While I may not fit into the legal category of 'young person' any more, I can certainly identify with the spirit and fire with which 20 year old Mhairi Black MP tore through the Government's plans for austerity, welfare cuts and their inability to operate on the same level of reality as most working families. A Scottish nationalist, a woman and openly LGBT, the press has so far been heaping praise on Mhairi for her words in the Commons on Wednesday, and rightly so. Her words echoed beyond the green benches and have opened the eyes and hearts of many like her and many like me.
Food banks are not part of the welfare state, they are a damning symbol of a welfare state that isn't failing but has already failed. When I asked a local Tory candidate what he thought of an increase in food bank use over the last five years he told me that it was a sign of the Big Society that Cameron has championed since 2010.
If the Big Society includes 200,000 people in in-work poverty, 280,000 people seeking advice on homelessness and 1,084,604 people sought emergency food from food banks in 2014-15 then I'm happy not being a part of that society.
I have spent most of my adult life opposing and campaigning against the agenda of the Conservatives to gut public services and reform welfare to the point that young people under the age of 21 can't be sure that sleeping rough isn't an option that the Government will leave them with if their circumstances leave them no choice. Exactly what planet does George Osborne live on? Not every young person has the opportunity or the luxury of being able to live at home with their families for a variety of reasons. Rape, abuse, issues around sexuality, religion etc. Does the Chancellor honestly believe that young people (like me, at one point) choose to sleep rough, at risk of violence, starvation and the exposure to the elements if they had a loving home and a warm bed to go home to every night?
This budget is draconian in nature and is a bigger assault on young people than ever before. We will see a rise in homelessness, suicide, mental health issues and a failing economy as we single handedly fail to show compassion and understanding towards the most vulnerable in society. I grew up in a home where my parents often had to make sacrifices for my brother and I so that we could keep the lights on, have a bed at night, food on the table, a roof over our head and food in our bellies when we slept. If it hadn't been for the welfare state I would not be sitting here writing this today and I would not have been given the best possible start in life.
I am part and parcel a product of the welfare state and the support networks that it has allowed to flourish for communities that are now being undermined by a Government that has no heart and no comprehension of what it is to live in the real world today. I work full time and I work hard every day and yet according to Minimum Income Standard I earn £2,102 less a year than what is needed for a basic standard of living in the UK. I am not one of the working poor but like so many people across the UK I am unable to save much money and always seem to have more month left at the end of the wage packet but I get on. I'm never going to be a millionaire but I thank God that I have a roof over my head every night and food in the cupboard. Thanks to this Government and its unapologetic lacerations to the budget I am terrified that one day that might not always be a reality.
I don't pay my taxes to support 'scroungers' or people that take advantage of the system - that microscopic percentage of benefit claimants are used as a scapegoat for balancing the books on the backs of genuinely vulnerable people - I pay my taxes because one day it might happen to me again. Mhairi Black didn't just speak for the people in her constituency that voted SNP or even within Scotland, she spoke for the thousands of us who know what it is like to feel the sting in the tail of a Government without heart.Suggest a correction