Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Recent news that the next Labour Government would abolish the Bedroom Tax, sack ATOS and reinstate EMA for students staying on at school, is greatly welcomed

Several years ago, I was left homeless with two young children.

Fortunately, back then, we had a Labour administration that was committed to helping people fulfil their potential; single mums in particular, were urged to consider retraining, which was fully funded by the Government, and there was no pressure to look for work if you opted for training, as long as you had a child still in the education system.

We managed to find somewhere to rent (housing benefit covered the entire rent in those days, so you were completely protected in that sense, and of course there was no Bedroom Tax, so your family didn't suffer the added stress of living in overcrowded conditions) and as soon as the trauma of the relationship breakdown had passed and I felt strong enough, I embarked on three years of further education to gain my diploma in counselling, which promised me far greater job opportunities and freedom from relying on having a partner to help raise my children.

The whole initiative was about empowering women, and an added benefit was that as a parent, by going to college yourself, you were endorsing education to your children, leading by example.  When your own children reached the age of 16, they were entitled to EMA, at the higher rate of £30 per week, if you were on a low income.  All of these measures helped to lift people out of poverty, giving people every opportunity to fulfil themselves and have a decent quality of life.

Through college, I gained not only knowledge and skills, but equally, self-confidence.  It made me look at the poor life choices I'd made in the past; never again was I going to feel pressured into being with a man who was actually quite a negative role model for my sons to grow up around.

All of these things seem to be hated by the Conservatives, and their attack on welfare has attempted to drag us all back to the bad old days, when women had few choices and children grew up in families which were far from happy.

Although the Coalition Government has slashed services for those with mental health problems, I have been lucky enough to find work using my diploma, though full-time hours in this field are very hard to come by, as the Conservatives appear to see no value in supporting people with emotional problems, even though the World Health Organisation regularly expresses concern at the rapidly rising rate of depression. Studies suggest that by 2030, more people across the world, will suffer from depression, than will be affected by cancer, diabetes, heart disease or malaria.

The recent news that the next Labour government would abolish the Bedroom Tax, sack ATOS and reinstate EMA for students staying on at school, is greatly welcomed and puts some clear water now between Labour and the Tories, as the next General Election looms on the horizon.

In May 2015, voters will have a choice between Labour, who will help individuals from poorer backgrounds fulfil their potential again, and more brutal attacks on the poor, and the services they rely on, from the Conservatives.

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