The government pretends to care about civil rights and justice, whilst cutting away at the basis of legal and social provision/services that provide (sometimes, inadequately) people with rights, resources and the care they need. For instance, discussing the recent end to legal aid for welfare claimants, a politically aware Facebook friend provided useful information for the central reasons/’justification’ for this:
It’s partially due to the failure of ESA – appeals are won at 40%, with an advocate, usually paid for by legal aid they jump to 70%. Cut the legal aid cut the number of people legally claiming what they are entitled to and it’s a double save. Also stops both the government and ATOS looking quite so incompetent and will stop it looking so necessary to reform or scrap the failing benefit and its corrupt test.They don’t want the same to happen with the new PIP – because it was legal aid that helped win the case-law that brought DLA into line with the equality legislation and therefore widened the criteria to all those who should be entitled not just the smaller group the government wanted to give as a gesture towards equality and independence for disabled people. The blind are a prime example, until very recently no one who was blind could get the higher rate of mobility – through challenges in the courts someone who needs a lot of support to get out and about can now qualify. That’s a whole new group of claimants who really do deserve the money who have been denied it for decades. It’s also why the claimant rate for DLA has gone up so much, because as legal challenges were made and won new groups became entitled to it and so they claimed and it made their lives easier and them more independent. They can’t get rid of the equality legislation no matter how much they drool over the thought, nor the payments towards independence, so they will fiddle around with the criteria, move the goal posts a bit and remove legal aid to make sure that no one can bring it back into line with what is actually fair and legal. Barely anyone outside the disabled community will blink because the propagander about scroungers is so embedded into everyone’s heads they think we are all faking. They are so certain we are all faking they’ve forgotten if you look really ill your probably genuine and that the fakes are running around looking like the rest of them until they have an ATOS visit.
Then there is news that free rights to lawyers will be switched to means tested; despite the problems of means tested benefits often leading to under-claims due to the complications of filling in forms, the stigma and lack of awareness regarding certain services and rights. In another attack on civil rights, Nick Herbert now wants the neighbourhood crime maps, that create hatred, division, distrust and ‘problem’ areas and postcodes that causes problems with insurance and getting a job (for instance), to ‘name and shame’ criminals so that:
Convicted crooks are to have their mugshot, name, age and crime posted online in a bid to deter others.
For one, this is a 180 degrees turn from Ken Clarke’s liberal approach towards justice, but which is also framed by an economic cutting agenda as well as a liberal philosophy – with the former undermining the latter. There is no chance for restitution, as offenders are blacklisted in their communities. What if there is a miscarriage of justice? The damage has been done, with the offenders most likely finding it harder to remove themselves from the institutionalisation of prison and reintegrate back into ‘normal’ life. What’s ignored is the political economic reasons behind why many people end up in prison. Many crimes such as robbery are rooted in wider feelings of desperation, as people find it hard to survive in a system where the level of discrepancy between the top and bottom is reaching the Victorian era’s.
Again, this is another clear case of stigmatising certain groups to take attention from the real sources of problems. Naming and shaming will do nothing to deter people from committing crimes; giving people adequate living standards and not dismantling the fundamental services many rely upon, alongside slashing welfare and instigating a blame culture on any group with a history of oppression who doesn’t fit the neoliberal ‘ideal’, would fundamentally reduce crime.