Tories have presided over division - not a shared society say charities
Scottish charities have savaged Tory prime minister Theresa May – accusing her of shedding “crocodile tears” as she unveiled her so-called shared society vision.
May, whose government has overseen a punishing regime of austerity, announced her idea of a more “inclusive society” yesterday – but equality campaigners reacted incredulously.
In a speech made to the Charity Commission, the English and Welsh regulator, she said: “The shared society is one that doesn't just value our individual rights but focuses rather more on the responsibilities we have to one another.
"It's a society that respects the bonds that we share as a union of people and nations."
Her shared society vision brought comparisons with her predecessor David Cameron’s much derided – and eventually abandoned – Big Society project.
The difference, if any, was in nuance: while Cameron envisaged a rolling back of the state – with an ill-defined civil society stepping up in its place – May said the state had a role to play in tackling "everyday injustices" and support people who are struggling to get by.
However, in Scotland both Inclusion Scotland and the Poverty Alliance said the main driver of division and injustice has been the Tory government and its austerity agenda.
Bill Scott, Inclusion Scotland’s policy director, said: “We believe that if the prime minister is serious about wanting to tackle the glaring inequalities that scar British society then instead of massive cuts to services such as social care and employability support, which enable disabled people to participate in society, we need to see investment in them.
“Instead of weeping crocodile tears about the plight of those with mental health conditions it might be wiser for her to reverse the cuts to ESA and PIP.
“These cuts are causing enormous stress for that very same group of disabled people and plunging many others into anxiety and depression.”
Poverty Alliance director Perter Kelly said: “When Theresa May talked of a shared society, she highlighted the responsibilities we have to one another and the idea of a society with fairness at its heart.
“Unfortunately, the actions of the current UK government undermine principles of fairness and solidarity.
“Where is the fairness is ensuring that benefit levels are so low that they trap people in poverty? Where is the fairness is having a so-called living wage that has no relation to the actual cost of living?
“If Theresa May is serious about tackling injustice then she needs to start with her own government.
“For too long punitive welfare cuts have meant that children are not getting the best start in life, and that work is no longer a route of poverty. This has to change.
“The Poverty Alliance would welcome actions that support these warm words.”
Others, however, struck a more conciliatory note. John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Theresa May is right to point to the fact that the way people feel about the country and about their community has changed significantly in the past few months.
“Our research shows that nearly 14 million people in the UK feel that their local community is more divided now than it was at the start of 2016 – and huge numbers are responding by becoming more politically and socially active, including by supporting charities and volunteering. We need to harness that potential and enthusiasm to change Britain for the better.
“Charities are at the centre of what makes Britain great, and must be at the heart of its future. At this critical moment in our country’s history, charities have a crucial role to play in developing a better society at home and securing Britain’s new place on the global stage.
“Mrs May rightly recognises the need for our charities and social enterprises to thrive. Her shared society must be more than a shift in the way government makes policy; it must mean working in tandem with Britain’s charities at home and abroad to share and strengthen our values, unite our communities and give people a voice.”