDem cuts. If Cameron &Co are allowed to get away with more attacks there will be many more people driven to take desperate action. The blame for their blood and their pain lies squarely with the government.