Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Dear Government, Please get a reality check.

Is anybody else sick fed up hearing about how if the poor don't play along they will 'lose their benefits'? Today, it is drug addicts who don't get help. Last week, it was the 'work-shy' i.e. those who refuse 'reasonable job opportunities' whatever that means. And before that it was those who don't want to participate in 'work-fare' type programmes. It's the government's new stick- do what we say or lose your benefits.

Well, today I'd like to ask the government- have you ever met a drug addict? Not a middle-class pothead that smokes a bit of weed at the weekend, but a heroin addict from a socially deprived community? Because I have. And, do you want to know when? When they were robbing me. Oh, I don't mean in some scary mugging in a dark alley- although that does happen to lots of people (indeed on the street that I used to live, there was once ten muggings in a week- but let's not go there). No, when I worked in my local co-op and eventually made it up the ladder to supervisor, I regularly had to kick the local drug addicts- or their young children- out of the shop I ran. I knew them by name- we used to chat as we did it. It was ritualistic, an almost everyday occurrence. Because everyday they came in to steal either food, or goods to sell. If we caught them, we called the police- who often never responded- but you have to see them put the goods in their bag or pocket to get that far. On one occasion after we caught someone red-handed, we waited three hours before my shoplifter exerted her legal right not to be restrained by me and left- the police showed up sometime later. But, after being continually being barred from the store, it was more usual for our local drug addicts to idle up an aisle and hope we didn't notice them, and for us to kick them out with a catch-up on the daily gossip, when we did. On one occasion, I even offered to call an ambulance for my most regular shop-lifter after he came in heavily-bleeding to steal bandages.

If you get anything from this story- I want it to be the extent to which this was something that happened EVERYDAY in my store- and it was something that was distressing (there was more than one occasion where we considered looking the other way when small children stole food to eat!), that could be dangerous (like the time a drug addict attacked me), and was just soul destroying for everybody- do you really think I want to throw poor people out of my store when they are just hungry (even if they are spending their benefits on drugs)? And, if you take away benefits not just from drug-addicts- but lots of other poor people as well-, this will just get worse. Because people have to eat- and to be quite frank, I'd rather you paid people their benefits than make the lives of hundreds of shopworkers miserable in having to face the consequences of social deprivation at work, every fucking day.

(And dudes, while we are at it- have you ever been to Dublin? And seen all the homeless people who sleep rough on the streets- do you really want that to be Britain?)