The royals get a 66% pay rise and Prince Harry's jetted off for a 'fun' tour of the Caribbean, but I'm the one called a benefits scrounger

That 'necessary' £369m refurbishment of Buckingham Palace leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when you used to sleep on the streets

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The Independent Online

Prince Harry has touched down this week in Antigua, a popular holiday destination in the Caribbean. A red carpet adorned with potted palms was prepared for his arrival, on a tour that has been described as “formal but fun”.

The royal will spend just over two weeks touring seven islands as the Queen’s representative. A Kensington Palace source said that the tour would have a “formal feel”, but there would be “plenty of fun” to be had while he was there. Thank the Lord for that.

A homeless man in Newcastle, repeatedly refused help by local authorities, makes a video from his mobile phone to illustrate what it’s like to sleep on the streets. In and out of hospital due to his heart problems, the staff treat him, hand him a sandwich and send him back out into the night.

Buckingham Palace is due to receive a “necessary” refurbishment of £369m. The monarchy will receive an equivalent of a 66 per cent pay rise. Tony Johnstone-Burt, master of the Queen’s household, said that the money would ensure there was a “palace fit for purpose” until 2067.

Prince Harry arrives in Antigua

A young woman wanders the streets at night, before settling down at the side of a road to try and sleep. It’s 4am. The cold is unbearable. Cars speed by next to her, but there’s nowhere else to go. She takes her cardigan off and wraps it more tightly around herself.

That woman was me, two years ago. I was halfway through my degree, and that summer provided me with a taste of what homeless people go through in their lives. Meanwhile, the royal family receive millions in funding and a “salary”, Prince Harry jets off to the Caribbean, Princess Beatrice takes 15 luxury holidays a year and toddler Prince George already owns an £18,000 playhouse.

In 2015, Government statistics showed that 3,569 people slept rough on any one night across England. This is almost double the figure documented in 2010.

“Just get a job, then,” many might suggest. Well, I can tell you that it’s taken me five months, 25 interviews and hundreds of pounds in travel in order for me to secure a job. It would have been much harder if I hadn’t had people to ask for help with funding, due to Tory cuts that left me with first 74p in living costs, then 15p the following month.

Many of the poorest in society are labelled as “benefits scroungers”. Yet I have been around these so-called scroungers. I have been one of them myself. I have seen people struggling to eat, people ringing up workplaces to ask if there’s any work going, filling in endless application forms, sitting in the job centre as they’re told their money is being cut again. People losing their homes, then being told by the council that they’re not a priority, so they take to the streets, to be judged. Attacked. Left out in the cold.

Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell said this week: “I’m sure many will find it hard to grasp the millions available to restore Buckingham Palace when Tory cuts are leaving the poorest in our society to suffer.” Yes, I find it pretty hard to grasp. I also know who I’d apply the term “scroungers” to. And it certainly isn’t the man who’s been handed a sandwich, then sent back out to sleep on the streets tonight.

Work on Buckingham Palace will be completed in 2027, at a cost of £9,225,000 per year – until further repairs are deemed “necessary”, that is. The Queen will be spending more of the year at her castles in Balmoral and Windsor, and will significantly reduce her time at Buckingham Palace.

After monthly cuts from the DWP, where I was given reasons such as “It’s because you’re under 35” or “It’s due to the nature of your accommodation”, I’ve been taught that the benefits system will not be there for me, or countless others, when we need it most.

I’m sure the Palace really needs 6,500 plug sockets, though. 

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