Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Great British Benefit Handout - Myth

My last post was tongue in cheek. This one is not.

I really hate and despise TV programmes such as Great British Benefit Handout and Benefit Street, and equally hate and despise the people who produce and appear in such shows. These people are NOT the norm for people who are claiming benefits in this country. Yes, undoubtedly there are some who use and abuse the system, there always have been and there always will be, it’s part of human nature. But the vast majority of people on benefits are those who genuinely cannot find work or are not fit enough to work.

Those who suffer possibly more than others are single, middle aged people. These people may be single for many reasons, bereavement, failed relationships, have spent years caring for parents, or simply they are people who are happy to live alone.

Not all benefit claimants are uneducated workshy layabouts. Some have degrees. Some have worked for years in industry or commerce or the civil service, but have been put out of their job because factories have closed down, commercial firms and councils of all sorts have had to cut staff and it’s usually the more expensive, experienced staff that are offered redundancy. Middle aged people again, who can’t find the expected alternative job because what young inexperienced manager wants to take on someone who knows more than them?

I’ve just gone through my bills and worked out how much I would be paying if I paid them weekly.

TV £5.60  - more expensive if you pay weekly than monthly, quarterly or annually.
Water - £10 is the minimum you can pay weekly if you get a nice adviser on the contact line.
Power – My power bill works out to £27 per week, paying dual fuel by direct debit which gives me discounts. Many people on benefit have to pay by pre-payment meter, the most expensive way to pay but they can choose how much to put on the card, which probably won’t keep their homes as warm as mine.
Council Tax - £28. I have no idea if this equates to a cheap or expensive area. Probably middle of the road.

This adds up to £70.60 and I haven’t bought any food yet, or clothes.

Anyone claiming housing benefit has to pay Bedroom Tax (I refuse to call it anything else) of £12 per spare room per week, even if there is no alternative accommodation available for them to rent.

Benefit for a single person is £72 per week.

So every week single people claiming benefit are having to make the choice between heating their homes or eating if they want to keep all their commitments up to date.

There is no money to run a car. There is no money for bus fares! Yet the DWP expects job seekers to go out every day to canvas firms for work. They expect job seekers to submit application forms and CVs unsolicited to places, yet there is no extra money to pay for paper and printing let alone stamps. They expect everyone to use the internet to look for jobs even if they haven’t got a computer and cannot afford the bus fare to get to the nearest library. It would be something like a £6 round trip by bus to my nearest town, and probably just as much if I were travelling in a city.

This is the Great British Benefit Handout. This is why there are so many food banks. This is why those who are too proud to seek help are literally starving in an affluent country.

This is what makes me angry.

Of course, this would not make sensational television. It would not put benefit claimants in a bad light and make them scapegoats for a failing government. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Don't Let Valentine Get You Down

I am writing this for all the people who have not received cards, flowers or chocolates. Do not despair. It doesn’t mean no one loves you if you are in a relationship, it means your loved one has more sense than to spend money on overpriced things that he/she could buy any day of the year for much less!
    Yes, I’m being my usual cynical self. I have known my husband for well over forty years and we have never given each other a valentine’s card or gift in all that time, yet I am secure in the knowledge that things are good between us and always have been. He brings me cups of tea in bed if he is not out working. He makes me breakfast in bed most Sundays. He never moans about the time I get up in the morning!
    When I was at school, St Valentine’s Day was a laugh. We waited to see if we would get a card from an unknown admirer and that was the point. It was supposed to be a surprise, not something from someone we already knew loved us.
    Since Valentine lost his sainthood it has become nothing more than a commercial opportunity, just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Halloween. I won’t put Bonfire Night in the same category because that is surprisingly low key considering how long it has been going. (Did you know it used to be law that you had to celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes?) And I won’t mention Christmas which is the biggest commercial opportunity of them all with many businesses depending on a good Christmas for survival.  
     Now instead of a simple card, gifts and treats are expected, not just for new lovers (you can expect them to be overly indulgent) but everyone is encouraged to take part.
     So how does this affect people uncertain of their relationship? I’m sure there must be floods of lonely tears shed when that card, box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers does not turn up. Let alone when someone is not whisked off for a romantic meal.
     The people I feel sorry for are those who were born on the 14th February. Almost any other day of the year they could go out for a meal with family and/or friends on their birthday at no extra cost. But on or near Valentine’s Day ‘special’ meals are put on in pubs and restaurants which are often more expensive than normal meals, especially if the day falls at the weekend as it does this year. My local pub is making Valentine’s Day last all weekend, with a special meal on Saturday and Sunday.
     Maybe it sounds like I’m complaining unnecessarily. But what I’m trying to get at is you don’t need one particular day to show that you care for someone. You can buy them chocolates or flowers any day of the year; you can treat your loved one to a meal any time. And the more unexpected it is, the more appreciated it is (unless your partner thinks you are guilty of something, of course! Ouch, I just bit my tongue). And you can show them your love without spending a fortune just by the way you behave. All year, not on just one day.
    And having one day when everyone is celebrating having a loved one with them, it brings to mind all the loved ones who are no longer with us, bringing grief instead of joy.
    So all in all, the only people to really benefit from Valentine’s Day are the retailers. So as my daughter said in a Mother’s Day card she sent me a few years ago, 
                                                         Happy Hallmark Greeting Card Day!