Archive | December, 2012

Benefits, unemployment and the smokescreen of a divide and conquer government

14 Dec

by Catherine Brockhurst


I grew up in an exceptionally poor family by most UK standards. My well-educated but rudderless parents were living in a squat in Brighton when I was born, 2 years later when my brother came along we moved to a two bed council flat. They had intermittent work, but most of the time we were on benefits, the impending Giro day forever on the horizon.

Somewhere around the time I turned 14 and had not 1 but 3 siblings, both my parents got it together to get more substantial jobs and over the subsequent 20 years my mother went from strength to strength in her career and is still making upward steps even now nearing 60. My dad stuck to a solid dependable double the minimum wage Job. We, as a family got lucky. We truly did.

I know there were times when they did cash in hand work in the early years, I also know there are plenty that do now and you know what? I really couldn’t care less. People need to open their eyes and see that the people claiming benefits (and incidentally there are many variations on what you can claim and to what extent) for the most part do so because they have little other choice. And whatever the right-wing press and government tell you, it’s not a “lifestyle choice” and it’s no fun subsisting on so little and considerably less fun when you have children. Anyone saying it’s a walk in the park is lying to you.

To those who seemingly conveniently forget when they’re deriding and vilifying benefit claimers or worse benefit cheats, let me ask this; what do you suppose they do with the frugal amount they get paid? With the minuscule pile of additional quid they might get from extra cash in hand work? Do they pop it under the bed? Do they use it to stoke the fire? No, they spend it. On food mostly. And what happens to that money they’ve spent? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s subjected to tax and goes right back into the treasury. It’s anecdotal as I can’t find the reference but I once read that if all the undercover workers and benefit claimers stopped spending, our economy would be down the toilet in a heartbeat.

The other key point people have a blind spot for when criticising the poor (because let’s be clear, it’s the poor who are condemned to survive on benefits) is that the reason so much housing benefit is required as a % of their income is because landlord rents aren’t regulated, anyone can be a landlord and can charge whatever they damn well please. And the reason anyone can get cash in hand work at all is because employers are happy to avoid paying tax themselves. But no, the landlords and business owners are never criticised but the poor are. And it stinks.

I do get that there are a handful of career criminals playing the system and claiming well over the odds, of course these stories hit the front page of The Mail and all benefits claimants get included via stealth criticism reporting. But I tell you what, there are plenty of career criminals avoiding paying significant sums of cash via tax evasion and we have a government who refuses to address the loopholes that allow this to continue. I wonder why that would be?

We live in a multi-faceted society but we are becoming so polarised between the have and have-nots and it serves a purpose for this government to have us blaming poor people, single mothers, those less able and those seeking support away from their own war-torn countries (wars that our country has often played a part in instigating if not prolonging). When we blame others whilst ignoring that the “austerity measures” are what is in fact making life so much harder for most of us, we give “them” what they need. In-fighting, the perfect smokescreen to allow them to carry on unencumbered in their persistent stripping back of any social conscience or network of services. We are not “all in this together”. This government is on the outside in the Corporate Box, staring down at the cheap seats and laughing all the way to their deregulated publicly owned, but not publicly paying out banks. Do not buy in to their lies, your unemployed neighbour is not your enemy, they are not robbing you blind. They are you and me, they are human beings, just trying to get by like the rest of us.


This post was first published on Catherine Brockhurts’s blog, One Woman’s Thoughts 

You can follow Catherine on Twitter: @cateleven 

A little something to get you in the Christmas spirit

7 Dec


12 Tax Dodgers


With the big Christmas shopping rush getting fully underway, some of the biggest tax dodgers are set to make a fortune in the next few weeks. These businesses rely on their brand name to make them millions, so let’s make sure everyone is aware of the tax dodging tricks they use.


Click on the picture and let the tax dodgers know we want them to sing a different tune this Christmas.


Care for our student carers

4 Dec

30 November is Carers Rights Day, which draws attention to the issues faced by carers and tries to make sure that carers are aware of their rights, so that they don’t miss out on support. I think the time has come to address the needs of a previously hidden group of carers: student carers.

The NHS estimates that 6 per cent of students are carers , but very few institutions have policies in place to understand who their student carers are, what their needs might be, and how they can be supported.

Evidence from research on carers in general, and especially on young adult carers, has found that student carers face significant disadvantages in their education. This includes disadvantage to their academic or learning activities, as well as to their student life more broadly.

These disadvantages are often compounded by a lack of understanding from tutors, lecturers, and other university and college staff.

In addition, due to the additional costs associated with caring, along with the fact that full-time students are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance, student carers often face significant financial worries. Twelve per cent of carers aged 16-34 have had their ability to take up or stay in education or training affected by their caring responsibilities.

On Carers Rights Day, I encourage students’ unions to reach out to their student carers and let them know about any support that is available to them. If there isn’t any specific support available for student carers, students’ unions should ask their institutions why not!

Support for student carers is especially important to me. Student carers are disproportionately women in the UK and, given the way that there is an expectation that caring is ‘women’s work,’ this is not surprising.

That is why the NUS Women’s Campaign will be conducting the first ever UK-wide research into the experiences of student carers. In the new year, we will be interviewing student carers about their experiences in education and their support needs, so that we can understand how universities, students’ unions, and the government can best provide support for students carers.

The NUS Women’s Campaign doesn’t think that it is fair for student carers who are disproportionately women to be shut out of education for providing a vital service to others. Local authority cuts will impact on carers hard with vital respite and support being removed, and increase in the number of women providing unpaid care and it is crucial that we prevent the further marginalisation and exclusion of women from education.

If you are a student carer and would like to participate in our research, please get in touch with me at

Thanks very much, i look forward to hearing from you soon,

Kelley Temple
NUS Women’s Officer

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