The question we didn’t cover

What’s it all for?

I took part in a G+ discussion on the benefits system tonight, hosted by Nickie from I am typecast. There were a variety of different experiences and points of view represented. Afterwards the conversation continued mainly on twitter it appears and it occurred to me there was an area we hadn’t covered.

What is the benefits system for? Why do we have it, and should we?

I tend to the opinion that it’s the mark of a civilised society how we behave towards the vulnerable amongst us. Providing a safety net that is there for anyone when they need it is a good thing, something I’m proud of.

But I do think the system has become warped and is being abused.

Because we have tax credits paid to people in work, companies can get away with paying low wages. The tax payer is subsidising shareholder profits. Sometimes of course the shareholder is then in turn the taxpayer but not all the time. The people receiving tax credits didn’t design this. They didn’t look for low paid jobs just to get tax credits – does anyone really think that?

Because social housing was sold off and successive governments have subsidised home ownership through right to buy and incentive schemes we have artificially high house prices and rents which are also inflated through housing benefit. That housing benefit doesn’t make the tenants rich – it goes into landlords’ pockets. (If you’re paying a high rent you don’t think of that as a positive do you? So why is high housing benefit so often presented by media as a positive for the tenant??)

Too much of the benefit system is going to support profits, while politicians stigmatise those claiming in work benefits that they need to survive.

So maybe there are grounds for saying that we should take some parts of the benefit system apart and look at things differently.

What do you think?

Finally, the youtube video! It’s quite long. Get a drink first.

Participants Nickie from I am Typecast, Chrissie from MediocreMum, Me, Lynn from Salt and Caramel and Ruth from Lemonade Life.

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for 14 years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

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  1. you make some very good points there. I’m sure we’d have covered them in the hangout if the connections hadn’t been so crap. Next time!

  2. I can’t agree with you more. One point I did try to make was that some people, including ourselves, do still receive CB when if I’m honest, we don’t really need it at the moment. We need to find ways to encourage people to come off benefits, not by penalizing them and forcing them into poverty, but like Lynn, said we need to look at things like child-care subsidies.

    • But aren’t child-care subsidies just another form of benefits? most of the system is paid to people in work or retired, very little of it is for unemployment. And yet the media and politicians would have you thinking that all benefits claimants are shirkers, scrounging from the system. You’ve got to wonder why they are so happy to be so misleading really.

  3. Ailbhe Leamy says:

    Means-testing is more expensive than universal benefits in many, many cases — so it makes sense to just let everyone who claims have them, rather than waste time and money checking up on everyone. Also, benefits and benefits in kind claimed by the wealthy are less insultingly minuscule than benefits reserved for the poor – cf free education, roads etc.

    It would then make sense for people who don’t need them to donate them to charities, of course.

  4. What I find particularly hard about the current changes is
    * Some of the people now having to pay bedroom tax were given their property with their current status, i.e. they WERE living alone THEN and NOW, yet were given a 2 bed and now being penalised for it. It is NOT all people with children who have flown the nest who need to downsize. I regularly listen to talk show radio (LBC) and people call in and say, that the Govt even spent thousands converting their flat yet now is happy to say it is too big. I even met someone like that in person in a photocopier shop on Thursday. If they all said okay, give me a 1 bed, they’re not even available. She had a visit from someone who was supposed to go through the changes with her, and she said “get a lodger”. When the lady explained all the reasons she shouldn’t, the member of staff admitted she wasn’t fully trained to answer her question.
    * The other thing I would say, is that these changes could not have come at a worse time. They don’t effect me personally but because I have been out of work for 8 months I know exactly what the job market is like and it is not good. I’ve worked without a break for 24 years and yet not now, and this is the time they squeeze people to incentivise them to work…. when there isn’t much of it available.

    The whole thing is awful to be honest.

    So much for the Big Society or whatever he was calling it

    Liska x

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