RECENT weeks have brought with them the creeping realisation that all of our worst fears for the General Election have really come true and, no, we won’t get to wake up from the nightmare of right-wing Tory rule for at least another five years.

This was not a surprise, and yet the reality of it still feels heavy and suffocating. It’s the almost physical sensation of the last vestiges of hope draining from the reserves we’d been tending to carefully, just in case.

The possibility of a Scottish escape route notwithstanding, we must all now contend with the fact that a slew of demonstrably harmful policies on welfare, immigration, drugs, public services and the environment will continue and escalate under the direction of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Each of these pose a real and immediate threat to the mental and physical well-being of the most vulnerable people in our society, people who have become increasingly reliant on the third sector – voluntary and nonprofit organisations – to keep them afloat.

These are truths which have been evidenced by statistics, analysis, projections and the stories of people whose lives have been affected by these policies. Report after report by charities, academics, equality and human rights bodies, and even the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty, has raised concerns and called for urgent change, backed up by hard facts. And yet change feels as distant as ever.

There was a time when it might have seemed like common sense that any government would have to take stock in the face of countless respected organisations stating in no uncertain terms that its proposals would exacerbate inequality and put lives at risk.

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That was before the Conservative Government carried on regardless with the implementation of Universal Credit, the two-child cap, the benefit cap and a harsh regime of benefit sanctions which has been proven to cost more money than it saves. That’s just one of the policy areas in which the Tories have defied all of the evidence in favour of pursuing their own agenda.

Confronted with five more years of this, it is understandably difficult for all those who’ve been railing against these policies to know what to do next.

And technically it is a new government, so restating the importance of all the same points the experts have been making for years can’t hurt, can it? Maybe Boris Johnson will be the one to finally get it and take decisive action where Theresa May and David Cameron failed?

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Except anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention – for example, by taking a cursory glance at the Conservatives’ General Election manifesto – knows that’s a fantasy. Putting a fairer social security system on your Christmas list to Santa would have been a more realistic strategy than imagining that asking Boris Johnson nicely is going to do the trick.

Having spent most of my adult life working in or with the voluntary sector, which has happened to coincide with the nine years of Conservative rule, my resounding takeaway is that the vast majority of people in these organisations agree that this government has made things exponentially worse for the vulnerable people they support.

This is an unavoidable truth when you are tasked with picking up the pieces as more and more people fall through a weakened safety net, while you’re expected to manage it all on an ever-shrinking budget.

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So at what point do these organisations decide that enough is enough? Many charities have been campaigning for policy changes to tackle poverty and inequality and to uphold human rights, many outlined those very demands in the run-up to the General Election, and many have reiterated them since the outcome was revealed. But aren’t we past the point of stating the obvious? You know what they say about people who keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

The charity sector prides itself on being evidence-based, in ensuring that what it provides and what it calls for at a policy level is led by genuine need and by knowledge about “what works”.

So, in considering any course of action to bring about change, let’s begin from a starting point that is rooted in reality. The reality is that the Tories have not enacted policies which punish the poor by accident – this was their express purpose, based in the belief that this will drive otherwise lazy people into work.

This isn’t some great secret, this is Conservative ideology. Trying to change the Government’s mind by calmly informing it that its policies are achieving their desired result is hardly going to be a fruitful endeavour.

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There are a raft of grassroots campaign groups which organise protests, rallies and direct action, and which express their demands from a place of resistance and agitation.

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Their contribution is important, but it strikes me that among larger or more well-established organisations – the ones with the infrastructure, resources and partnership links which could facilitate the greatest impact – notions of political neutrality act as a barrier to the radicalism we so desperately need.

There is a well-known Ron Swanson quote among those of us who have seen Parks and Recreation, where he presents an award for public service to a woman he hates using this “speech of facts”: “Marlene is a woman. She has worked in the government for three decades. Thirty years. Properly applied, that’s how long a good varnish should last. So Marlene, it is true that you have won this award.”

Looking at some – though I stress, not all – of the responses from the third sector to the election results reminded me of this. There are times when neutrality ventures into absurdity, and I believe this is one of them.

It simply won’t do to behave as though all of the problems, or “challenges”, which the new government must address have materialised by magic, or as though the policies being critiqued exist in a bubble, absent of the ideological context which inspired them.

THAT ideological context and all of the policy intentions it entails have not changed. That is a fact, so spending even a moment waiting and seeing what Boris Johnson might do is a waste of everyone’s time. The push for change has to start now, and it has to be more co-ordinated, more intense and more confrontational than ever. The time for polite professionalism ended the minute the Government started intentionally harming the people the third sector exists to represent.

The figures on rising poverty, evictions, homelessness and destitution should be enough to convince anyone that this is a state of emergency which necessitates an urgent response. It is incumbent on all of us who want to turn this disaster around to stop treating it as business as usual. Because that is exactly what the architects of these destructive policies were banking on from the start. They knew there might be an outcry at first, but that eventually people – particularly those not directly affected – would get used to it and become distracted by the next new thing.

Well, the next new thing is going to be even worse and we cannot allow ourselves to become desensitised to the horror or to act as though this is all surely going to be cleared up the next time the Government is advised it’s breaching its international human rights obligations.

The voluntary organisations whose duty it is to amplify the voices of the marginalised and work to protect their interests are at the top of the list of the people who should be making sure of that. I believe that most people in the sector know this instinctively but there needs to be a reminder at the strategic level that it’s OK to be brave and bold and brash. In fact, it’s now the only option.