Tag Archives : austerity


GUEST BLOG POST: Why localism harms domestic violence services

On Monday the Sisters will take to the streets to demand that women’s needs are met and that cuts to domestic violence services are reversed and more – that they are properly funded.

We have just a few days left to the election and we are tired of the politics on offer. We are here to demand an end to austerity and to call on the government to stop colluding with the violence inflicted on women.

Next week, we may see a new political agenda. But at this point it’s crucial for us to remember the last five years: to understand the vicious, brutal and lasting impact of austerity on women. I have firsthand experience of how the cuts have devastated domestic violence services, and I believe that if more people understood what’s happened, they would be as furious as I am about it.

Local authority budget cuts
Austerity has been enacted in a number of ways. Firstly, local authority budgets have been decimated – this has led to less money to spend on services and thus a rise in cheaper service provision and closures. Specialist services have been cut and the life-saving professionals in them have been replaced with untrained agency workers. Deskilling and low pay of those working in services has been a common theme; wages for refuge workers, for example, have significantly decreased in the past five years. This has also lead to cuts in one of the biggest employers of women – the public sector – and the cuts mean a loss in women’s employment.

Localism
Austerity has gone hand-in-hand with localism. The 2011 Localism Act was heralded by central government as bringing innovation to local communities – finally allowing local authorities to trade as if they were individuals and thus create a context for competition in services. Local communities, we were told, would be empowered to make choices around spending.

Yet the consequences of competition have been brutal for those seeking help for domestic violence: instead of rising standards, we’re seeing a vicious race to the bottom: services are being run on a shoe-string by non-specialist agencies, short term contracts mean at any time a service could lose its funding and be withdrawn. And the women who use these services? Well, they lose access to lifesaving specialist support in an instant.

A culture of blame
Austerity has cut more than money. It has gone hand-in-hand with an insidious and creeping language of blame: blame women for not leaving, blame bad parenting, blame the poor, blame immigrants, blame teenage mothers, blame feckless youth. Austerity’s cultural consequence has apportioned blame on those who are the victims of an increasingly unequal society.

Look no further than the cuts to domestic violence services, where the biggest cuts have been to specialist services: services for BME women and those with disabilities, where specialist expertise saves women’s lives. Austerity has driven up inequality in everyway possible.

Localism has created a cycle of blame within politics as well – it’s given central government a means of diminishing their responsibility – by pointing out that cuts were being enacted at the local level. Yet, it also handed local authorities a get out of jail free card – they can blame central government for cutting budgets and minimize their own agency in the cuts, allowing them to ignore the communities they pertained to serve. In the midst of this are individuals who are trying to live their lives in under the tyranny of domestic violence.

State collusion with perpetrators
Domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour that, at its core, takes away the rights of those on whom it is enacted; it is a brutal, dehumanizing and calculated effort to rip away the self of the person it is inflicted on. The language used by perpetrators of abuse is one of minimization and blame – it holds the victim / survivor responsible for the violence inflicted on them. In cutting domestic violence services in the name of austerity, the government, both local and national, have colluded with every perpetrator. They’ve created the cultural conditions for the oppression of women in the most violent way.

I’ve seen this oppression happen first hand. When the economic crash hit, I’d just begun working on the national domestic violence helpline. In the last seven years I have continued to work in this field: as an advocate supporting women through the courts, with young women facing violence and exploitation and now in trying to improve service responses to women’s needs. In the last seven years within the sector, I’ve seen the violent erosion of women’s rights, I’ve seen doors close, I’ve seen women brutalized, harmed and shamed by a system that should be there to help them. I’ve seen the language of austerity offer a violent mouthpiece to those that wish to do women harm, to blame us for the violence inflicted on us and to refuse to hold perpetrators to account.

Yet amongst this violence I’ve seen incredible resistance – for some women it was resistance of the mind, for others it was managing to call a friend while a perpetrator was out, or to learn English or to take public transport for the first time. In those defiant acts that women took against those who wished to control them I was nourished, I was empowered to know that if women can resist such brutality then we can stand and rise to the mass brutality being inflicted against us now.

With a week to go to the election the Sisters are left with no choice. Not one of the main Westminster parties have shown themselves willing to grasp the violence of the inequality that women face. For them cuts equate to services being farmed out for the profits of the few. For women cuts mean death.

On Monday, Sisters Uncut are taking to the streets to say that no longer will we be silenced by a politics that refuses to take our needs seriously. No longer will we accept the excuses of national and local government. We will fight and resist because we have a right to stand up to the violence inflicted by those that wish to control and punish us for who we are.

Sisters Uncut will be taking direct action against cuts to domestic violence services on Monday 4th May – join us at the scoop, Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2DB at 13:00pm https://www.facebook.com/events/883360388398243/


Why I Am Taking Action Against HSBC – Sat 21st March 2015

It’s been nearly five years since the coalition government came into power and in the lead up to elections we are taking toll of the government’s legacy. So far the figures are coming in at a whopping £35 billion worth of cuts to public services and we are starting the notice the irreversible changes. Just as it all started to sink in along came the biggest banking leak off all time. Hot on the toes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, came Hervé Falciani with files revealing widespread tax avoidance, evasion and money laundering being actively marketed to HSBC’s high net worth clients. On the list there has been 7,000 UK citizens identified who have over $21.7 billion of untaxed earnings in HSBC Swiss accounts. As well as starting the crash in the first place back in 2008, the banks are now pocketing billions by dodging tax and helping others do the same. It’s daylight robbery on the grandest scale. We’re not broke. The cuts to our vital public services are a political choice, not an economic necessity. We need to stop the tax dodgers, make the banks pay and fight to protect our public services.

 

In 2010, the coalition government came to power they claimed in their Coalition Agreement that ‘Deficit reduction takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement’. Deficit reduction can take two paths. The first path involves cutting public spending and the second route is to increase public spending with the aim of stimulating the economy. There was always a choice. However, from day dot, there was an ideological agenda to roll back the state.

 

The Tory agenda has always been that the market, not the state will solve all societal woes through innovation and enterprise. Spending on public services and welfare was cut deeply, services were sold off to private companies and tax breaks were given to the rich. Furthermore, the tax gap of £35 billion from tax avoidance from UK businesses and the £50 billion gap from criminal and fraudulent activities has gone uncollected.

 

Then along came the biggest banking leak of all time. On the list there has been 7,000 UK citizens identified who have over $21.7 billion of untaxed earnings in HSBC Swiss accounts. Only one person so far has been charged with criminal activity, with George Osborne claiming that it is not his role to bring these people to justice. Not too surprisingly, the man in charge of HSBC at the time Lord Green, is a now a Tory Peer and the party have received £5 million worth of donations from the clients identified in the files.

 

The HSBC files have revealed that austerity is a political choice, and the poorest are paying while the rich are getting richer. If the Tory party win these elections we are looking at another £55 billion worth of cuts by 2019. The reality is that from 2010 – 2015 they took the lowest hanging fruit, and next time round we will all feel the cuts more directly as Britain’s welfare state will be irrevocably dismantled.   I am taking action this Saturday 21st in London against HSBC to raise awareness of the Tory parties failure to bring tax dodgers to justice and to defend our welfare state.


ACTION CALL OUT

The Great British Tax Robbery: CITIZENS’ ARREST

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Election season is upon us. For the past four years we’ve been fighting the coalition government’s savage public sector cuts and exposing their lies and hypocrisy. Labour and the coalition promise more cuts to come. Join us on Saturday the 21st March for a national day of action to send a clear message to the political parties: reverse the cuts!

The government told us they’d “protect the poorest and most vulnerable”. They said “those with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of the cuts”. And what have we seen? Dismantling the NHS and wrecking the welfare state. Cutting schools, youth clubs, sure start centres, domestic violence refuges and libraries. Slashing local council budgets. Attacking disabled people with inhumane ‘work capability assessments’ and cuts to vital benefits. Removing access to justice through legal aid cuts. Allowing the big six energy companies to push people into fuel poverty. Cutting jobs, wages and pensions. Selling off social housing and moving people away from their communities. Driving hundreds of thousands into food banks and making families choose between heating or eating.

Angry? Join us on Saturday 21st March on the trail of one of the most obvious crimes of all time: the Great British Tax Robbery. We’re targeting the governments’ favourite tax-dodging bank, HSBC. David Cameron says we can’t afford funding for the welfare state. But the deepest and most brutal cuts to our vital public services have been enacted whilst big banks like HSBC who caused the financial crash pocket billions in tax avoidance and help other companies to do the same.

George Osborne thinks it’s “not his job” to clean up corrupt tax-dodgers. So it’s up to us to show HSBC for what it really is: a crime scene. On Saturday 21st let’s send a clear message to the government and HSBC that what they’ve done is CRIMINAL.

Dress as your detective of choice or as a tax-dodging robber with a bag full of public service swag. Turn your local HSBC into an ‘active crime scene’, cordon off the area, take ‘witness statements’ from passers-by and get set to expose the crimes against our public services.

The government talks about ‘benefits scroungers’, but we all know who’s really scrounging off the state. It’s time to bring the REAL CRIMINALS to JUSTICE.

Go to the actions page to find an action taking place in your area, or organise one yourself! Information here on how to organise an action. If you need any help get in touch on ukuncut@gmail.com.

Use the #taxdodgingistheft hashtag on the day and to get planning.

Let’s come together on the 21st and take a stand against austerity.

See you on the streets!