Tag Archives: benefits

Our Welfare State

28 Mar

Today, Unite the union has launched a new website to tell the truth about our welfare state, attacking the key myths that have been used to promote cuts in welfare. #OurWelfareWorks

Society’s safety net has been much-maligned by the Coalition government. ‘Open many newspapers or listen to some politicians speak and you’d think that the only people who received benefits were cheating the system or living a luxury lifestyle. This just isn’t the reality,’ and the campaign sets out a few home truths about benefits:

  • A tiny 3% of the welfare spending goes on benefits to unemployed people, but 42% is spent on the elderly and 21% spent on working families.
  • If you were in a couple with two kids and lost your job (like the 100′s of people from Jessops) you would receive £111.45 a week in Job Seekers Allowance, out of this you’d have to pay for food, heating, water, clothes, travel etc…
  • A single person just laid off, from somewhere like HMV, will only have £71 a week to live on.
  • People talk a lot about welfare fraud, but 0.7% of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently……but at the same time, up to 24% (£11.77bn) of benefits go unclaimed.
  • Experts also reckon that the gap between what the government thinks it should receive in tax, versus what it actually gets (the Tax Gap) could be as high as £120 billion.

The launch of the site coincides with the start of a new, hard-hitting advertising campaign attacking government welfare cuts, using two digital ad vans. Supplemented by national online advertising, the billboards will tour London and starkly contrast cuts to welfare and tax credits which will leave an estimated 11.5 million households worse off from 1 April, made even worse by the government’s insulting £100,000 tax give away to millionaires.

Attacking those who rely on welfare, and using divisive language like ‘strivers and skivers’ serves only to pit people against each other, and wear away the reasons that the welfare state was established in the first place. ‘Generosity, mutual support and cooperation’ were the watch words of the post-war era, leading to a determination to build a better society for all. This community spirit led to the creation of the NHS and our welfare state. The current government is not only implementing devastating cuts across all public services, but is attacking long-accepted arguments that society should care for its vulnerable, and those who may have fallen upon tough times.

Of course there are things that can be improved upon, and of course there are people who take advantage, albeit a tiny number. But this is the case for a number of institutions in society that can be exploited but we all agree must exist – a classic example being the law against rape and sexual assault. There are a tiny number of people who might make false accusations of rape or sexual assault, but nobody argues that this therefore means we should abolish the laws against these crimes.

It is great to see that someone is finally making the arguments for the welfare system. If you agree that #ourwelfareworks, please share this campaign with everyone you know. It’s time we started sticking up for a decent and caring society.

Means-tested Child Benefit? You’re picking the wrong fight.

8 Jan

By Catherine Brockhurst

Before I launch into this post headfirst, please let me caveat what I am about to say;

  • I am not an expert in the benefits system, nor government public and social expenditure
  • I am not poor, nor am I destitute or about to be thrown into a horrendous spiral of poverty by the proposed and ongoing changes
  • I am not going to back up my assertions with a raft of stats.

Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance should not be means tested. That’s it, no ifs ands or maybes. Want to know why? It does no good to anyone who actually receives these benefits. If you’re poor- i.e. you struggle to feed your family, clothe your kids, keep your home warm, would never be able to run a car, probably don’t have any luxuries like mobile phones, holidays (or any other thing that the Daily Mail derides you for having if you’re poor)-then you need Child Benefit. If you’re not poor, you don’t need Child Benefit, but many on the periphery of struggling to make ends meet rely on it.

If you’re not in the first two camps and wealthy, then OK, you might spend it on frivolous things like spa treatments, fox furs and fancy cigars (again, thanks Daily Mail). These things the people who don’t need Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance payouts spend their money on are taxed. The money goes straight back in to the economy.

And here’s the crux of it;

There are way more people in this country who need these benefits than don’t. There are substantially more poor than wealthy people in this country.

Means testing these universal benefits is a logistical and administratively expensive nightmare and I want us all to be under no illusion, the money ‘saved’ by not paying out Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance will not be ploughed back into the pot of money set aside with a big sign on it saying ‘For the poor and needy. It is just another number on a balance sheet to this government, where those in need get squeezed and those who are not don’t. We’ve all seen the nonsense in the limits for individuals vs. couples on the Child Benefit restrictions structure. It’s like a woefully mis-informed child came up with the idea. No wait, it’s like someone with no social conscience came up with it…Ah, wait, hang on a sec… Sorry if I sound sarcastic and angry. It’s because I am. Very.

I said I’d not provide a raft of stats, so just 1. In 2012 the entire welfare bill, including family and children, unemployment, housing, social exclusion, protection and other vital services made up 12% of the entire government expenditure. Given that people are all this country actually has it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that my tax pennies should go towards helping and supporting them. All of them.

Yet again, this government who we did not vote in, have hammered another nail in the coffin that is social welfare and yet again, we’re all arguing about who does and does not deserve to get their meagre hand outs. They knew we would, they knew these decisions would create infighting. It just serves to draw our eyes away from the genuine tragedies of a chopped up health service,  reduced family support services, reduced income support and housing benefit, increased student fees, massively reduced disability allowance, reduced rape advisory services. The list goes on and on, as long as your arm. And then the next person’s arm too.

Please step away from the smoking gun that is means tested Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance, your argument is not with those earning £50k or more a year. It’s with those who are tricking you into thinking everyone has it better than you and has grabbed your cash. They haven’t, we’re all just trying to manage the best way we can while the rug gets pulled out from under us, just like you. So many of us, just like you.

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 

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