Social Dependency – Doesn’t Help Anyone

How the rich used to live.

Whenever you hear people talking about the reform of the “Welfare State” it’s usually best to duck, shove on a Kevlar helmet and run for the nearest cover.

There are few areas of political life which are used to better effect to empasise the tribal allegiances of political parties. For me, it’s irrelevant because I have no tribal allegiances. I’m torn between the “since none of them support me, I’ll support none of them” and “I’d never want to be a member of a club that would accept me as a member” camps of political thought. However, I do have views on the daft welfare system the UK has built up in the last few years.

Why should my views carry any weight?

Well, I’m a UK citizen with children. I have a vested interest in the system from that perspective. Also, I have used the welfare system on several occasions. I’d like to say I’ve benefitted from it – but that would be untrue. And lastly, as a taxpayer, I have an interest in seeing how my tax money is spent.

OK, so I have children. Of what relevance is that?

Perhaps not too much – but I have an interest in seeing that my children are not paying for all their lives for the greed and stupidity of their father’s generation.

And it is driven by greed and stupidity, yes. We have a system now that rewards failure fabulously. The more failure you can cram into your early years, the more you will be rewarded.

For instance, if you don’t bother to work, if you show yourself as feckless and incompetent, and promiscuous, and thereby create a large family, you will be rewarded. You will be given a council house or flat, you will be told that after a certain amount of time you can buy that house (at a large discount), and still be paid sums towards your children and living expenses.

Where is the logic in the state building, at high expense to the taxpayer, a series of houses which are then to be given to people for them to sell at a profit? And let’s be clear – many of the people who are shoved into council homes are going through a short period of financial trouble. Why should they be rewarded with low rents for life because of a short term problem? And then be sold their house at a discount?

It makes no sense whatsoever. We need rental homes for people who get into trouble and need a short period of stability to get back into work, but the idea that those who are hard up for a limited period should expect to be given cheap accomodation for life is moronic.

There are others who have claims on council housing. A large number of young women now live in council housing because they have children, and they need somewhere to live.

This has become another disaster. Originally it was felt to be a good idea to let young mothers have somewhere safe to live. I am no social scientist for modern times, but I can see the logic. There was the move to help war widows after the two world wars, and the idea of single parent families caught the public’s attention – and the swinging sixties led to more unmarried mothers who, it was felt, should not be demonized. They needed sympathy and kindness, not bullying.

Result? There are some now who think that rather than get qualifications to leave school and better themselves, it’s easier to get pregnant. The state will come to their aid, it will provide housing, pay for the children, provide an income for the mother.

And what an income.

People are up in arms now because there is talk of capping the support which the state will give to families. It will be capped at some £26,000. Twenty six thousand pounds! Ye Gods! That is more than most authors can hope to earn – at a recent investigation it was learned that over three quarters of all authors earn less than this. And since some of this income is tax-free, the actual income involved could be as high as the mid-thirty thousands.

It is easy to see how people could see this as a potential money-spinner. They have a child, are provided with a house, with money to help bring up a child, with money for their own income. Their bills are paid for, their rates and other taxes compensated. It is an easy concept for someone who is too feckless to want to work.

In the past, if you needed support, the Church would provide it.

But there are more who, rather than being blameworthy, deserve our sympathy.

Some who are honourable, and who only want to be able to pay their own way, can be trapped by this comfortable existence. They don’t necessarily want to stay on benefits, but if getting a job means losing money, because the benefits are significantly better than any potential salary, those people don’t deserve to be villified for choosing to stay on benefits rather than see their income drop. It’s human nature to want to keep the money coming in.

That is a big problem. We have a massively expensive benefits system now. It involved tens of thousands of social workers, admin managers, tax administrators, and other civil servants. They draw money in from taxation, absorb a large sum themselves, and pay out the residual amount. The system itself tempts some to remain on benefits for life, and no doubt makes some people utterly unemployable. Those who want to get back to work can be persuaded not to bother because the salary may not give such a good standard of living as the benefits.

And at  a time when our social housing stock is at the lowest level for – what? Fifty, seventy years? – we are still selling the houses at a discount to those who live in them – a bonanza for some, paid for by all the rest of us.

It’s being said that now, because of the proposed cap on benefits, children will be forced into poverty, and many made ‘homeless’.

That is a damning conclusion. Clearly all Conservative politicians are evil, home-wrecking devils who seek the destruction of all the poor.

Garbage. The definition of ‘homeless’ in this context apparently means that the child is forced to share a room with a sibling.

Excuse me, but when my family lived in large houses, because we were a large family, my brothers had to share their bedroom. It didn’t make the family poor or homeless. We were neither.

My children until recently had to share a bedroom. It had nothing to do with us being poor or on the brink of homelessness. Many families which are struggling to get by on reasonable wages cannot afford the cost or upkeep of a house large enough for a bedroom per child. Only those who live on social security can afford that luxury, apart from the top 5%, perhaps, of the income earners in the UK. It is a stupid, deliberately dishonest term.

OK – full disclosure here. I was very lucky when I was younger, and had two good jobs in my twenties. However, those jobs went bust, and after that I had a series of other jobs, all of which lasted for a limited time during the last recession. I had to claim social support at various times.

At no time could I claim mortgage support, even though I was potentially eligible. I did claim the weekly allowance, which kept me in food, but it certainly was not a luxury.

All the companies I worked for went bust while I was still employed by them. As a result, by the time I was in my early thirties I had lost all my savings, and it was only good fortune, and some excellent advice, that I managed to keep my house and not fall further into the mire. I managed to get a book accepted, and that way set myself up on a new career as an author.

I do not think that all those who’re on social support or who live in council housing are lazy, workshy or stupid. However, the system is setting people up for exactly that.

This system is failing. It worked for a short time, but in paying people to have children, paying their rent and rates, providing council housing for life, we have created a culture of dependency that doesn’t help anyone. It must be changed because we cannot afford it.

We need to return to a culture of self-sufficiency and independence.

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Comments
14 Responses to “Social Dependency – Doesn’t Help Anyone”
  1. Ralph Spurrier says:

    Oh how I agree wiith every single word of this. Only this morning there was a discussion on R4 about the school “breakfast clubs” which are set up to give “deprived” children a decent meal to start the day. A Conservative MP questioned what on earth were the families doing with all the benefit money – some as much as £200 a week (not including housing or rate benefit) – that they could not provide a bowl of porridge and an apple for their children before school. It was simply a case of passing responsibility (again!) for bringing up children over to the state funded charities who provided these breakfasts.
    Any attempt at reforming the system as it stands is met with howls from various lobbies (today its the turn of the bishops in the Lords) claiming people will be homeless. There has to be a new attitude to the whole benefit system and it has to start in schools where pupils could be taught social responsibility and altruism.

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    • It is crazy. And why do we all pay for everyone with kids to have a benefit? Why should those on large incomes expect help? Benefits should be there solely to help those who need it – it isn’t a free civil right!

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  2. knotrune says:

    I hope you are excepting the disabled from the need to be independent, as that is not a luxury we can all manage, sadly. I agree that the system is badly broken, but it will need careful and mindful attention to fix without causing genuine distress to many who don’t deserve that.

    For a start, I would suggest that all healthy people on benefits should be required to put in say 20 hours a week in voluntary work. They can choose the nature of this and should get help in finding ways in. There is so much needing to be done, especially now in our so called ‘big society’! Helping in libraries, litter picking, working in charity shops, spending time chatting to old people in homes, walking dogs for the RSPCA, there are loads of possibilities. This means such people get a chance to give something back, they might learn new skills to put on a CV, society is getting something for the money. It’s a win-win really.

    Also a problem is all the different places you have to go to get different benefits. They require the same information, which not only wastes my time duplicating the filling in of forms, but requires 3 people to be employed to read and file the same info! How redundant is that? There should be one place which assesses the actual needs of all and provides one benefit, like a salary, to cover such needs. Plus, those departments don’t talk to each other, which is one of the main sources of fraud. Sorting this out would be far more useful than persecuting sick people by making them prove they are sick when their hospital records could easily confirm this.

    Sorry, that comment almost turned into a whole blog post itself! It’s a subject I care about, as I am disabled.

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  3. Mari says:

    Absolutely agree with what the last comment says! I am also in receipt of some disability benefits, without which I would be pretty much housebound, but I still do work whenever possible, so I don’t see why the able-bodied can’t get out there and get on with something useful. And as a bonus, if they are out taking part in community-friendly activities, they won’t need to have their heating/lighting/tv/whatever on, thus making a saving straight away!

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    • Yes, Knotrune and Mari – I entirely agree. I’ve a great friend from my school days who’s been plagued with MS since he was a teen. But he’s worked almost every day since, usually as a volunteer helping other people. I know others who work at CABs and other places. My gripe is with the able-bodied who just cannot be bothered, and the whole culture of expecting something from the state for nothing. And not every single mother actually needs a council house, any more than all children should expect a bedroom all on their own, when so many children of working families have to share.

      I like the idea of all those who are fit and able should be asked to put something back into the community. There are plenty of jobs which cannot be paid for now (cleaning the ditches and gutters, cutting grass and so on down here in Dartmoor, but no doubt there are litter-picking-up jobs in London parks and other tasks) and since these people can be getting up to the equivalent of about £35,000, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be expected to work for it. Apart from anything else, the worst impact on people of being unemployed is losing the habit of getting up and being prepared to get out to work.

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  4. MeToo says:

    Excellent commentary and observations! Those who really, really want a nanny state are those who want to control those in a nanny state. They also must live better than the rest so that they can do the arduous job of ‘caring’ for everyone (tongue-in-cheek).

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    • Report today that a “pilgrim” teacher has not taught for over ten years. In all that time she’s been a full-time union rep. Thus the school has had to buy in an extra teacher to cover for her time helping the union. Over £1,100,000 in the last few years. I have no doubt that she fully supports the benefits culture too! The system really is in a complete mess. The sooner the cap is imposed (£35,000 income seems a pretty generous cap, after all) and more schemes can be assessed, the better. And next, get rid of child support for those who don’t need it. Means tested should be the rule for all benefits, surely.

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      • knotrune says:

        DLA is not means tested and should remain so, because it is intended to be to help with the additional expenses being disabled adds to your life. It is so hard to get that nobody would even try and get it if they don’t need it, not that I think that is right either! In fact, it is very wrong. But people who have enough money should not apply for them. And they shouldn’t be automatic, so that opting out is needed! Although it would be nice if disability benefits were automatic – once diagnosed with a nasty crippling incurable disease, it would be great to get help without having to feel like a dirty beggar when you also have such terrible news to deal with and a massive unpleasant life adjustment to make.

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  5. jellyrubyted says:

    Those with an overt disability should of course be protected from benefit cuts, but I do hope that these parents with large families don’t now decide that some of them have disabilities in order to protect family income. Whiplash and mild ADHD are two of the likely things that I forsee as a reason why benefits will be claimed. And yes, I work in social care, and yes, I do see families claiming all kinds of stuff to be wrong with their kids in order to get something from us.
    We say no. And continue to say no. If only the benefits agency would also say no.

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    • I agree wholeheartedly – and the mention of “whiplash” (doesn’t hold the same connotations for me as for most MPs) always makes me bristle. The number of Surrey police who took early retirement on the day that they could claim full pension for this was unbelievable ten years ago. It’s one of the few injuries that cannot be disproved, so it’s known as the Bobby’s Friend round here. You have my sympathy. But there is a real backlash building, isn’t there? Why should I provide my income to support people who have a far better disposable income than me? I’d rather see it going to my children, or even into a ruddy holiday. Haven’t had one for ages, and feel the need badly!

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      • knotrune says:

        I have to disagree with making it hard for covert disabilities. While I understand that some are claimed falsely, people who genuinely suffer from illnesses it is hard to prove can be made to suffer immensely by such attitudes. I have struggled against a stress and anxiety condition this past year and it has been more debilitating in many ways than my physical disability, and is of course related.

        A close relative has IBS also linked to a stress and depression condition. This person constantly had to fight the system to prove this, as their medical benefit was removed every single time assessment came round, and reinstated after a difficult battle through appeals every single time. This costs the tax payer a lot more money than just accepting this person’s veracity would have. Plus the personal cost to a person dear to me, as the stress of having to prove it made their condition many times worse, and the feeling of utter uselessness and proof of how society devalues them plunged them into a far worse depression, costing the NHS more in pills and other treatments. This person had worked many years in a vital and trustworthy role, which if anything made such treatment feel even worse.

        I also have a friend with ME, disparagingly referred to as yuppie flu. She longs to be able to work and contribute to society, she is clever and talented as a linguist and musician, but cannot use these skills. Many in the medical profession don’t take such a condition seriously as it is hard to prove, but there is no way she is pretending. She lives in constant pain and can hardly sleep.

        Better to sort out the clear cut problems first, and give sick people the benefit of the doubt.

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  6. Longshanks says:

    The matter of immigration is what irks me the most. There are hundreds of thousands of immigrants in this country who are living off of the tax-payer, yet they have never contributed to the system. When a Romanian Big Issus seller is able to claim housing benefit and tax credits, it is obvious this country is on the road to catastrophe.
    Then we have the same old rubbish about British people being too lazy to work, and that is why we import people to work in Poundland and Starbucks. This is so insulting to the countless thousands of youngsters seeking work ever since they left school. With 2.5 million on the dole, it is complete rot to suggest we need to import a workforce from Eastern Europe. Besides, if the government really wants to get tough then they should send home all of the Poles, Slovakians, Latvians et al and either give or force the jobs on to the unemployed.
    Furthermore, why are the beautiful counties of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk fighting against a foreign wave of drugs, prostitution, bootleg-booze and gang warfare? Is there any use in allowing such undesirable dregs to flood our country?

    In short: sort out the imported problems and then start clearing up our home-grown mess.

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  7. Knotrune – I really dislike this new scheme Labour brought in to save money by having untrained people questioning the sufferers. Far, far better to leave the validation in the hands of doctors, and any GP worth his/her salt would surely be quick to assess the ill? Still, disability is a different matter from the point of this blog.

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    • maximusandz says:

      Even doctors, in charge of making decisions, have no clue as to what they are doing. There is a medication that my doctor says will help me. It requires “prior authorization” and it will still be expensive. In September an insurance doctor said that I could not have it because of my anxiety medicication. So I weaned myself off of the offending med. In January, at my last appointment we decided to try again. Now they say that I can’t have it because of conflicting pain medication. The sad thing is that this medication is supposed to help with withdrawl symptoms for these meds, but I have to quit taking the meds BEFORE. Needless to say I sat and cried alot Friday.

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