The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Monday, 12 December 2011

This is all about benefits, how am I bothered?

We've got so used to thinking of "claimants" as some separate species, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture.

I include myself in this, even though I am a claimant. I get knee-jerk reactions to stories in the papers about families getting £x,000 a week: I think "How much???!" without wondering why our parsimonious State deems them in such need.

Some people have families with greater needs - maybe one or both parents are disabled, maybe some of the kids are, maybe they live in a rural place where the buses run twice a week and have to pay for transport to school.

Maybe a lot of things. I am aware some folks know how to work the system for maximum reward. As someone who, like the majority, knew nothing about the system - and suffered unreasonably for it - I feel angry about them. But they are very few.

I feel more angry that our so-called safety net is so hard to work, only those with specialist advisors know how to navigate it.

Why do we need this system at all?

If you have children, you probably get some money from the State (= us). If you have a parent or partner who needs support due to illness, you probably get some support. Even if you're averagely well-off and don't claim benefits, you've probably used NHS medical services.

All of these are under immediate threat.

The problem, to simplify just a bit (!), is that profits rise faster than earnings. In essence, the situation is that businesses pursue profit at any price, meaning the cost of goods goes up while the wages of their staff and customers stay down. For the past thirty, forty years we've had checks & balances in place for this - essentially, a redistribution of wealth takes place. The richest pay a bit extra so their staff can buy their stuff. As a very rough sketch of how benevolent capitalism works, this will do.

You might still be thinking it doesn't apply to you - but, if you've got kids, did you get child benefit? Do you pay your GP £50 a visit? If something awful happened to you or your family, would you rush to hospital or call a subscription service? Who would perform the operation? Tripping down a peg or two, what about your cleaner; nanny; doorman; taxi driver; Tube driver? What if a flu outbreak actually killed 40% of the lower classes (as happened in 1918) due to lack of social care? Who would make your lunch or mend the roads then?

A quick look at 100 years of history would show you why the social fund - call it what you will - is necessary.

While I was still rich, I helped out with some charity projects in countries with shaky welfare. They have three-year-old street prostitutes. They have nine-year-old kids running drugs, who are the first target for shooting by the police or gangs. There are whole families living in shop doorways. Beggars with curable diseases die on pavements. This is what we had, here in England, back in Victorian times. It was even worse here, as the poor can die of cold.

If we dismantle the concept of welfare, then we destroy everything that makes this a pretty safe place to live. We would wreck all that our grandparents and great-grandparents fought so hard for. In historical terms it's still fairly new and, thus, fragile. Our current administration's doing a startlingly good job of breaking it all down as soon as it's got on its feet.

The short answer to the title question is: Because it will make your life, and your family's lives, a hundred times harder. And you will have to step over the dying as you struggle to keep things together.

Do the ConDems want this? No, of course they don't. They're just inexperienced, and overly influenced by what people say in surveys (or what they're told people say).
But, unless we stand up and say: NO, WE DON'T WANT THIS, they will blunder on regardless.
Over to you.

What can I do?

Vote! This is still a democracy, and a nervous government needs your feedback more than most. We pay them, and they need us.

See the WriteToThem box on the right, or visit to find and email your representatives. Use the Too Many Cuts petitions page to find issues that directly concern you.

Dig around a bit if you feel so moved, and let us know what you feel needs supporting. "We're all in this together", huh? Well, let's see proof of that!

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  1. Simple, passionate and persuasive. I will be sure to share

  2. Excellent article. It's true, too. Every time I hear people say "well *I* don't use such-and-such a service," or "I have private healthcare so I don't use the NHS", I just think, "bollocks you don't."

    Everyone in the UK uses these services, all of them, at least indirectly. We all use the schools and NHS - our doctors and policemen and shop assistants and cleaners come from all walks of life.

    Rich people might not "need" state schools and the NHS, but the people they employ do. it staggers me sometimes that people are so blind they cannot actually conceive that the people who cushion their lives don't have it as easy, or, more likely, that they do not habitually think of them as real people with real lives. Arrogance beyond belief, and I see it so much.

  3. Good to hear you have those discussions, J. Hill :)

    Chain (domino) effects aren't always obvious but, once pointed out as you have done, it does make sense and people think a bit harder.

    I'm disappointed the national media don't make such connections very often ... we can always hope for an improvement, eh?

  4. Oh dear, I'm angry again now. I deliberately left this till I'd calmed down about something else.

    You know why the families that milk the system make the news? BECAUSE THEY ARE RARE and as such newsworthy, if every claimant was making £xxxxx's off the state it wouldn't get bloody reported!!!!!!

    I read somewhere that 40% of families in the USA are 2 paychecks away from being on the streets. It's not difficult to see that here.

    I vote EVERY time because it's important.



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