Category Archives: Starvation of Resources

“Hunger, filth, fear and death”: remembering life before the NHS


I came across the following article, by following a link posted on Facebook. It was published in the New Statesman, on 31st October, 2014 and, after reading it, I was so very saddened to realise that, once again, through the machinations of the ‘ruling’ classes, the UK has, in 2019, found itself in such a similar situation to that of Harry Smith, as he grew up in the 1920’s, that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the sheer waste of time, that so many people fought, strived, and died through, in order to make life better for themselves and their families and friends 😦

Once again, almost a century after Harry’s birth, there are countless people here in the UK, living in gruelling poverty – with Child Poverty at an all-time high since the Welfare State began – and it’s all due to the greed and corruption of the same class of people who, through their constant lies and deceit, have turned our country from the safe place I grew up in, into a similar scenario to Harry Smith’s early life 😦

Read his account and, if you can’t see the similarities, then you must be part of the problem 😦

Harry Leslie Smith, a 91-year-old RAF veteran born into an impoverished mining family, recalls a Britain without a welfare state.
  By Harry Leslie Smith

Over 90 years ago, I was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, to a working-class family. Poverty was as natural to us as great wealth and power were to the aristocracy of that age. Like his father and grandfather before him, my dad, Albert, eked out a meagre existence as a miner, working hundreds of feet below the surface, smashing the rock face with a pickaxe, searching for coal.

Hard work and poor wages didn’t turn my dad into a radical. They did, however, make him an idealist, because he believed that a fair wage, education, trade unions and universal suffrage were the means to a prosperous democracy. He endured brutal working conditions but they never hardened his spirit against his family or his comrades in the pits. Instead, the harsh grind of work made his soul as gentle as a beast of burden that toiled in desolate fields for the profit of others.

My mother, Lillian, however, was made of sterner stuff. She understood that brass, not love, made the world go round. So when a midwife with a love of gin and carbolic soap delivered me safely on a cold winter’s night in February 1923 into my mum’s exhausted arms, I was swaddled in her rough-and-ready love, which toughened my skin with a harsh affection. I was the first son but I had two elder sisters who had already skinned their knees and elbows in the mad fight to stay alive in the days before the social safety network. Later on, our family would include two half-brothers, after my mother was compelled to look for a more secure provider than my dad during the Great Depression.

By the time I was weaned from my mother’s breast, I had begun to learn the cruel lessons that the world inflicted on its poor. At the age of seven, my eldest sister, Marion, contracted tuberculosis, which was a common and deadly disease for those who lived hand to mouth in early-20th-century Britain. Her illness was directly spawned from our poverty, which forced us to live in a series of fetid slums.

Despite being a full-time worker, my dad was always one pay packet away from destitution. Several times, my family did midnight flits and moved from one decre­pit single-bedroom tenement to the next. Yet we never seemed to move far from the town’s tip, a giant wasteland stacked with rotting rubbish, which became a playground for preschool children.

At the beginning of my life, affordable health care was out of reach for much of the population. A doctor’s visit could cost the equivalent of half a week’s wages, so most people relied on good fortune rather than medical advice to see them safely through an illness. But luck and guile went only so far and many lives were snatched away before they had a chance to start. The wages of the ordinary worker were at a mere subsistence level and therefore medicine or simple rest was out of the question for many people.

Unfortunately for my sister, luck was also in short supply in our household. Because my parents could neither afford to see a consultant nor send my sister to a sanatorium, Marion’s TB spread and infected her spine, leaving her an invalid.

****

The 1926 General Strike, which began just as my sister started her slow and painful journey from life to death, was about more than wages to my dad and many others. It was called by the TUC in protest against mine owners who were using strong-arm tactics to force their workers to accept longer work hours for less take-home pay. At its start, it involved 1.7 million industrialised workers.

In essence, the strike was about the right of all people, regardless of their economic station, to live a dignified and meaningful life. My father joined it with enthusiasm, because he believed that all workers, from tram drivers to those who dug ore, deserved a living wage. But for my father the strike  was also about the belief that he might be able to right the wrongs done to him and his family; if only he had more money in his pay packet, he might have been able to afford decent health care for all of us.

Unfortunately, the General Strike was crushed by the government, which first bullied TUC members to return to their work stations. Eight months later, it did the same to the miners whose communities had been beggared by being on the pickets for so long. My dad and his workmates had to accept wage cuts.

I remember my sister’s pain and anguish during her final weeks of life in October 1926. I’d play beside her in our parlour, which was as squalid as an animal pen, while she lay on a wicker landau, tied down by ropes to prevent her from falling to the ground while unattended. When Marion’s care became too much for my mother to endure, she was sent to our neighbourhood workhouse, which had been imprisoning the indigent since the days of Charles Dickens.

The workhouse where Marion died was a large, brick building less than a mile from our living quarters. Since it had been designed as a prison for the poor, it had few windows and had a high wall surrounding it. When my sister left our house and was transported there on a cart pulled by an old horse, my mum and dad told my other sister and me to wave goodbye, because Marion was going to a better place than here.

The workhouse was not used only as a prison for those who had been ruined by poverty; it also had a primitive infirmary attached to it, where the poor could receive limited medical attention. Perhaps the only compassion the place allowed my parents was permission to visit their daughter to calm her fears of death.

My sister died behind the thick, limestone walls at the age of ten, and perhaps the only compassion the place allowed my parents was permission to visit their daughter to calm her fears of death. As we didn’t have the money to give her a proper burial, Marion was thrown into a communal grave for those too poor to matter. Since then, the pauper’s pit has been replaced by a dual carriageway.

****

Some historians have called the decade of my birth “the Roaring Twenties” but for most it was a long death rattle. Wages were low, rents were high and there was little or no job protection as a result of a postwar recession that had gutted Britain’s industrial heartland. When the Great Depression struck Britain in the 1930s, it turned our cities and towns into a charnel house for the working class, because they had no economic reserves left to withstand prolonged joblessness and the ruling class believed that benefits led to fecklessness.

Even now, when I look back to those gaslight days of my boyhood and youth, all I can recollect is hunger, filth, fear and death. My mother called those terrible years for our family, our friends and our nation a time when “hard rain ate cold Yorkshire stone for its tea”.

I will never forget seeing as a teenager the faces of former soldiers who had been broken physically and mentally during the Great War and were living rough in the back alleys of Bradford. Their faces were haunted not by the brutality of the war but by the savagery of the peace. Nor will I forget as long as I shall live the screams that fell out of dosshouse windows from the dying and mentally ill, who were denied medicine and solace because they didn’t have the money to pay for medical services.

Like today, those tragedies were perpetuated by a coalition government preaching that the only cure for our economic troubles was a harsh austerity, which promised to right Britain’s finances through the sacrifice of its lowest-paid workers. When my dad got injured, the dole he received was ten shillings a week. My family, like millions of others, were reduced to beggary. In the 1930s, the government believed that private charities were more suitable for providing alms for those who had been ruined in the Great Depression.

Austerity in the 1930s was like a pogrom against Britain’s working class. It blighted so many lives through preventable ailments caused by malnutrition, as well as thwarting ordinary people’s aspirations for a decent life by denying them housing, full- time employment or a proper education.

As Britain’s and my family’s economic situation worsened in the 1930s, we upped sticks from Barnsley to Bradford in the hope that my father might find work. But there were too many adults out of work and jobs were scarce, so he never found full-time employment again. We lived in dosshouses. They were cheap, sad places filled with people broken financially and emotionally. Since we had no food, my mum had me indentured to a seedy off-licence located near our rooming house. At the age of seven, I became a barrow boy and delivered bottles of beer to the down-and-outs who populated our neighbourhood.

My family were nomads. We flitted from one dosshouse to the next, trying to keep ahead of the rent collector. We moved around the slums of Bradford and when we had outstayed our welcome there, we moved on to Sowerby Bridge, before ending up in Halifax. As I grew up, my schooling suffered; I had to work to keep my sister, my mum and half-brothers fed. At the age of ten, I was helping to deliver coal and by my teens, I started work as a grocer’s assistant. At 17, I had been promoted to store manager. However, at the age of 18, the Second World War intervened in whatever else I had planned for the rest of my life. I volunteered to join the RAF.

****

My politics was forged in the slums of Yorkshire but it was in the summer of 1945, at the age of 22, that I finally felt able to exorcise the misery of my early days. In that long ago July, I was a member of the RAF stationed in Hamburg; a city left ruined and derelict by war. I had been a member of the air force since 1941 but my war had been good, because I had walked away from it without needing so much as a plaster for a shaving nick. At its end, my unit had been seconded to be part of the occupational forces charged with rebuilding a German society gutted by Hitler and our bombs.

It was in the palm of that ravaged city that I voted in Britain’s first general election since the war began. As I stood to cast my ballot in the heat of that summer, I joked with my mates, smoked Player’s cigarettes and stopped to look out towards a shattered German skyline. I realised then that this election was momentous because it meant that a common person, like me, had a chance of changing his future.

So it seemed only natural and right that I voted for a political party that saw health care, housing and education as basic human rights for all of its citizens and not just the well-to-do. When I marked my X on the ballot paper, I voted for all those who had died, like my sister, in the workhouse; for men like my father who had been broken beyond repair by the Great Depression; and for women like my mum who had been tortured by grief over a child lost through unjust poverty. And I voted for myself and my right to a fair and decent life.

I voted for Labour and the creation of the welfare state and the NHS, free for all its users. And now, nearly 70 years later, I fear for the future of my grandchildren’s generation, because Britain’s social welfare state is being dismantled brick by brick.

****

My life didn’t really begin until the end of the Second World War. I fell in love with Friede, a German woman, whom I married and brought home to Halifax. My wife gave me emotional stability while the welfare state gave me economic stability. When I was demobbed, I didn’t have many prospects, except using my brawn over my brain. I took factory jobs while my wife and I studied at night school. But I am forever grateful for the foundation of the NHS, because it allowed my wife to receive first-rate treatment for the PTSD she acquired by having witnessed both the atrocities of the Nazis and the firebombing of Hamburg, which killed 50,000 people in three nights of intense RAF bombing in 1943.

My experiences of growing up in Britain before the NHS, when one’s health was determined by one’s wealth, and after 1948, when free health care was seen as a cornerstone for a healthy economy and democracy, convinced me that it was my duty to share my family experiences at this year’s Labour party conference. I agreed to speak about the NHS because I know there are few people left who can remember that brutal time before the welfare state, when life for many was short and cruel. I felt that I owed it to my sister Marion, whose life was cut short by extreme poverty and poor health care, along with all of those other victims of a society that protected the rich and condemned the poor to miserable lives. In many ways, making that speech freed me from the suffering of my youth. 

* * * * * * * *

Harry Leslie Smith is the author of a memoir: “Harry’s Last Stand: How the World My Generation Built is Falling Down and What We Can Do to Save it” (Icon Books, £8.99) 

* * * * * * * *

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a Second World War RAF veteran and an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the Second World War, and post-war austerity. Join Harry on Twitter @Harryslaststand.

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Filed under Austerity, Benefits, Budget Cuts, Catastrophe, Changes, Childhood, Choices, Collapse of the NHS, Degraded Public Services, Deprivation, Despair, Divide and Rule, Eugenics, Homelessness, Human Rights, Impoverishment, Injustice, Low Wages, Self-interest, skewed presentation of events, Starvation of Resources, Tory Cuts, Tory Lies, Tragedy, Underfunding, Welfare Cuts, Workhouse

The Royal Show . . . . . . .

A friend called around to my home to see me this afternoon, and the first thing she asked me, was if I’d watched the royal wedding.

I had to think for a minute, before I realised what she was talking about, and then I had to tell her an honest ‘No’.

We started talking about other things, and time went on, then she left. I then came online to check for messages from my daughter, and the first thing I saw on Facebook, was all the people talking about how they had cried when they saw the bride, and how wonderful it all was – and I felt a little sick.

Yesterday, I saw online about how the police went all around Windsor, taking away all the possessions of the homeless there, and trying to get them to move on to pastures new – after all, it wouldn’t do for a royal to actually see some of their subjects down and out, and living on the streets outside their castle, would it? 😦

I felt like asking every one of them the following questions:

‘Why did you have tears in your eyes? Is there something terrible happening that I haven’t noticed – other than what’s happening to practically everyone who isn’t rich, of course!

Or are you watching the multi-million pound freak show that’s been put on to keep the masses happy? The show that’s costing every tax payer in the UK multi-millions of pounds?
Are you crying for all the money that has been spent on today, that could have been spend housing the homeless – probably those same homeless people, in and around Windsor, whose possessions were taken from them, and bagged up, to be collected after the weekend?
Did you cry for the money spent on this extravaganza, that could have been used to help put food in the bellies of all the thousands of children in the UK, who are going hungry today – and every day – because their parents are being punished for daring to be unemployed, or ill, or disabled, or even in work, but on terribly low wages?
Did you cry for the money taken from the unemployed, who are being ruthlessly sanctioned – normally for the most stupid of reasons – just to save money for the treasury, so they can give even more tax breaks to the super-rich – or pay the royal family their yearly ‘allowance’ which, when added up, could probably keep many thousands of families from starving, or being made homeless, every year?

Is that why you had tears in your eyes?’

I read online that the cost of the wedding could be anything up to £32,000,000 – and that around 94% of that will be for the cost of all the security which was involved, in order to keep everyone safe from snipers, bombs etc – but this will be picked up by the British Tax Payer, with only the core costs, such as the church, flowers, brides outfit etc., being covered by the royal family themselves.

Now, I like a nice wedding as much as anyone, but in these times of enforced austerity, where we are all being made to tighten our belts, or have been made homeless, and often jobless, because of the zero-hour contract employment terms, being forced on us by greedy bosses, who care more for profit than they do about the people working for them, then how can anyone justify the huge show put on – mainly for the foreign market – but also as a way of keeping people’s attention away from what’s being done to us every day, here in the UK!

So, as people watch the bride and groom – and good luck to them as they start a new life together [a life rather more blessed than their UK subjects are having to deal with every day, unfortunately], crying with joy at all the razzamatazz put on to blind them to reality, they aren’t thinking about the total mess that the government have made of practically everything they’ve put their hands on, in the almost 8 years they’ve been in charge of the country 😦

Those watching the wedding won’t be thinking about just how badly the Brexit negotiations are right now, or how people are dying in their thousands as the DWP make life such a living hell for so many people, that they choose to take their own lives rather than keep suffering this institutional abuse!

Rather than continue to live in this austerity-led hell on earth, there are so very many people choosing to opt out, that it’s becoming a serious problem – which the media choose to keep quiet about, rather than doing the jobs they are being paid for, and investigating it all, and letting people know just how badly the tories are doing in their stewardship of the UK!

While they watch this royal show, they aren’t thinking of how the government are  deliberately starving the NHS into submission, either, just so they can sell it all off, for knock-down prices, to their business buddies in the private sector!

They’ll definitely be thinking about it the next time they need to call the emergency services, to save the life of a loved one, though! That’s when all the private firms, who are already taking over vital services, start charging people at the point of contact – an unspoken blackmail attempt, which will have people choosing to go deeply into debt, to save the lives of their loved ones 😦

Even with the money being made by the usual merchandising of an event like this, it’s still a huge amount of public money, being spent on something that the royals should have paid for themselves – after all, they are millionnaires, and get a hefty chunk of money every single year from the public purse as wages – so why not do what every other family does at a wedding, here in the UK, and cut their coat to fit their cloth?

These are just a few of the reasons why I chose not to watch the show put on to gull the people of the UK 😦 

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Filed under Austerity, Brexit, Celebrations, Children, Deprivation, Disability Issues, Funding Cuts, Government Spending, Homelessness, Human Rights, Humanity, Ideology, Impoverishment, Injustice, NHS, Police, Right-wing Media, Royal Family, Royal Wedding, Sanctions, Security, Starvation, Starvation of Resources, Suicide, Taxation, Tory Cuts, Underfunding, Unemployed, Wedding, Welfare Cuts

When will this Nightmare Stop?

I’ve just read a post by Kate Belgrave where she speaks about a family,  who the council are considering to be Intentionally Homeless, and where the council are potentially threatening the mother with the removal of her children, rather than finding her, and her 3 children, somewhere to live.

Here’s the link to her post:

Intentionally Homeless with kids? Council will house the kids but not you – ie, you’ll be separated from them. The hell with this.

Now I don’t know all the ins-and-outs of this lady’s story, but I can only assume that the rent arrears that prompted the loss of her flat, were caused either because she was forced to sign on for the infamous Universal Credit which, I must remind you, is awarded to those both IN as well as OUT of work, and can – even now – take anything up to 6 months to sort out properly! This, then, causing huge rent arrears – and homelessness – or there was some other genuine reason that this happened.

But the point of it all is that, since the Tories, then the Blairite New Labour – who might as well be labelled Tory-Lite, and then the Tories again, have been in power, then anybody, no matter who they are, or if they are working, or not, who have the misfortune to fall into penury – whether from losing their job, becoming chronically ill or disabled, or because of all the terrible cuts the Tories are making to our once world-class Welfare State – have now got to face having their children removed from their custody if they become homeless or, if without children, have to face walking the streets, or sofa-surfing (if they’re lucky enough to have friends or family that can help them in this way), rather than being helped in finding somewhere to live and, potentially, being able to contribute back to the society that helped them!

The idea of a Society has become just a word, here in the UK, with no meaning behind it any more – rather than an idea that can bring people together in mutual support – and this rot started with the awful ideaology of a Tory Party that thinks only of what they can make out of us, and out of the Public Purse – for themselves and their Business Buddies in the USA – rather than looking after the people that they are paid a huge wage – plus many bonuses – in looking after our interests!

When you see the levels of homelessness, the levels of child poverty, the levels of suicides, the levels of mental health problems, and the piecemeal dismantling of our NHS and the Welfare State, then you can see the unravelling of everything that was great about this country – mainly put in place by a Labour Government, after WW2.

So how long do you think that this murderous regime can continue, before people say ‘ENOUGH!‘?

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Disabled people’s response to PIP review: STARK TERROR . . .

Judge Death: Esther McVey’s Department for Work and Pensions will evaluate the PIP entitlement of people who have died since claiming – including some whose claims were refused altogether. Fat lot of good it’ll do them [Image: PA].

Perhaps Esther McVey thought disabled people would be grateful when she announced that every claim for Personal Independence Payment would be reviewed, because the government was under-paying people with mental health problems. If so, SHE THOUGHT WRONG.

In fact, the 1.6 million PIP recipients whose claims are to be reviewed have greeted the announcement, not with gratitude, but with terror.

Vox Political commenter ‘Florence’ explains:

 

The decision to review all cases had caused alarm among the PIP base; we see yet another opportunity to be denied benefits. The DWP are not trusted, and the decision to review all 1.6 million claims will undoubtedly have some unpleasant side effects.

While [the] opportunity to gain extra data on the appalling Human Rights situation is welcomed, the simple fact we are all being put through a desk-based review before our existing review date just fills us all with dread.

To read the full article, posted today by Mike Silvier, of VOX POLITICAL, please click on the link below:

Disabled People’s response to PPIP Review: STARK TERROR.

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Video: doctor speaks powerfully – “the humanity is being sucked out of our NHS” . . .

Lauren Gavaghan is a doctor, psychiatrist and well-known NHS campaigner. On Thursday evening she spoke movingly to a mass gathering of Labour NHS campaigners about the suffering and beauty she has seen in ten years of service in the NHS – and the vampiric effect of Tory government.

What she said was powerful, inspiring – and terrifying. She spoke of huge shortages, of the disrespect of the government toward patients and staff – and of the unnecessary and undignified deaths the under-resourcing of the NHS has caused. And she summed it up in one haunting phrase:

” The humanity is being sucked out of our NHS. ”

This video brings home the preciousness of the National Health Service that Labour built, the disaster imposed on it – and the awful prospect of its loss. Please watch and share:

Please click the link below, to watch the video of her speech, posted online by The Swawkbox, today:
Doctor speaks powerfully: ‘The Humanity is being sucked out of our NHS’

 

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Figures show: No other govt has invested less additional cash in NHS than this . . .

The government’s fall-back when challenged over its failure on the NHS, as worse winter crisis follows winter crisis, is to fall back on its claim that it has ‘put more money into the NHS’ and is spending ‘record amounts’.

Given that any increase represents a new record, the claim is meaningless – the Tories have increased health budgets by far less than the last Labour government and at a completely inadequate level for the needs of the service, as the ongoing A&E crisis and even a recent BBC report demonstrate.

The public is beginning to get wise to the dodge, as the recent reception faced a Tory Minister on a BBC Question Time programme in a Tory heartland demonstrated.

But a far greater increase in awareness is needed – and as a picture paints a thousand words, this may be helpful:

nhs spend.png

 

Please click the following link to read the rest of the article, posted by The Swawkbox today:

Figures show: No other Government have invested less additional Cash in the NHS than This one!

 

 

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‘Deprivation of Liberty’ deaths soar by 56% in a single year . . .

The SKWAWKBOX reported this week on the shocking tripling of deaths – from 83 in 2011 to 252 in 2016 – among people detained under the Mental Health Act, as mental health and police services have been degraded under Tory government.

old person in care.png

A further shocking phenomenon is revealed by the government’s Coroners’ Statistics: an increase of fifty-six percent in the number of deaths under ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ (DoL) authorisations.

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) allows for organisations – hospitals, care homes and others – to apply for authorisation to deprive or restrict a person’s liberty on the grounds of their mental capacity if it is considered necessary for their safety. ‘Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards‘ (DoLS) exist to ensure – in theory – that a person is not unnecessarily deprived of any more of their liberty than is absolutely necessary for their safety. These only apply in England and Wales.

To read the rest of this story, please press this link:

Deprivation of Liberty deaths soar . . .

 

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