News media have been awash with stories about early victims of the budget cuts, from one-legged Robert Oxley (not sufficiently disabled to justify a Motability car) to Paralympic swimmer, Joanna Cranfield, who was misguided enough to pass her 16th birthday, thus automatically losing her entitlement to Disabled Living Allowance, not to mention Riven Vincent, sufficiently exhausted through 24-hour a day caring for her severely disabled daughter and just six hours a week respite, to consider asking the council to take her into care.
The really worrying feature of these stories is that the individuals affected are not the sort of people I am sure most of us had in mind when we thought it was a good idea to overhaul the benefits system. I doubt if there is a single person in the country who would have voted for making life even more difficult for people already on the edge, no matter how big our national debt. What we wanted was less money wasted on management consultants and agency staff, regular rebranding exercises and poorly negotiated contracts, big salaries for people doing rather average jobs.
I am fairly sure that I heard a council leader last week saying that it was perfectly possible to achieve the budget cuts necessary without withdrawing essential frontline services, but it was a lone voice, and obviously completely out of step with the current appetite for stories about suffering and despair. I haven't heard it repeated subsequently, and have failed to Google my way back to it.
We have been promised openness and transparency, a greater say in how various services are delivered, as we graduate from passive recipients to "an army of armchair auditors" holding councils to account. So far, it seems that what we have is business as usual: it is clearly either easier or more politically expedient to make the cuts painful and shocking, rather than approaching them in the way a family would trim its budget – you wouldn't let your children become malnourished or court hypothermia, while you carried on paying for satellite TV. By the end of this month, all councils will have to publish details of any payment to suppliers over £500 on their website. Perhaps that will provide the impetus for a lot more careful thought about how they spend our money.
And in the meantime, we can all let them know what matters to us, like living in a civilised society where people who really need help don't have to fight for it.