HELEN BURTON: Everyone deserves the same level of protection

Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001
Helen Burton SUS-160113-100959001

Caroline Ansell wrote in The Herald last year that she feels ‘passionate about strong families being the heart of a strong society’.

This is why she has proposed a private members bill which aims to ensure that the government assesses the impact of any new policies on family relationships. Most of us are part of a family so it seems like a great idea doesn’t it? Who could object? Well me for a start. Firstly, the people most in need of consideration when making new legislation are the elderly, the poor, the disabled, or anyone in need of social care. These are the people who are at the brunt of the Governments’ cuts, so of course no such policy will be put forward to protect them, but surely this is the sector of our society in most need of protection?

Secondly, while I agree that family life is important and should be protected, I believe that all people deserve the same level of protection. How does Caroline define a family? Many families fall outside of the traditional view of what a family is, my own included. Who makes the judgement? If we start to prioritise one sector of society over another we are on a dangerous path. Families are important, of course they are, but so are single people, childless couples and everyone else as well.

What angers me most is the hypocrisy of someone claiming to want to protect families at the same time as voting to cut benefits to people in need – including families. Her voting record shows that she has never rebelled against her party, but in order to represent the constituents of Eastbourne she may have to. A third of Eastbourne’s families live in poverty and the government cuts are directly hurting them.

I don’t like some of the comments I have seen on social media recently about Caroline, some of which have been vicious personal attacks which are entirely unnecessary, however I do understand peoples’ anger. Ms. Ansell has just voted in favour of cutting disabled peoples’ benefits by £30 per week, and at the same time has accepted a pay rise of 10%. It doesn’t look great does it? She is now receiving a wage of £74,000 a year. I have no doubt that being an MP is a really tough job and dealing with constant criticism can’t be easy, however listening to your constituents and considering their needs is a major part of the job. The decision to cut the benefits of disabled people seems to have been one of the Governments most unpopular moves so far, with a coalition of 60 disability charities condemning the move. Social media is awash with MPs who voted in favour of the cuts being named and shamed, including Caroline, and an online petition to have the disability cut reversed has already reached over 70,000 signatures. If you would like to add your name you can do so at www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124016