Workshy Scrounger

Nothing new to report, sadly

It’s been quite a while since I abandoned my blog. My personal situation didn’t change. Despite the DWP’s high hopes, I’m still disabled and still on the breadline overly generous and undeserved benefits. I stopped writing because I thought I hadn’t had anything more to say until I’ve read a series of articles on hunger among children. If the children are going hungry, I can’t bear to think about what their parents must be going through.

While austerity is to be blamed, I couldn’t help but notice mentions of yesterday’s takeaways and bars of chocolate. I cannot afford to support the Christmas appeal but what I can do is share my recipes.

What not to expect:

  • instagram-worthy dishes – it’s mostly gloopy comfort food
  • nice pictures in general – my camera is ancient, my skills – non-existent, the light in the kitchen – poor

What to expect:

  • tasty and filling food under £2 a day*
  • adult-sized portions
  • ingredients that are easily obtainable in the major supermarkets
  • adequate protein
  • fruit and veg

* This might be misleading for two reasons.

I now have a well-stocked food cupboard with various beans, grains and spices. If I use 60g of rice from a £1 500g packet, then that comes to 12p. I’m well aware that were my cupboards bare, I would have had to spend a whole pound which could crush my budget. If you are in that situation, let me know and we will work something out.

I also have a pressure cooker (bought in the glory days of Clubcard double-up events and while we still had Tesco nearby that I visited for the 10p reductions every night). It makes cooking beans hassle-free and it saves money – a 500g pack of dried chickpeas in Asda costs 75p. It will produce well over a kilogram of cooked beans. The cheapest tinned chickpeas are 35p for 240g (drained weight). So to get the a kilogram of tinned beans, I would have had to spend over £1.5. (I’m not counting electricity because it goes out of another pot of money. In any case, 35 minutes of running the 1100W pressure cooker costs less than eight pence.) The pressure cooker paid for itself very quickly.

More money than sense

I read two articles in the Daily Mail today that made me wonder whether the middle class are a different species. One woman complains that she is so poor, she cannot afford a Starbucks’ latte. The other cleans her house with premium food items.

Ursula feels bad that even though her four sons have their own rooms, they cannot “enjoy the trappings of wealth she had growing up”. I feel sorry for her. Not because she is “stuck” in her £1m house (half of which is already paid off) and cannot afford to shop in Waitrose but because she cannot see what she does have. A healthy family. A roof over her head. And bargain food in her larder – I bet you she has a larder and not a simple cupboard. Aldi and Lidl constantly win in blind taste trials. For a tenner she can fix her boots just by replacing the soles. It’s her soul that needs mending and she cannot even see that.

Amanda started cleaning her house with food items. You can clean a painting with a slice of bread. You can clean your toilet with cola. It’s a great idea but why use premium items? Kingsmill, Coca Cola and Sarsons are reserved for Christmas in my house. If we can live on value items, surely she could clean with them just as well. How she is saving money, I don’t know. I spend about £1.5 a month on cleaning products. Bleach, cream cleaner, multipurpose cleaner, toilet cleaner and pine disinfectant – all value, of course. Once every three years I splash out on a posh oven cleaner (£2). What else do you need? What was she using before?

I have been craving a grapefruit for a while. However, where I live, they cost 50p a pop and I cannot justify the expense even as a healthy 5-a-day measure because it’s over a quarter of my daily food budget and won’t keep me full for long. She cleans her oven with it.

How can these women feel for people who really are on the breadline?

The poor with a benefits card or how to build a model society.

When writing my previous post, I managed to get myself into a really silly mood. I started thinking how far the government could possibly go when it comes to making model citizens out of the unlucky.

Seeing as the Conservatives are meant to uphold the old values and traditions as well as to promote and encourage the right attitudes and morals among the poor, it’s not only fags, booze, drugs and gambling that will have to go.

Therefore, buying pet food is a no-no. An animal has to work even if you aren’t. Cart horses and cows are acceptable. So are hens and rabbits if bred for food. Companion animals for the poor are categorically disallowed as they give you ideas above your station.

Baby formula – in order to forge close knit communities in the name of Big Society, if you cannot breastfeed, you will have to get someone else to do it for you. Baby formula is reserved for high achieving executives.

Clothes – you can make your own. Two 10” squares of cheap fabric will be given to you every week. The colour of the fabric will reflect how long you have been unemployed. Free dunce cap after 12 weeks on the dole and jester’s shoes after 26 weeks. Wearing these is voluntary but if you are spotted without them, your benefits card will might malfunction.

Electricity is disconnected immediately upon filing your claim. You will be eligible to lease one of our bicycle generators for only £50 a week deducted straight from your benefits – no hassle there. This way you can be burning calories while waiting for your gruel to cook.

IDS saves NHS and solves the problem of addiction

Iain Duncan Smith is now going to tackle addictions. A voluntary* trial will see addicts receive benefit cards instead of money. Unable to gamble, buy alcohol, cigarettes or drugs, they will spend the money caring for their families ensuring everybody’s five-a-day comes from kale and not from psychoactive herbs.

I don’t know much about drugs so I researched it. A gram of crack cocaine costs £42. Regular users consume about a gram per day. That’s nearly three hundred quid per week. Does IDS really think that not letting addicts spend their £72.40 of JSA money on crack is going to make that much of a difference? The shortfall is going to be made up somehow, just as it is now.

I have no problems with alcohol, drugs or betting. I am not in debt. I pay all my bills on time and in full. Could Iain Duncan Smith kindly let me manage the meagre amount of money I get in whichever way I see fit? Even if it does include the odd bottle of wine or a scratch card?

Again we see the workshy scroungers vs hardworking families divide. Minimum pricing of alcohol fell on its face. Being a form of regressive tax, it would have affected the poorest the most but at least we still would have been able to buy alcohol. Benefit cards will ensure we will not be able to buy alcohol at all. Prohibition springs to mind and that didn’t end well. The argument about saving lives and NHS resources is ridiculous – surely curbing the thirst of the whole nation would have had much better results.

*Be careful because “voluntary” in Toryspeak often stands for “we will sanction you unless you comply.”

Scottish referendum – sample postal vote opening

I am far from being a tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorist. I understand that in a free market economy it just might happen that none of the national or local dailies represents the views of 45% of the population. I can even deal with the fact that most media is of such a low quality that they will publish any untruths spouted by their side without bothering to check the facts.

However, the outrageous fact that postal votes were opened before 10pm on the referendum night and the silly excuses repeated by the press are a step too far. Nobody is asking the right questions.

Postal votes consist of two parts that must not be separated by the voter: one is a sealed envelope with the actual voting slip, the other contains personal details including the signature that is compared with the records to ensure no electoral fraud was committed. It is perfectly possible to verify whether the vote was cast fraudulently without seeing how the person voted. This assures the secrecy of voting.

All the talk of keeping the ballots face down is ridiculous as the actual ballot will not be seen unless the envelope containing it is opened and it cannot happen by accident.

Let’s say that it is possible though. The votes are meant to be kept face down but it just so happened that it wasn’t always the case. My question is: how many votes do you have to “accidentally” see to be able to keep a dependable tally of how the voting is going? Surely, a sample opening is about as accurate and scientific as trying to divine the result by observing the clouds.

My rusty maths says that 51% of votes would have to be opened and “accidentally” seen and all of them would have to be against independence to give any sort of an “encouraging” indication as to how the voting is going. Otherwise, you cannot be sure of anything.

A more important question is why did they even keep a tally if they couldn’t communicate what they saw?

Finally, the police assumes that the sample openings had no impact on the actual referendum result. The postal ballots were sent out two weeks before the referendum. Everybody agreed that postal votes were likely to be against independence. Then the sample openings happened.

Everybody assumes that Cameron, Clegg and Miliband issued the “vow” as a result of a single opinion poll that gave the yes campaign a slight majority (within the range of a statistical error). Wouldn’t an overwhelming “yes” coming from pensioners and the disabled be much more likely to make Westminster realise the severity of the situation?

On why poor people make bad choices.

In her Guardian’s article, Linda Tirado gives her answer as to why poor people make bad choices. She is ages with me and poor but that’s about all we have in common. She lives in the US, has a husband and two children, works and studies. I live in Scotland, am engaged and cannot work due to my disability. The biggest difference, however, is our attitude to money.

Tirado’s reasoning is that no matter what she does, she will always be poor so there’s no point in trying too hard. I am actually clinically depressed – so Tirado’s “what’s the point” resonated deeply with me, especially after last Friday.

She sees no sense in anything, not even cooking as it “attracts cockroaches”. I don’t understand it – vegetable peelings are surely just as likely to attract pests as empty takeaway or ready-meal containers. She does not relate her food choices to her self-reported lack of beauty – better nutrition would make a change to her appearance and general health. She simply gave up on long term planning believing that poverty cuts off that part of the brain.

Long term planning is a necessity. It doesn’t matter that we will never have villas in Spain and chalets in Switzerland to relax in during our working lives only to retire in a tropical paradise devoting our time to gentle pursuits of golf and charity balls.

Financial planning is not just for stocks and shares and options and other stuff rich people do to make money “work”. For us, the poor, it’s about not losing the little money we have. It’s about being able to cover the winter energy bills or at least knowing when to turn off the heating. It’s about not accruing late-payment fees of any sort. It’s about having enough food in the cupboard to prevent us taking up a doorstep loan in a moment of weakness. It’s about realising that money is king especially if you have little of it. Above all, it’s about having a very firm control over yourself.

I live in a constant fear that our benefits will be slashed or suspended or that we will be sanctioned. I am tired of tweaking the budget and saying no to myself and my fiancé. I hate being limited as to what we can afford. I resent taking a bottle of tap water with us whenever we go out to save that 50p on a can of juice in case we get thirsty. I despise eating home-made sandwiches on our biennial trip to the big city’s Primark. I bemoan being number 41 in a queue in my local library to read a much-awaited book that costs about £8. I don’t want to be serious and strict all the time about every single financial decision and seeing no end in sight.

However, bad as it is, it could have been worse. We could have debts with a loan shark or a payday loan company. We could be overdrawn or have credit card debts. We could have been made to pawn our belongings. We could be in debt with the energy, broadband or water company. We could have no money saved up for new clothes or shoes. We could have no money set aside for our low-key “celebrations”. Long-term planning saved us from it all. It is a sad victory but a victory nevertheless.

What keeps us above board is prioritising. A takeaway today, means we will be a tenner short when it comes to buying a winter coat in the sales next year. A trip to the cinema to “cheer up”, means there will be no special food for Christmas. A quick pint as a “reward” after another ghastly and disappointing meeting in the Jobcentre is a fifth off our food budget. Feeling better for a while is not worth suffering in the long term. You just have to be adult about it because the happy-go-lucky devil-may-care option will have you in tears soon enough. Our planning will never make us rich or middle class but it does make a difference to our lives.

This is the point of planning ahead – we might be standing waist-deep in a quagmire but we will not sink ourselves any lower by making poor choices because we choose to have control over them.

Charges for benefit appeals

Department of Work and Pensions, clearly worried about high numbers of people winning appeals against them, is thinking about introducing charges for lodging an appeal with social security tribunals.

Guardian reports that after employment tribunals started charging up to £250 per case, the number of appeals was halved. I am sure that if benefit recipients were to pay to appeal, the number of appeals would be close to zero. It would allow the DWP to boast about the system working really well  – just look at the numbers – no appeals were lodged whatsoever. Everybody is happy. We are doing well. We are fixing Britain.

Why do right-wing people support workfare?

Amazingly detailed examples of Tory double-think when it comes to workfare.

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice (he’s from Yorkshire, he calls a spade a spade and I like his style!)

One of the big mysteries in politics is why so many right-wing people support Iain Duncan Smith’s Stalinist Workfare schemes, which are designed to force people (under threat of absolute destitution) to give away their labour for free, often to highly profitable foreign corporations.

There are many glaringly obvious complaints that the right-wing thinker should have against these economically illiterate schemes, yet the typical Tory voter tends to enthusiastically support Workfare. First I’ll look at the big reasons that right-wing people should be highly suspicious of Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare schemes, then I’ll try to consider the reasons that they might over-look these problematic factors in order to convince themselves that Workfare is a good idea, or even to actively propagandise in favour of mandatory unpaid labour schemes.

Right-wing arguments against…

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Adam Davidson Spent Neknomination Money On Lunch For Homeless Man

This guy has neknominated everybody – will you take up the challenge?

Same Difference

Good on him. Have you done anything similar?

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Childhood depression

This post is inspired by Same Difference.

I think in the past depressed kids were labelled as “shy” and that was that. Or it was “puberty” – you know what teenagers are like. Surely, they have nothing to be depressed about – it’s the best time of your life. Wait till you have to toil all day and have to deal with the bills and the taxman and that boss of mine. When I was your age…

It’s good that childhood depression is finally being recognised, even if little is being done about it.

I think we could start by treating children with dignity. Just look at the case study of Ben:

Ben has become reluctant to visit his dad’s new home. His mum often has to put him in the car screaming and crying.

Why can no other arrangements be made to suit the child? Meet the dad in Ben’s mum’s home, a cafe or a park. Or let him not see his dad for a while to give him time to work through his feelings. Taking away any vestiges of control Ben has over his life is not going to help his anxiety.

Can you imagine forcibly picking your partner up and taking them to visit their parent whether they like it or not? Can you imagine having your boss tell you to go to the locker room and change in front of all of your colleagues? Being made to perform forward flips in front of that woman who is never nice to you? One, two, three. Don’t be a clutz – lift that leg higher.

It was bad enough when I was a kid. Nowadays, there is always someone there to film it all and make it spread like wildfire on social networking sites. Just look how her belly jiggles. Look how useless he is at football. Quiet, children.

I am so happy to be an adult.

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