A Complaint

Ok as promised to start, a song for your listening pleasure while you read. I’d never heard of Show of Hands before I saw them on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday just gone. Listen to the lyrics and you’ll understand why this tune appeals to me.


You can see from the title of this post, this poem is basically a complaint, an activity which takes up a lot of my time these days. It’s about the way things are going and directly inspired by my work at the Youth Offending Team. When I posted this on facebook a friend of mine came up to me and said “you know, Pat, I don’t normally get into politics but that did make me think – that’s out of order”. Suffice to say, I was well chuffed, I figure if what I wrote got one person thinking about the issues I raised and he decided to tell me, there’s probably a handful of others who might also have found some food for thought. Anyway, here y’are.

Do Cameron Osbourne and Clegg really care
About the young people who live round here?
They keep telling us about “what’s fair”
Is it fair for these kids to see needles on the stairs?

The ones who wake up to grey towers everyday
The ones who are now losing their EMA.
That extra few quid will go a long way
When they need to get their oyster card paid 

What about the kids with a hard life at home
Who have to learn to grow up alone
While their Mum’s in the pub getting herself trashed
Spending all the family’s cash
How will we help these children who haven’t got Mummy
When Social Services are losing 28% of their money? 

In the mean time housing benefit’s been capped
So families move out to where poor people get stacked
We’ll put them in the ghetto so we can forget
That even in boom time there’s those who are crippled with debt
And not the debt from a mortgage or car
But to put food on the table it doesn’t go far

Let’s sort out those benefit cheats
The dancing incapacitated, that’s not discrete
Never mind the 25 billion lost through avoiding tax
Are these restrictions not too lax?

And for those who fought through a youth that’s testing
For themselves they’re trying to do the best thing
They want to better themselves at Uni
What’s waiting but up to 9 grand tuition fees!
Shouldn’t education be free?
Or is it just me?
Shouldn’t everyone have the same opportunity?
What the fuck happened to social mobility?

Can this world go on like this forever?
Where the rich get richer and the poor get worked over?

The government is retreating on taxing the banks
They’re far too weak to confront these financial tanks
Or maybe they just don’t have the will
To clamp down on the millions paid in bonuses still
And now the bankers tell us they’ll up and leave
Like the Chief Exec at HSBC
This mess that they made it’s all too easy
Do they care nothing for social responsibility?
I guess this is just business, competition the priority
But how can they not care about growing inequality?

What about the income tax top rate?
To take more from high earners they’ll always hesitate
How much over 150 thousand does a person really need?
Surely we’ve got to the point where we’re talking pure greed.
Do they stop and think about the poor with children to feed?
Do they have any empathy for the lives these people lead? 

A savage world is surely not destined
We can’t let the greedy starve the rest of oxygen
Tell them we don’t accept this terrible mess we’re in
Feet on the streets our voices protesting.

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4 Responses to A Complaint

  1. susan says:

    While I agree with most of your comments I am not so sure about the EMA. I am concerned that it may lead to an attitude of dependence on state handouts – when the going gets a bit difficult the state will provide. There must be some element of personal responsibility and commitment to continuing education, it should not be seen as a soft option. Previously young people have funded themselves by working in the holidays and taking any kind of part time job in term time, which is an excellent introduction to the world of work. In fact many young people have been inspired to continue their education simply because they find that the jobs available to unskilled workers are so unappealing and badly paid. Personally I think it is far more important to address the large number of perfectly capable young people who leave school functionally illiterate – this is an absolute disgrace in a developed country.

    • soapboxpat says:

      Hi Susan

      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad to hear you agreed with most of the post. I think the point you raise is a good one and it’s a debate I’ve had with some of my colleagues. My main gripe at the moment is the reason for EMA being scrapped i.e. that as a nation we’re “bust” and the Government has no choice – utter drivel, EMA costs £560 per year while approximately £26 billion is lost in tax avoidance. I think we can see who the ConDems are more worried about!

      I think there is a place for EMA though. You said mentioned about dependence on state handouts “when the going gets a bit difficult”. The maximum EMA of £30 per week is only provided to students whose family have an income of less than £21,000 per year, the going is already difficult for these young people. They and their families could do with some financial support and if it acts as an incentive to keep young people in education, so much the better. Removing it is damaging to social mobility (which is very low anyway). Also, don’t forget, youth unemployment is extremely high (one in five at the moment), across the economy there are approx 500,000 job vacancies and 2.5 million unemployed, so finding work to support themselves is far from simple.

      I also agree with your comment about literacy, absolutely no excuse for children to slip through the net unable to read or write.

      Again, thanks for responding to the post, prompted me to check a few figures and I learned a couple of things, which is exactly why I started this blog!



  2. susan says:

    Hmm I’m not convinced it is relevant to compare £560m spent on EMA with £26bn not available to government because of tax avoidance which, though it may be seen as iniquitous, is perfectly legal. Company directors have a legal duty to act in the shareholders’ best interests and given that the vast majority of shareholders wish to maximise the returns on their investments the directors would be failing in their duty if they did not take advantage of any legal means to do that. The only way to prevent this is to change the laws on taxation – perhaps going for the US method of taxing all US citizens and US companies no matter where their income is earned. That is another soapbox topic however.
    To get back to the EMA – I’m no expert but I expect that low income families are already receiving some financial help and I don’t believe that social mobility will be much affected by the amounts paid under the EMA – the scheme has not been going long enough for there to be proof either way however. For those who just want the money there is no check that they actually turn up to classes and when they do many teachers have complained that they can be disruptive, thus disturbing those who do really want to learn.
    As far as the lack of jobs – in my experience the small part-time jobs taken by students do not usually figure in the ‘jobs available’ statistics, being filled immediately by those keen enough to approach a large number of potential employers directly, or passed on by other students who are moving on. Every teenager of my acquaintance who has wanted a part-time job has found one, maybe after considerable effort, but they have all succeeded eventually. Perhaps those who cannot find a job need job interview and CV writing training rather than cash.

    • soapboxpat says:

      Hi again Susan and apologies for my slow reply

      I think it is relevant to compare loss of EMA with tax avoidance, which may be legal but not necessarily just. So I think given the current economic climate, the laws on taxation need to be changed.

      Low income families may receive some financial help, this shouldn’t be held against them as the people who acheive the most in education are those that have had financial help all their lives, because they were lucky enough to be born into affluent families. If you know where I can find them I’m interested to know the figures on EMA recipients’ attendance and their behaviour – I did a quick google search and didn’t find anything. I’ve read that EMA improves attendances and plays an important role in young people from lower income families going to University, but I’m a bit short on evidence! Even if those families do already receive financial assistance, a life on state benefits is hard and that little extra will go a long way. I strongly believe that loss of EMA will lead to people leaving in education which does harm social mobility, but we shall see.

      I’ll hold my hands up, I didn’t know that part-time jobs don’t usually figure in jobs available statistics. But I think the point is still valid, high full-time unemployment and few full-time vacancies would almost certainly increase the pressure on each part-time vacancy. And aside from that young people in receipt of EMA would have other difficulties finding jobs based on race and social class.

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