It was a picture of Theresa Coffey, the Work and Pensions Minister, with a caption declaring “majority of Paralympians fit for work” and the suggestion of benefit-rule changes to come.
Some friends thought it was true, giving vent to their spleen in denunciation of further horrors being inflicted on the poor. However, that hasn’t actually happened yet though nothing with this administration would surprise me. A few athletes revelling in well-earned plaudits may well face more than a doping test in years to come.
But whilst that may be fiction, the truth is out there and has even been put onto the screen in a Ken Loach movie. His film I, Daniel Blake, showed the “institutionalised cruelty”, as he termed it, that is the UK benefit system.
Whilst that was fiction, it was based on fact. I know, as I am an old friend of the scriptwriter, and Paul Laverty told me of his research as he wrote what would ultimately win the Palme d’Or in 2016.
What he narrated did happen in real life and worse. And the tragedy is it’s worse now than then and worsening still as the uplift ends.
It’s not just ritual humiliations and dogmatic rules enforced by intransigent staff – all threatened by their bosses to be hard and ruthless or it’ll happen to them.
It’s painful hunger felt by kids, let alone parents, who are sacrificing meals to feed their young. It’s cold, biting cold as winter comes, and there’s no coins available to feed the meter. It’s humiliation and indignity, as the price of poverty hits home.
As experts have shown, the Universal Credit cut is not just a drop of £20 a week, as to make it up those working – and many on this benefit are – must earn far, far more. That just won’t be possible on the low wages and already long hours of work they’re already doing. At the same time, the cost of living’s rising and utility bills are increasing.
This is fact not fiction and it’s barbaric, cruel, and shameful.