The news that we face a snap Westminster election fills me with, at best, mixed emotions. I relish the opportunity to challenge the philosophy which has brought us welfare reforms that are demonstrably hurting people in poverty both financially and by perpetuating the “blame it on the poor” narrative.
Even the Government’s own figures show this to be true. These cuts hurt children in particular which speaks volumes about a political philosophy that believes welfare is a problem rather than a way we help our neighbours. Probably most insidious is the “rape clause” though the belief that “poor people shouldn’t have children” which gave birth to it is not far behind.
Yet despite my desire to challenge this thinking I also despair because the local elections, a really crucial part of our democratic process, will once again be about national issues not local concerns. I know that was already the case in the eyes of many but there was at least some chance of there being debate about how we wanted our services run locally. No chance now.
Representing Homeless people in Local Elections
Having had my wee rant; here’s my (i.e. my asks, not Cyrenians views) five asks on homelessness for the up-coming local elections – I will offer the five things I will be looking for from those standing for Westminster in a future blog as its local I want to see discussed first!
- Will they take a proper, person centred approach to homelessness which allows the individual to define a successful outcome?
- Would they be prepared to fund organisations based on the quality of the relationships the staff have with those they journey with, trusting that from good relationships come good outcomes rather than defining the outcomes as the basis of success.
- Will they be open to a radical review of alternatives to the use of Bed and Breakfast accommodation?
- Will they consider alternatives to tendering for commissioning and partnership building which achieve proper accountability, transparency and value but provide for stability and co-operation, not competition and cheapest wins?
- Will they be willing to fund prevention work even though that might appear to be most costly in the first instance?
You can see a theme here – this is only one small part of the complex agenda that any incoming council administration will face – but I believe we can tell a great deal about how the values of those in power by how they use that power for those most excluded; do they sue it to punish, denigrate and stigmatise or to reach out and walk alongside so real human flourishing and transformation can happen. The answers I receive to the questions I ask will tell me not just who will do most for those who are homeless but who will do most for the communities we are each citizens of, even though who have at present, no fixed abode.