Socialist Worker

Public spending: ‘If they cut any more then people will die’

The main parties’ plans will hit vulnerable people, writes Eileen Boyle

Issue No. 2170

Marie is a home help in Glasgow. She looks after all sorts of people in their own homes, from the frail elderly to younger people with mental illnesses who are unable to care for themselves.

For some of her clients she is the only human contact they have all day.

There have already been various rounds of cuts that have seen one elderly man’s daily visits drop from three hour-long sessions to two half-hour ones.

Marie knows that 30 minutes is not enough time to attend to all his needs.

Cutting the lunchtime visit means that he cannot eat in the middle of the day.

She used to pop in on her own time to make some lunch for him, but now her rota takes her to another part of the city and she can’t help him.

“It’s as bad as abuse,” she says, “to let a frail old man sit all day without food because our budgets can’t allow for 30 minutes extra.”

Marie is approaching retirement and worries about how she will be cared for by a system that is already threadbare.

Yet government ministers and opposition parties are blithely talking about further cuts.


Everyone in Marie’s team is “having nightmares” about being made to walk away from people they know desparately need their help.

Whenever Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg talk of cutting public spending they talk in terms of percentages and statistics.

They don’t give a thought to the people whose lives they will devastate.

In Scotland, one in five children live in poverty. Last week it was revealed that the alcohol-related death rate in parts of Glasgow is almost six times the UK average.

John has been a social worker in Glasgow for over 20 years and has watched as the service he is committed to supplying to children and families has been eroded.

When he heard about the proposed cuts he admited that his “blood ran cold”.

He wants to know where the managers think the cuts are supposed to come from.

“We’ve been working on a shoestring budget for years,” he said. I’ve had to make professional decisions about people’s care that I have been very uncomfortable with.

“Thankfully they have not resulted in tragedy – but if they cut any more funding from our budget then people will die.”


Susan works with those dependent on drugs and alcohol and knows the difference her job can make to people battling addiction.

But she is also fearful that the budget cuts will target “non-essential” services. The reality is that there are very few non-essential services in the public sector.

After years of underfunding, despite the manipulation of government statistics to show otherwise, many of these services are at breaking point.

The massive cuts on the horizon are an attempt to shift the burden of the national debt onto the poor and make us pay for the bosses’ economic crisis.

They will further harm those who have already suffered the most due to poverty and ill health.

The bankers will not be worrying about paying for care for their grandparents or disabled children.

They have the money to fund it from their own pocket. The question is, what will happen to the rest of us when these “savage” cuts are imposed?

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Tue 22 Sep 2009, 18:28 BST
Issue No. 2170
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