Public service or victim support?

Patrick Butler at The Guardian says we have ‘entered into a new phase of the cuts’. His Cutswatch blog is tracking how ‘local cuts are changing the lives of individuals and communities in small but often significant ways’.  ‘The effects will be seen from mental health, substance abuse and homelessness to libraries and swimming pools’ he says. Amelia Gentleman explains that while local government will continue to carry out its statutory functions, ‘people with requirements that are one notch short of urgent will have to fend for themselves’. But even this is in question. ‘Dead bodies could start piling up, strip clubs could be set up on any street corner and vulnerable children could be left without care’ according to one report. Unison, it turns out, are worried about the catastrophic impact of proposals coming from Pickle’s CLG to remove certain statutory duties.

We hear about how vulnerable this or that group is and how they’re going to get the worst deal as the spending cuts bite. ‘Young people bear brunt‘ concludes a recent survey of local authorities. No its not, its refugees who will suffer, says another study, as funding is withdrawn. Then again, another finds that women will be the ‘worst-hit by spending cuts‘, particularly those in abusive relationships and single mothers struggling to cope with less money. People with disabilities, not to be outdone, also claim to be the most put upon as their benefits are cut. They even called their march the Hardest Hit. Given their less than sympathetic public profile, the Police Federation’s recent ads resort to adopting victim status by proxy. Featuring a child cowering from an abusive parent, the strap-line reads: ‘Consequences of 20% cuts to policing?’.

Of course you might argue that some people are genuinely vulnerable and need support. But is this competitive victimhood really the best way of arguing for the public services that they, and the rest of us, need? Hiding behind the supposed vulnerability of members of the public is not a good argument. While the impact of the cuts will no doubt have a disproportionate impact on the worse off, public servants and campaigners need to make a positive case for public services.

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