Interview with Workshy Scrounger

by workshyscrounger

Why do you make distinctions between deserving and undeserving poor?

People who deserve help are those who will make good use of it. If they are just going to claim their benefits and spend them on their addiction, then we are not helping them but enabling them. Have you ever lived with an addict? It’s all too easy to get into co-dependence. And extremely hard to stop “helping” them by phoning their boss with excuses, cleaning up their vomit, chilling beer for the hair of the dog and making everything nice and easy so that they do not find the excuse to drink (they will no matter what you do).

Even if you pay their rent directly to the landlord, the addict will find access to some money to feed his addiction. So you are only papering over the problem – yeah, he might be an addict but at least he is not in arrears. That gives them a sense of security – surely it’s not that bad, if they still have their own house? It delays them seeking help to save their lives.

The children will be the ones most affected.

The children of alcoholics are affected either way.

You are lucky though because you were brought up by a functional family and picked up all the skills needed to manage your life.

I was brought up in a family where all the financial decisions were taken by my parents and I only learnt the basic facts: you have to pay for the basics (bills and food) and then the future (eg insurance, school-related expenses). Clothes – only if you have some money left. If there’s nothing left over, you cannot have anything else. They never taught me what to do when I can either heat the house or feed myself adequately.

When I was earning my own money, I learnt nothing about budgeting (apart from how to get access to cheap credit). I used  to spend more on myself in a week than I do now for two people. I have been on benefits for three years now. It took a lot of learning and I made mistakes that cost me dearly – you just cannot afford to make mistakes when you are on benefits. Nobody taught me how to do it – I took the initiative to live as well as I can on the meagre payments.

What about care-leavers?

They receive support after they leave care until they are 21. They have the time to take responsibility for their own life.

However, not everybody is as capable as you – illiteracy or addiction can wreak havoc in your life despite your best intentions.

Indeed but there are ways to overcome these problems: drug and alcohol counselling and advice, budgeting advice, advocacy services or support with literacy and numeracy. I think that everybody agrees that the point of benefits is to catch you when you fall and not to support you indefinitely (unless you have a disability that makes you unable to work) whilst you do nothing to improve your lot. If you disagree with that then you are actually agreeing with Iain Duncan Smith when he says that we need micromanaged at a great expense to the national budget.

What do you mean by that?

You know the stereotype: we drink, smoke and take drugs; we watch sky telly; we cannot manage our money responsibly; we wouldn’t take a job because we like our lifestyle so much; some of us never worked.

The public opinion and our own complaints are used against us:

– “I would be better off on benefits” – benefit cap (instead of introducing living wage)

– “Each of his kids has own bedroom while mine have to share” – bedroom tax (instead of just accepting that there is not enough social housing to meet the needs)

– “They get money more often. I have to wait to the end of the month” – monthly payments

– “I cannot find a job because I have no experience” – workfare (instead of making companies hire claimants and pay them)

– “I cannot find a job because I am disabled” – very expensive and inefficient pathways to work (instead of changing the law on hiring and firing disabled people)

– “It’s too hard to survive the first month in a new job after getting off benefits” – monthly benefit payments to get you ready for it and let’s cut the hb and ctb run-on for a good measure (instead of introducing a full continuation of benefits for the first month)

– “I found a job” – good, the benefit reform is working even before it is fully implemented

– “I never got a payrise for years” – amend the benefit increases

– “I can’t afford to feed my family” – here’s a food bank

It could still get worse:

– “Benefits are too low” – you must be spending them wrong, here’s a benefits card so that you can only buy certain items in certain shops

– “Cheap food is fattening” – well, let’s introduce fat and sugar tax

The monthly payments are a big change.

I just really don’t understand the issue with monthly and direct payments. Monthly payments allow you to save money: make use of Direct Debit discounts or buy in bulk (-ish). It allows you to know where you stand at the end of the month: fortnightly income is more difficult to manage.

There is nothing stopping you budgeting however you want – daily, weekly or fortnightly – the only difference is that the money will be paid once a month. Many of us won’t even be claiming by next year.

JSA claimants who find work (and most of them will) will have to go through the readjustment period at some stage as most wages are paid monthly. The housing and council council tax benefits run-on does not exist any more. You might find a job tomorrow and will have to go through the change anyway so why not prepare for it now.

The monthly payments will only affect those who do not want to work (ergo – the government was right – workshy, lazy so and so). Or those who struggle with addiction or illiteracy and do not seek help (interpreted by the government and media as a lifestyle choice). If you do not want to change, nobody can help you. It’s like standing in the rain and complaining about it instead of just moving under a roof.

That only leaves the long-term disabled and single mothers with young children as far as I am aware. Current claimants will not be affected until at least April 2014 – you have nearly a whole year to prepare for the transition and to save up the fortnightly benefit payment that will be delayed. Other benefit changes were introduced with little warning. Yes, this year will be the poorest yet but what’s the alternative? To not plan and then go hungry and/or get into debt? If you cannot save it now, you will surely not be able to repay a loan, esp a pay-day loan.

The benefits were too low to begin with and with all the further cuts (increases not in line with inflation, bedroom tax, council tax benefit abolition, etc) it is hard to survive. However, this has nothing to do with the monthly payments. Using your rent money for whatever reason (booze, shoes or loan) is fraud just like claiming the benefit when you are not entitled to it. But, hey, they already think we are all fraudsters so let’s just do that instead.

If we start moaning about monthly and direct payments, it will turn to bite us. Let’s not feed the stereotype – that undoes the good work done by journalists and bloggers that bring the attention to the reality of living on benefits. If suddenly most of us are addicts who cannot cope with more than 200 quid in the account because we have all the control of an overexcited puppy then something is seriously wrong. The government will use it to justify further cuts, sanctions and changes.