So near to Christmas, it is heartbreaking to hear of the appalling deaths of people who are homeless, which have increased by almost a quarter – simply over the last five years. This is especially so, when, for the second time this year there was a death in Westminster’s back yard and the homeless man who died was actually in regular employment, which the government always tell us, is the sure fire route out of poverty.
Munificent housing minister James Brokenshire (there’s a surname to conjure with) thinks it’s all down to family breakdown, drugs and drink. Some of it may be, of course, but why do families break down or take drugs or drink? Might it not be because society is rather less welcoming than they had been prepared for. It doesn’t often hug its members – it too often shows them the boot. And all encouraged by a governmental desire not to soften society but to ensure ‘individual responsibility’. In effect survival, not of the fittest, but survival of the richest.
When Shelter finds that actually 55% of people who are homeless are working, the government should know immediately – if indeed it now knows anything – that it has not organised the structure of society properly. Shelter, along with food, is a fundamental necessity and a life requirement for every single member of society.
And among these homeless families are many, many children.
That is their disaster.
But that disaster is not only theirs – it is also ours.
We are subjecting a future generation to grow up with insecure roots.
There is no evidence to suggest that that promotes anything other than large numbers of equally insecure adults, which is not an ideal foundation for a stable society of the future.
Today’s high individual responsibility and high contempt when it falters, is simply a recipe for a problematic society in the future, and yet another disastrous cost of austerity that we shall all be paying for for years.
The Conservative government is like the incompetent military commander who asked his sergeant if the men were happy and on receiving the answer ‘yes’ instructed, “Well, muck ’em around some, Sergeant”.
They obviously don’t teach it at Eton – perhaps they thought they didn’t need to – but the government needs to learn the basic principle that people who are happy will be good.