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Posts Tagged ‘Benefits’

The 2013 Budget has created more perspiration than aspiration for those who keep on paying the Nations bills. It’s about time the Coalition Government started growing balls on their own Bench, rather than gifting their Opposition the opportunity to do it for them

March 22, 2013 Leave a comment

This week’s Budget has been received differently by us all and in a manner which illustrates all too clearly how shallow Policy making has now become when imbalance and impact are considered.

Talk of support for working mothers with young families, tax free loans for first time home buyers and even a 1p drop in duty on a pint of beer have done little to disguise the fact that there are so-called  ‘winners’ and then real losers at every turn. The Chancellor has done little to give any credence to his ‘Budget for an aspiration Nation’, other than the complexity of the words he used to speak this statement.

As a culture which now thrives on the use of labels and stereotypes, we have happily painted ourselves into a set of social pigeon holes where many of us hide from the realities which we share with many others. Successive Governments have formed policies on this basis which has left very few of us with any immunity from the pros and cons of a Taxation and Benefits system where the only thing universal is its level of unfairness and the disparity that now fails us all through its application.

Getting to grips with economic problems which are continuing to grow at an alarming rate will not be achieved by tinkering around the edges. Nor will we as a Nation be insulated against the gathering storm of explosive financial issues within the European project, such as those in Cyprus, unless Government begins to consider all Policies in terms of how they will impact upon all others and not just in the isolationist manner that they have continued to do so up until now.

A truly balanced and fair approach to formulating Government Policy now seems to be the most alien of concepts to our Politicians, particularly when party politics has been the long accepted means by which to target benefits to those whom are considered to be your bread-and-butter support.

But until the time that Politicians accept the principle of fairness in a meaningful way as a guide to Policy making, and particularly where Taxation and Benefits are concerned, nothing for anyone else outside the Westminster Village is going to change.

Government will soon have no option but to use systems such as a Flat Tax and wholesale simplification of the Taxation System if they genuinely want to treat everyone fairly whilst encouraging growth, prosperity and ambition in a way which balances the books.

Benefits must be targeted and restricted for the use of those who genuinely need them using common sense as a guideline, rather than the culture of tick-boxes which allows so may to play the System within a politically correct and fearful age.

Above all, Politicians must now accept that Policies created on the basis of improving rights in the workplace have now gone so far beyond their point of good, that they have made some of the very jobs they were created to improve unaffordable to the employers who at one time provided them.

Whether Westminster likes this as a truth or not, each and every Government Policy in existence today interchanges with almost every other, through the impact it has upon the lives of us all. Policy implementation may have its benefits to some, but this has for far too long been at the unacceptable cost to the many. This has to change.

Labour’s ‘jobs guarantee’ for the unemployed: Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

January 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Tackling unemployment should be an issue for any Government. But Labour’s attempt at generating meaningful headlines with meaningless content will do little to reassure either business or the unemployed about what the post 2015 future may hold. It will also do little to enhance Labour’s kudos on matters of care for the elderly if they are planning even more ‘Brownite’ onslaughts upon the pension funds of those who are already working.

Subsidising low-paid jobs does little to incentivise those who have not already taken them, but does a great deal for companies who need and profit from a low-skilled workforce; staff who require minimum induction or ongoing training alongside next-to-no supervision; all packaged neatly within a low-risk environment.

People should not be fooled either by the idea that cash-strapped charities would immediately benefit from having unskilled staff delivering services which may currently be undertaken by experienced volunteers, when such staff themselves would in all likelihood require supervision at much greater cost.

Perhaps I will not be alone in seeing the irony that the only businesses which can therefore profitably gain from the implementation of these ideas are primarily the big retailers, who are already targeting such groups for their shop-floor staff pools and don’t actually need Government money to help them do so.

The retail fat-cats must surely be laughing themselves all the way to the bank as they thank the gods of democracy in anticipation of the delivery of such idiocy made manifest in political form.

Getting people of all ages into work isn’t just about job creation. It is about empowering business, education and developing skills based upon the strengths of the individual, rather than devaluing the future of a whole generation on the basis of the weaknesses of groups.

If Westminster politicians were to adopt a more reasoned and practical approach, they might conclude that tackling employment issues tomorrow might be better served by tackling the causes of unemployment today. They might also conclude that the unemployed and disenfranchised young people of today, may well become the long-term unemployed and unemployable of tomorrow. Can it really be that difficult to see how many of these issues actually roll into one when you think ahead?

As Education Secretary, Michael Gove has impressed many with his fervour to return a world-class British system of education for school-age children. But will that really go far enough if it actually happens?

Children are always different and will always react differently to education. Some work best with their heads, whilst some will always work better practically and ‘with their hands’. Any system of schooling which therefore doesn’t recognise that difference and more importantly cater for it, is going to fail many of those who might otherwise go on to succeed – especially when that difference may just have been a simple issue of age and time at individual level.

Returning to a fully parallel and universal system of academic and vocational education from the age of 14 would be akin to pushing the first domino in a whole run of social issues concerning us now and for the future – however ‘un-PC’ they may be.

Removing red tape and legislation that currently prevent businesses of all sizes from employing teenagers at realistic wages during realistic hours and within the real-world employment environment, could give non-academically inclined children the real hope of attaining like-for-like qualifications through the timed-served, rather than the academic route.

Creation of the ‘apprenticeship-degree’ would bolster the competitiveness of British Industry and business of all sizes which themselves would then be able to draw upon an affordable pool of trainees, making investment in their future entirely more feasible; whilst taking Young People off the streets, giving them value in themselves, money in their pockets and taking them away from crime which the Country can already ill-afford to tackle.

Savings to Government from no longer filling what are arguably wasted places in schools could be significant, even if some funds were then redirected to tertiary and higher education colleges which support the vocational route for many of what would be the mile-stoned route to that real and vocationally-based degree. And let’s face it, degrees need to regain the value that the one-size-fits-all mentality of the last Government did much to destroy, whilst giving all those who actually want to work the opportunity to do so.

Getting the unemployed who want to work into work will always be a job done better by employers. Politicians should guarantee their own jobs by giving industry the policies and systems that work for business so that business itself can start working for us all.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all. Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Leaps in utility prices touch just about everyone’s lives either directly or indirectly. No less so because of the growing paradox which appears to be a guaranteed bottom line for shareholders, whilst customers continually carry the can for everything that any non-essential business would have no option but to absorb within what are today’s unalterable margins.

Public services such as Trains run under much the same guise, and the question really should be asked if the time has come when any provider of a key or essential service should remain able to have a free reign over charges and their levels of profit when the end user simply has no choice but to buy?

Similarly, margins drawn from the production and retail of essential basic items such as milk, bread, meats and vegetables must surely now be protected from City speculation and the stranglehold of the big retailers who are together endangering various food producing industries in what is little more than an obligation to sustain and build upon profits, laid down by the purely financial motives of their masters.

So what exactly is stopping the long needed change in direction which would embrace a true form of moral or rather responsible capitalism, which in its boldest form would serve to protect a basic and affordable living for all, whilst delivering an arguably much reduced cost for Government?

One of the key failings of many of today’s politicians is a fundamental lack of understanding, will and fortitude to deal with the deep rooted causes of the problems that we as a nation face; instead choosing to do little more than dalliance in dealing with the effects of bad or flawed decisions, then going on to repeat the very same mistakes when that latest remedy itself begins to demonstrate its flaws.

Be under no illusion, this process is not unique to any political genre or ideology. It is a deep seated and inherently progressive condition, made all the worse by a political party system which now serves only to propagate itself and those within it who effectively function to do the very same, placing electability before delivery.

Successive Governments, whether they have been Conservative, Labour or even Coalitions have done the very same things, albeit with a different wrapper. But with little more than a ‘fire and forget’ mentality, the consequences are plain to see and there for us all to share and experience in our everyday lives.

The commonalities within privatisation, right-to-buy, the evolution of the free market and even political parties themselves are that they were arguably all political creations with a great and beneficial purpose in mind for those who were the driving forces behind them.

However, like most great ideas in Government that come to be manifest, they have progressively moved beyond their point of balance or what some might choose to call good, and have gone in another direction entirely. One which has benefited the unscrupulous and cost those of us dearly who have the right to expect the protection of our everyday interests by those who we put in place to take that responsibility on our behalf to do so.

Acceptance that the evolution of policies can and will continue beyond their point of good is no enviable task. This is particularly so when many organisations, NGO’s and even Government Departments have been created simply to deliver upon questionable policies and their lucrative spin-offs. In many cases they arguably continue to exist for the sole purpose of existing.

Trades Unions, Health & Safety Legislation and European red-tape are all examples of well-intentioned principles which have gone way beyond their point of good. Even UK Taxation and Benefits no longer represent the equitable and fair approach that we should all be able to reasonably expect from a 21st Century Western Government and the implementation of truly fair systems such as Flat Tax are long since overdue.

Fear of driving the watershed of change needed in an age where we have laws for the sake of having laws; where blame is a national industry and where everyday people feel that Government of all levels has no understanding of the lives that they lead, is no longer excuse enough in itself to avoid it.

Painful as it will be, somebody will soon have to be big enough to take on big business, the City and the insidious money men who are continuously elevating the breadline, all in the name of profit.

Selfless politicians must set about the change of policy after policy which may well serve their political masters today, but remain lifetimes away from serving those for whose benefit they were apparently intended.

Effect-focussed Government has failed us all and not least the most vulnerable in society and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted does little to help after the event.

Can we really move forward with a plan of something better for all if we never address the causes of our problems?

Pensioners, Social Care and the Questions of inevitability, independence & incentives lost

Getting older is one of the few things left that we cannot actually control in our technical age. But how much thought do you give your ability to retain that independence which many of us today simply take for granted?

Just last week, whilst walking through the rain in the local Sainsburys Car Park, I found myself being beckoned by an old lady who literally called ‘will you come to my aid?’. A non-starting car, a phone-call to discover that her roadside assistance was 10 years out of date and then another to drag a Friday-afternoon-weary mechanic out across Town, all paled into insignificance when she excusingly announced that she was 92.

This terrific pensioner regrettably had nobody whom I could call on her behalf to prevent her just sitting there whilst the time passed to the completion of her rescue. But to be fair, I wouldn’t want to make a song and dance if I found myself in a similarly unwelcome situation and would be lying if I were to say anything other than how much I admired her stoic independence and indifference to such items as the seemingly unused mobile phone, still wrapped and jiffy-bagged in the door-well of her car.

Sadly, not many 92 year olds will be driving themselves to the supermarket before returning home alone today, and this is perhaps where many more of us should be casting our thoughts in terms of what support is put in place for older generations, how it is funded and perhaps most importantly how much of that bill we should seriously expect pensioners with varying levels of need to pay themselves.

The issue of Social Care is jumping in and out of the spotlight at the moment. But are MP’s really thinking about the wider issues involved in this nebulous policy area; about how pensioners really feel about having decisions made for them about everything they have worked for? After all, many who have worked hard and been regular taxpayers throughout their lives are potentially being left without the option to leave something for their families, or perhaps even to leave a legacy to a charity which somewhat ironically the Government might itself need to look to for help as part of its push towards ‘Big Society’.

Many are at a loss as to understand what the term ‘National Insurance’ actually means in all this. If any one person can contribute to the NI ‘pot’ on the understanding that they will be supported when they are in times of need, but find that when that need arrives, a judgement is then made on whether they can help themselves first to outwardly save the public purse, can we truly believe that we have a universally-applicable, balanced and fair welfare system?

Evidence would suggest that not only is the welfare system inherently unfair to those who through their actions choose to regularly pay tax, but that it is those who have always paid who will actually continue to keep on doing so. In a modern, civilised and free society it is little more than idealism that creates a situation where some can have all for the price of giving nothing, whilst others can end up with nothing for the price of being forced to give just about all that they have.

The elephant in this room is a difficult one to deal with and most of us appreciate that fact. But we are living in a society where success and simple hard work are now being penalised in every part of life right up until death, and where making little or no effort is now seen to be the ‘right thing’.

No considerate person would suggest that anybody in genuine need should not be given adequate and appropriate help when they need it. But have we really seen the dawn of times when those that work will pay for everything and everyone else throughout their lives and get virtually nothing back in return?

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