It is regrettably all too easy for some to overlook the realities of life for others when everything is going well and there is no need to look to anyone else for help.
Sadly, this is not the case for many. At one time or another during our lifetimes, there is every chance that we will need a safety net in place for when plans don’t work out quite as we thought they might, and we find ourselves in need of money, food, clothing, transport, warmth and maybe even a home.
State provision of such a safety net within a civilised society is not only right. It is also necessary when government is convened, managed and operated with the greater good, benefits and consequences for all are firmly in mind.
However, our Welfare and Benefits system has and is being continually abused.
It is being misused by those seeking help. But it is also being mis-purposed by those who have been given the responsibility in Government for providing that help on behalf of us all.
The Welfare covenant between those helping and those seeking help has been broken. And for the benefits system to work beneficially again for all, there must now be a new way of thinking.
No form of Government provision can truly be beneficial to all if victims have been created of any kind.
Universal Credit has therefore proven itself flawed before it has even began operating fully.
With many struggling recipients identified already, we should all be asking questions about the many more who are yet to come and the consequences that will surely follow.
This doesn’t mean that the system we have had until now is good. That it is working. Or that we should just stay tied to the same old thing.
We shouldn’t, because the current DWP Benefits regime really isn’t working for anybody, and we are all in desperate need of a solution which really can be seen and experienced as a ‘win-win’.
Now before we get lost completely with how Politicians are getting Benefits and Welfare wrong, there must also be an acceptance on the part of us all of what it is fair to expect to receive, how we receive it, and under what circumstances that help will actually come from the State if we should ever find ourselves in the position where we genuinely need it.
As we look at what is really wrong with the system as it is, we must also understand and accept that if the Law allows certain types of behaviours to exist, it is inevitable that there will be people who will employ them.
It doesn’t make their behaviour right. Their actions are not inevitable. Everyone has free will and can choose how to behave, even when a rule covering that action or behaviour may appear to be absent.
If the system doesn’t accommodate for the misuse of Beneficiaries and those affected, it is the people who are responsible for its design and implementation who are equally responsible for identifying what is wrong, putting it right and ensuring that either good or bad, nobody who should be receiving help gets missed or is able to slip in between.
Why the benefits system isn’t working, isn’t simply about something structural, the technology used or the people who administer or receive Benefits of any kind.
Like most policy failures today, it is a combination of factors which are not being considered. Many of them overlooked for the cause of political expediency, or because their place and influences sit outside of the specific or central theme – in this case the Benefits regime.
The real cost of a Basic Standard of Living is not understood by Government
The greatest injustice visited upon the unemployed, is the Government and DWP assertion that in 2018, one person can live on a basic income of £73.10 per week.
And when the Government itself has set the Minimum Wage at £7.83 per hour, which at a 40 hour week would be the same as £313.20, who exactly do they think is going to step in and replace what for some will be the destitution-busting £240.10 per week which sits so ominously in between?
Yes, there are many other Benefits other than and beyond the scope of Jobseekers Allowance.
But Universal Credit is being sold as a method of simplification by rolling everything into one, when the true aim of saving money will not stop a similar way of allocating money to the very same things from then existing, just under the umbrella of being just one application.
Government must provide a Basic Standard of Living income to those who qualify and need it.
If it is too expensive to do so, those in Government would do well by beginning to ask themselves the question ‘why?’
Government has surrendered responsibility for setting the prices of goods and services essential to a Basic Standard of Living to the private sector
Sadly, little attention is paid to the elephant in the Benefits room. That being the escalating prices of goods and services which provide for everyone’s basic needs in life.
That’s food, clothing, accommodation, transport and utilities.
Not First Class or on the upper side of ‘Taste the Difference’.
Just the stuff that anyone would need to be kept fed, clothed, warm, able to get themselves to a job and home again, and knowing that at night they will have a roof over their head.
Control of all of these goods and services is now completely under the infuence of commercial interests which have money as their one and only god.
Free Marketeers and Neo-Liberals will tell you that the Markets will look after everything when they are completely free to do as they choose. They don’t, they won’t and they will continue to do everything to make profit from every opportunity, for as long as they are gifted with the freedom to choose by gutless Government. Government filled with Politicians who see ethical intervention in the Markets and Financial Sector as a problem because they believe that they have too much to lose by doing so.
No service which is essential to the public good should be placed in private hands or under the undue influence of any self-serving cause.
No food supply essential to basic, healthy survival should be subject to the whimsy of the Markets where multiple traders, agents and handlers are seeking to add one profit margin on top of another, just on one item supplied within any one producer-to-plate supply chain alone.
If the Government genuinely wants the Benefits system to work, it has to find an effective way of controlling these two essential areas of daily life so that once a system that does work has been identified and implemented, it is then not rendered useless by private interest, based on nothing but profit.
We are culturally conditioned to assume that all Benefits Claimants are in some way bad
Mud sticks, as anyone who spends any time on social media or reading the news will know.
But the phenomenon of people assuming the worst of others based on the first story they are told is nothing new. And when it comes to the unemployed, being work shy is basically the accepted view.
The truth is not as straightforward and anyone at any stage of their career can find themselves out of work and having to ‘sign on’ in order to get help.
The problem with the ‘accepted truth’, is that the system itself, both mechanically and culturally treats everyone who comes through the Jobcentre door as if they don’t want to work, cannot be trusted in any way and that they all fit into the same mould as each other.
This approach overlooks the fact that people find themselves knocking on the door of the Jobcentre and the administrative centres of the DWP for very different reasons.
Some are poorly educated. Others have grown up in conditions that reinforce a world view that this is all they are worth. But there are others too who have landed themselves with significant debt to gain degrees that have proven to be of no use. People suffering illness and mental health problems which restrict the work that they can do. And even highly experienced and very well-educated professionals who cannot provide anything like as simple an explanation for what life has put them through.
Sit in a Jobcentre for long enough and you will hear claimants complain about having to wait for the money they are entitled to. You will see others lose their rag because they have not conformed to the regulations that they are supposed to. You will also witness the presence of so many security guards, it clearly suggests that behaviour of this kind is not only possible, but actually the expected constantly and all of the time.
But not all Benefits Claimants are a burden. Many want to work. But they are branded as ‘no-hopers’, instead of gaining the help and support which reflects them individually.
It is little wonder that those outside of the expereince of having a ‘down period’ in their lives take what they have for granted. Then look on and see all these people as being worthless and occupants of society’s bin.
Taking this approach is little more than deliberately setting up Benefit Claimants to fail.
It is not the action of a Government which respects and fully fulfils its role as the representative body of a civilised society. Nor is it illustrative of a Civil Service which is fully considerate of its role.
We can hardly expect the general population to think differently when the system so demeans.
A significant element of Claimants consider themselves entitled to what they receive
Because the system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically and as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.
The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it, leaving no incentive to escape and provide us all with that so far mythical ‘win-win’
Because the Benefits system has been so poorly thought through and has not evolved positively in a way that sees its role strategically as a way to raise expectation from the ground level upwards, it encourages the belief that it can be used as a substitute for real life. For not taking part. For resenting the success of others and as such seeing Benefits as an entitlement or a worthy redistribution of wealth from others.
The Benefits system only works for those who surrender themselves completely to it. It leaves no incentive for Beneficiaries to escape and benefit anyone but themselves.
With restrictions placed upon how many hours a Claimant can work without losing Benefits, and the process of reinstatement being long and arduous – even before Universal Credit begins, there is zero in terms of incentive for people to take on more hours and work towards self-sufficiency.
Because the 6 Benefits together are so very complicated for one person to qualify for already, the further any Claimant journeys into this portfolio of direct and indirect income streams the less and less likely they are then to leave.
We can only ask ourselves the question if we were to find ourselves in the very same position. When everything is taken care of already, what serious advantage is there to be gained by going out and working for a wage which might never come to anything near the total that becoming subservient to the system and therefore being a Benefits slave can achieve?
Again, we cannot blame people for responding this way when the system itself not only allows but facilitates behaviour of this kind.
Help should always be given to those that need it.
For those who currently choose to be beholden to the system, there must be a process of incentives which doesn’t leave them without all the basic essentials.
It must also encourage them and accept and appreciate that they have responsibility for themselves as well as the wider community. A community which is ready to help, but is itself entitled to see those who voluntarily choose a life on Benefits as a drain on resources that we desperately need focused to provide other Public Services and that they are as such disadvantaging others on little more than a whim.
As taxpayers, we are effectively subsidising the employers of low paid workers by providing the in work benefits which allow them to survive
I have already mentioned what it costs to live and the need for a basic standard of living above.
Yet the conversation and discussion needs to go even further than the power of commercial interests over the essential goods and services for life.
The debate and the action that follows also needs to recognise the role which our Government is playing in keeping wages low and propagating a system where profit margins for large companies are exploding, whilst the millions of people on low incomes are now being farmed for the debt they have to carry, just to survive.
The money that lower income workers receive is in many cases too much to allow them to be on additional Benefits, yet not enough to allow them to be self sufficient. It keeps them ‘functioning’ at the behest of others, somewhere within the ‘in between’.
If we could freeze the prices of goods and services right now, so that they no longer rise, and we could focus in on what it actually costs a normal person on their own to live, self sufficiently, to feed, clothe and take care of themselves, put something by, have a holiday, a realistic pension and have a life which reason would tell us would make a normal person happy, we can soon begin to see the disparity between where wages sit and where right now, in these ‘static’ circumstances they would need to be.
At £10.20 per hour in London and £8.75 per hour outside, without the help of Government with Housing Benefit and Tax Credits too, even the Living Wage Foundations advisory level for a basic income doesn’t come close to what self sufficiency – that’s what complete independence from Government support – would actually require.
Such a reality where Government support for the growth of small business is concerned alone would probably make the whole thing more palatable.
But the real beneficiaries of this State-sponsored in-work poverty are the big Companies making significant levels of profit that would in reality only dip slightly if they were to pay wages to front-line staff which would allow those employees to function within the overpriced society which their Employers have helped to create.
That this situation has been allowed to exist is beyond questionable.
That successive Governments of all kinds have allowed a situation to exist where the Taxpayer is paying over the odds for products in services in their face value alone is simply wrong.
That customers are then paying again to subsidise the wages of the staff serving them would be funny, if its implications and the reality which surrounds it not so very serious indeed.
This whole process has only been possible because Government has either borrowed incredible amounts of money, or has cut other and arguably more essential Public Services in order to allow them to provide this massive giveaway. A free-for-all that has broken the Country financially and is one of the key reasons why unfettered immigration of low skilled workers from Europe has been possible. Itself an issue which is seen by many Remainers as key to the majority vote for the UK to leave the European Union and the one which they are still obsessively attempting to resolve.
There would be some sweet irony in this if this financial mismanagement had really been helping people and UK communities, rather than being overtly beneficial to commercial interests, private profit and yes, the EU all along.
But there hasn’t, and in terms of management of expectation, this and previous Governments would appear to have hamstrung any future Government which wants to take a stand and do the right thing.
Be that as it may. Doing the right thing, is the only way that all of this is going to end up working right for everyone involved.
Like almost everything that Government and Politics touches, the key to delivering change in the Benefits and Welfare system is thinking differently.
And it’s the thinking and ideas at the top of British Politics which needs to change first before it can change anywhere else.
The responsibility of Government
Before the Benefits problem can be fixed, the understanding of what the problem actually is, must be broadened to include the wide range of factors which feed and influence the issues which those claiming Benefits experience.
Right now, there is an obsession on the part of decision makers. One which leads them only to attempt to address the effects of any problem, rather than to tackle each and every one of the causes.
Until all of the causes of problems are addressed, the Benefits system will only ever work temporarily at best, until those factors which are outside of the scope of that consideration inevitably change and then exert their negative influence once again.
A Basic Standard of Living level or the real Living Wage will only be achieved and maintained when all contributing factors fall within the reasoned influence of non-idealistic Government that considers the consequences of policy making upon ALL.
Politicians simply do not understand the power they have to change things. They do not see the scope of their roles and they have no appreciation of the influence that they could really have if they were to put the interests of ALL the people who have elected them first, rather than themselves, their Political Parties and whatever ideas or interests sit around that self-serving mix.
It will not matter how simple or complicated existing of new systems like Universal Credit might be. If they fail to consider and be considered as part of the bigger picture, they will always fail – and our Politicians have both the ability and responsibility to ensure that this is no longer the case.
It is their choice to now decide and it is their choice which must come first.
The responsibility – and acceptance of Claimants and Beneficiaries
For any solution to gain traction, it is also vital that ‘being down in your luck’ is accepted as a normal part of life, rather than being a condition which renders any of us as being sub-standard to it – the position under which Benefit Claimants are often perceived.
Those claiming Benefits fall into two predominant groups. Those who are or should be temporary claimants and are able and willing to work. And those who are longer-term or permanent claimants who are unable or unlikely to be able to consider working again because of disability, illness, or other genuine debilitating circumstances.
All of us as beneficiaries must accept that there is and never has been a magic money tree of any kind. That the support that is given can only be provided through the act of others contributing through taxation on earnings, whether they themselves earn little or some extraordinary figure that might blow our minds.
Whilst it may currently behave as if it is, and some Politicians continue to seek election on the basis of perpetuating this myth, Government and the Public Sector is not a separate and ‘benevolent’ entity which doles out cash to Welfare recipients on the basis of being kind.
Government exists to represent the best interests of ALL British people. Government is there to help us all to succeed in whatever way that might be possible for us as individuals. And on behalf of us all, it is there to help and provide support to those of us who cannot do so, in such ways that we may never feel like an after thought or something that others have in some way been left behind.
Government is the formal community power which represents and is therefore ‘for all of us’.
Those of us receiving help should therefore be mindful that the help we receive comes from the people next door, up the street and across our Cities and Towns.
As recipients, we are not ‘entitled’ to anything. It is simply that looking after those in genuine need is the basis upon which our civilised society can be found.