Monday, 27 January 2014

The Human Cost of Cutting Benefits

I hear on the news and see reports about the numbers of people who are no longer on benefits of one kind or another, cutting the welfare budget. There has recently been a TV show which went out to give the impression that all benefit claimants are the lowest of the low and should not be helped. This is not the case by any means.
   I would like to say to the leaders of all parties in the House of Commons  “Wake up to reality. Go out and get a ‘proper’ job and see what it is really like when you can’t find one.”
   I was staggered to hear that half the welfare money goes on paying pensions. So whenever you hear the figures quoted in future remember this. Even though the pension age is being changed, due to the improvement in health this is going to increase even more as the years roll by. I’m looking forward to maybe twenty years of being a pensioner unless I get run down by a bus. As these are very few and far between in the village where I live I think I can avoid that.
   So that is half the welfare budget that cannot be cut and likely to increase because no one would deny pensioners an increase.
   There has ALWAYS been a portion of claimants on benefits who do not truly deserve them. I can remember campaigns to catch benefit cheats way back in the 70s. But the vast majority of claimants are genuine, their is real and it seems to be these honest people who lose out. Jobs have been disappearing from all sectors of society. There has been a decline in heavy industry and mining; computers are taking over in many government departments, cutting the number of staff needed. I must say that this does seem to be more efficient, tax and VAT are worked out instantly for those who need such things, getting a tax disc for your car can be done at an hour to suit you. Staff are still needed to deal with queries and a new set of skills are needed for dealing with software. But what is happening to the people who used to work in these jobs?
   Over the last few years honest, hard-working people have lost their jobs because of the recession. People who have always paid their way have had to claim benefits, maybe for the first time in their lives. Many people who want to work full time can only find part-time work, still having to claim top-up benefits to help them make ends meet.
   The bedroom tax hasn’t helped either. The aim of this tax was to free up larger properties for the people who need them. I would love to know the number of cases where this has happened and also the number of cases where people have gone into debt to pay this simply because there are no smaller properties available for rent and they have no alternative to staying where they are whether they want to or not.
   There has been a clamp down on people claiming disability living allowance. The latest claim form makes it virtually impossible for anyone to qualify for this. “Can you bend down and pick up a large, empty, cardboard box?” “Can you raise your hand to your breast pocket?” “Can you walk the length of two buses?” I know people who can do all these things but they are still suffering in other ways which prevent them from working;  if they could find an employer who would have them. These people are  being taken off the register and left with NO income whatsoever.
   The government claims that  the number of people claiming benefits has fallen, that those seeking job seekers allowance has fallen; but it does not show that those in work has increased by the same amount. It does not reveal that more and more food banks are opening throughout the country to help feed those who cannot afford to buy food for themselves and their families. It does not know the numbers of people who are too proud to go to these and are depending on friends and family to survive; or the numbers of people who are selling their possessions so that they can buy food.
   The latest initiative to be announced is to make sure all claimants have decent literacy skills by offering training. Good idea. But what about all the highly qualified and skilled people who are still looking for a job? The graduates, the trained nurses who have been cut from cash-strapped hospitals.? The unemployed job-centre and benefits staff who have been replaced by companies on contracts from the government to reduced numbers and get paid by results? The postal workers who are being sacked because they don't drive? And next in line - the probation service whose skilled, qualified officers with years of experience and years of training, are to be replaced by people who have completed a short few weeks course? 
      And this is happening in Britain. A supposedly caring and compassionate country. Our politicians should be ashamed of themselves.  Stop the distraction tactics of blaming immigrants for burdening our welfare and help the citizens who need the help.