By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
One of the definitions of the word austerity is “difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure”.
As Belfast basks in sunshine and the supermarket carparks are full as many shoppers splash the cash on ‘summer’ food, wine and beer, it’s sometimes hard to see where the austerity is.
In many ways those hit hardest by cuts remain hidden and out of sight. To admit that you are struggling because your welfare benefits have been cut is difficult. ‘Shame and stigma’ go hand in hand as to confess that you don’t have enough to live on and feed yourself and your children is often treated by sections of society as if it is your fault.
The reality though that in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom we have witnessed a sharp rise in food banks and desperate people going to advice centres for help.
Since the worldwide economic crash in 2008, austerity measures have been implemented in many countries as governments introduced policies which were designed to reduce public spending and ‘balance the books’.
The Conservative governments are huge supporters of the idea that we must all tighten our belts. Minister after minister have backed the approach that welfare spending is too high and it must be reduced.
You may disagree if you are struggling to survive. You may believe that you didn’t cause the economic crash and why should you be asked to survive on even less in your pockets.
The latest issue of VIEW, called ‘Stories from the Frontline’, will attempt to give those individuals affected by cuts a chance to speak out and to tell their story.
We are appealing to those people who are suffering to find the courage to speak out and let themselves be named and identified. We believe it’s vital that the ongoing story of hardship has to be highlighted.
We want to hear from you if you have been affected by the introduction of Universal Credit, the move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP); benefit sanctions; substandard housing; homelessness; health cuts and bedroom tax, low pay, etc
It’s time to step out of the shadows of ‘shame and silence’.
We will treat your story sensitively.
Contact me with your story at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Our guest editor for this issue will be Mary McManus, manager of the East Belfast independent Advice Centre. This issue of VIEW is being supported by Advice NI.