Who Matters?

Thursday 5th November 2015

Picture the scene: you have a job, which you go to every day. You do a good job. One day you’re late, because you weren’t feeling well or your bus was stuck in traffic.

Obviously your employer docks your pay, right? Not just for the time you were missing though, for an entire week or month, am I correct? Because that’s how you learn isn’t it? That’s how you know that you absolutely cannot be late, for whatever reason.

No? Well, why? Some would say it’s because you are contributing to society through working, paying taxes and generating income. People’s value is measured by their contribution to GDP, isn’t it? You are what you give, aren’t you?

So, it figures then doesn’t it, that when someone isn’t contributing to the increase in the growth of the economy or the reduction of ‘the deficit’, that they should be punished. When they are at their lowest point they should be left to suffer – how else will they learn?

One of the people we work with, from our day centre in Slough, died recently. He wasn’t living on the streets – he had found housing. He had multiple health problems and had recently been in hospital.

The private company who had been tasked with deciding who was fit for work – no longer the job of the civil servants employed by the jobcentre – had put him on the work programme. This meant he had to keep a number of appointments, apply for jobs and was expected to work.

He missed an appointment. He had just left hospital and one of our people had written letters and made calls on his behalf to ensure that the people from the work programme knew why the appointment was missed. He was too poorly to leave the house.

He received a letter telling him his benefits had been stopped – he was being sanctioned for not attending his appointment. His ill-health was irrelevant.

He died after opening this letter. He collapsed and was gone. They say your life flashes before your eyes before you die, I would hazard a guess that it was his future that flashed before his: losing his home, returning to the streets, perhaps dying there.

Does his life matter?

It matters to us.

Who Matters?