Workshy Scrounger

Tag: all in it together

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.”

MPs need a payrise

Metro reports that  Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is to recommend a £10k payrise to the MPs. They know that it will spark comments about snouts in the trough. They don’t care.

Voters may not like it, but if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

A monkey with a bloated bank balance is still only a monkey. Calling a salary that is three times higher than the average wage “peanuts” feels like a slap. Especially so to the “strivers” so glorified by IDS. In the meantime, our parliament of scrooges is squeezing the poor to the extent that they decide to end their lives. All in it together?

Britain. Britain above all!

The Conservatives, humbled by the local elections results, decided to copy UKIP’s success and play on yet another division in the society: natives vs immigrants.

You know what those pesky foreigners are like: they don’t integrate with the society, they take our jobs and come here only for our supreme benefits and healthcare. They even claim child benefit despite their children remaining in their native countries. They have huge families and take our council houses away from us. They work below the minimum wage. They are illegally employed. They don’t work – just claim benefits.

So the new plan, to be unveiled next week, is to deny them access to the benefits and healthcare. That will teach them! It will also help wrestle some seats away from the UKIP. It’s not like the immigrants can vote so it doesn’t really matter what they have to say.

The stress all immigrants are going through at the moment must be immense. Some of them have been here for years. They built their lives here, started families and fully identify with Britain and the British way of life. They are just like us. However, they will become second-class citizens overnight.

Now imagine you are an immigrant but don’t even think about yourself in such categories because you have been here for so long. The new changes mean you are pretty much left hung out to dry should something go wrong. You lose your job – rely on your savings. You become disabled – go back to your country. You have any medical needs (infection, chronic condition, pregnancy, whatever) – pay for the NHS or go private.

We are the only country to continue meeting our obligations when it comes to overseas aid – others cut it because of the austerity measures. It results in a ridiculous situation – we spend billions every year on foreign aid but the foreigners in our own country will end up living in third-world conditions. It will probably save us money but the cost might be too high.

On the streets, we will see the immigrants’ starving children who speak perfect English because they were born here and do not know another life. The immigrants will live in a Dickensian world of penury, servitude and abuse. Maternal and infant deaths will increase exponentially. Epidemics of polio, scarlet fever, tuberculosis and other diseases that are treatable or preventable will once again become commonplace. We will witness it all and it will affect us one way or another.

What are the existing immigrants supposed to do? They won’t qualify for healthcare or benefits in their own countries because they haven’t worked there recently. They might not even have enough saved up to move let alone take their possessions with them. Staying and leaving are equally bad options. All on the basis of having been born in the wrong country and wanting to improve their lot.

It’s the perfect recipe for a homogeneous nation without going against the EU rules and without using direct violence. Had the Nazis used such diplomatic means instead of gas chambers, they would have been ruling the world by now. No need to tighten borders – they will all die out within a few generations.

Open season on pensioners

IDS suggests that better-off pensioners return their age-related benefits: free bus travel, winter fuel payments and free tv licences. Cleggster, meanwhile, wants to means-test them.  The Guardian spoke against changes to pensioner’s benefits.

This is simply mendacious, because the savings proposed would be a drop in the ocean compared with the overall welfare budget.

The “drop” is quite sizeable in my opinion: £3 bilion on winter fuel payments and £1.4 billion for bus passes. Every little helps, after all.

At the same time, we are turning the lives of vulnerable people into a nightmare in the name of austerity and social justice for even less money:
– DLA to PIP migration saves only £1 billion and takes away the last vestiges of dignity and independence from profoundly disabled people
– £465 million “saved” through the bedroom tax (which will backfire due to administration costs); also affects mainly the disabled the disabled
– £230 million saved thanks to making people under 35 (including the disabled) ineligible to rent a one bedroom flat privately while the shared room accommodation rate is too low to pay for a room
– £51 million on benefit cap
– £350 on legal aid

Not to mention, the government making it hard to get off benefits by abolishing the housing and council tax benefit run-on. Or the fact that people who receive £71 a week in JSA have to pay for their heating and transport while pensioners get twice as much and receive winter fuel payments, free bus passes and discounted rail travel.

While we are fighting for scraps, the millionaire’s Cabinet enjoys subsidised food, alcohol, second homes and expenses. All in it together? Aye, right.

Some people were enraged that this is happening – we should respect the elderly after all: they worked all their lives and should enjoy their pensions (obviously there were no scroungers in that generation). To me, however, it is quite bitter-sweet how the government they chose on the basis of the election promises of income protection is turning right against them.

One of the comments on Guardian says:

“If wealthier retirees are applying for monies they don’t need, or being automatically granted monies, then tackle them. Instead of the softening up propaganda that is starting to emerge hit the conscience of those people who don’t even know they get the £200 winter fuel allowance. That just disappears in their bank statements. I look for mine to make sure it’s there.”

What on earth? You suddenly have an extra 200 quid in your bank and do not know it? It disappears? Please, tell me more about how little money you have that a whole £200 goes unnoticed. If anything, then surely, that’s an argument in favour of scrapping the scheme (or at least means-testing it) – you cannot miss something you never knew you had.

Ex PMs’ work worth £1.7m

According to the Independent, former prime ministers are still entitled to cost allowances for public duties:

The system was set up by John Major in 1991 to reward former incumbents of No 10 for work including answering letters and attending public events.

For someone who was so against state handouts, Thatcher managed to rake in over half a million pounds in the last five years. Due to her frailty, she was hardly ever seen in public. It must have been spent on the letters then. A simple solution would have been to ask her fans to include a self-addressed envelope (celebrities do it all the time).

Blair, on the other hand, is known for charging exorbitant sums for his attendance of public events. Asking us to subsidise his net profit is cheeky. A freedom of information request asking for details of the claims (who, when and how much) failed because it would take too much work. There goes transparency.

Be counted

There’s a new disability rights group on FB: Disabled UK – time to unite together and be heard. Their aim is to make a stand so that the disabled people’s plight is finally noticed:

Do realize that for a official government website petition to be heard by the back bench of parliament it only takes 100,000 signatures in the last year none of the petitions which benefit the disabled have been signed by more than 20,000 people? That’s poor when the UK consists of:
– 1.3 million disabled people
– 500,000 people that receive carers allowance
and if you take into account that MOST of the 1.8 million disabled people and carer put together have at least 2 members of living family who will support their cause, that’s another 3.6 million people.

If you are disabled or a carer or simply do not buy into the anti-disability propaganda, join the group, help out with the petitions and see our world change for the better.

The real-life hunger games

The Tories’ divide and conquer strategy is certainly paying off. We had strivers vs skivers. We had unemployment benefits vs working tax credits. Now it’s time for private vs social tenants. To quote Suzanne Collins:

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour!”

They are not but some people buy into the rhetoric anyway and believe the government. The recent upheaval is about private tenants not being subjected to the bedroom tax. This is not so.

Housing benefit for tenants is called local housing allowance. As a previously single and working person, I could have had a four bedroom house because I could afford it. Once I lost my job in 2010, my housing benefit would only pay for one bedroom. This is absolutely fair – either I pay more for the big house or move to smaller accommodation.

Since April 2012, however, they decided that a single person aged 25-35 is only entitled to a shared rate. This means that, living as I am in a one-bed flat, I would either have to pay the difference (£25 a week in my case) to stay here or rent a room.

So far, so good. Here are the problems with moving house when you are on benefits:

  • No DSS, no smokers, no pets restrictions in most ads – I cannot even arrange a viewing because the first question asked is: do you work? Why? I assume it is because landlords are fed up with people being late with their rent whenever the council screws up.
  • No money for the move – I don’t know anyone with a van. I don’t even have a car. Moving costs are extortionate. Impossible if you are struggling to pay for basic sustenance.
  • In my area, renting a one-bedroom flat costs exactly the same as renting a room (and it does not include bills).
  • The small problem of my disability. I do not want to go into details to preserve my anonymity but it does have impact on the household. You would not want to share with me if only so that you do not have to watch me suffer.

Our rents line private individuals’ pockets – the same people who contributed to the housing boom by artificially increasing demand by means of zero percent interest-only mortgages with tracker rates that actually meant that at some stages they were paying no mortgage at all as the interest rates were so low.

Private lets are usually in poor state of repair. LHA is paid at the 30th percentile of all rents in area. You could easily infer that they are in the bottom 30% of all houses available for rent. What follows are old boilers, draughty windows and threadbare carpets that soaked up tears of people affected by Thatcher’s government (mining was big in my area back in the day). Private let also means that you cannot change  anything in the house – you need the landlords permission for everything. Then, with a two-month notice period, it’s too risky to invest into something you might lose before the summer.

If you are poor, you are in the same boat as other poor people. It does not matter if you work, cannot work or cannot find a job. It does not matter if you are a social tenant, home owner or private tenant. You struggle with bills and shopping. You have no security and no hope. Don’t let the rich manipulate you. You and I are in this together – they are cushioned by their tax-free, offshore wealth.

Britain 2013

These are some interesting quotes from the past:

“He walks the street as his stomach growls, perhaps pawns or sells his last possessions. His clothes become fewer in number and worse in condition, which drags down his appearance. Soon he finds himself in surroundings that corrupt him not only physically, but spiritually. If he then becomes homeless in winter, his suffering becomes even more intense.”

“I discovered something else as well—quickly switching between periods of work and unemployment along with the see-sawing of income and expenses eventually destroyed many people’s sense of thrift and intelligent planning. The body becomes accustomed to living high in good times and starving in bad. They no longer make any effort to plan sensibly in good times, for the bad times they know will come. Indifference surrounds its victim with a mirage which makes them see only well-fed prosperity, regardless of their true circumstances.”

“We now have an otherwise hard-working man whose attitude toward life grows slack and gradually matures him into a tool of those unions who will merely use him to gain their own advantage. He has so frequently switched between working and non-working through no fault of his own that he no longer notices whether the strike in which he takes part will secure him any economic rights or whether it is an attempt to destroy the State, the whole social order, and even civilization itself.”

And finally:

“I was forced by need and hard reality to make a quick decision. My father was a man of small means, and what he had saved was largely used up by my mother’s grave illness. My orphan’s pension was not nearly enough to live on. I was compelled to earn my own bread somehow. With a bag of clothes in my hand and an inextinguishable will in my heart, I set off for Vienna. What my father had accomplished fifty years before I hoped to also wrestle from fate. I, too, would be “something important”, but never an official.”

All these excerpts are from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. What a sad place we are in that the arguably most evil being in recorded history had more understanding and compassion towards us than our 21st century government. Is it any wonder Hitler became so popular in his time? We do not have to repeat history – we can learn from it.

Chilling death statistics

It seems that only Metro picked up the fact that:

Death rates are believed to have been driven up by more than 5,000 by the bitterly cold March.

Most people are shocked by it. The usual questions of developed world, 21st century society and this day and age follow. For months, if not years, people who rely on benefits to survive (and that includes low paid workers) have been saying that we have to choose between heating and food. No matter what we choose, we will suffer. Nobody believes us because it is just so removed from the majority’s experience. It is much easier to imagine having the wealth of Iain Duncan Smith or David Cameron.

The problems with keeping our houses sufficiently heated is also down to the country’s obsession with listed buildings. Most of them should have been torn down about 100 years ago. They do not offer proper ventilation or insulation. Their poor state of repair does not help either. Insisting that people live with draughty single-glazed wooden sash and case windows is inhumane. All that in the name of preserving history – so that you can look up and see my gorgeous windows in all their 1900s glory. I hope the bubble wrap and tin foil don’t put you off. I would not like to offend your aesthetic sensitivities with my poverty.

You can do the cavity wall and loft insulation and draught-proof to your heart’s content but your single glazed windows will let you down. We have bubble wrap and tinfoil on our windows. There are heavy curtains and blinds. We even had secondary glazing installed (a charity paid for it) but it hardly helped. We have an efficient boiler. All the savings were wiped out by the rising energy prices in the last two years. We are on the cheapest tariff available to us. There is only so many layers you can put on where our room temperature is about 14 degrees.

A comment on Metro’s Facebook page shocked me to the core. Heather Hickman said:

Its called mother nature and evolution. Survival of the fittest.

It makes me wonder what kind of person she is. Would she really tell her father crippled by arthritis made worse by the cold to shuffle it because that is the natural order of things? Would she tell her shivering five-year-old that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

The state helps the poorest with heating costs, some will say. It’s unfair – we have to pay for it ourselves, the strivers will chip in egged on by IDS and Osbourne. I miss the times when I was working for a lot of reasons. One of them is that the twelve hours outside the house meant that heating was paid for by someone else. Now I would have to put it on for at least 10 hours every day as I don’t leave the house and there simply isn’t enough money.

Some benefit claimants are entitled to cold weather payments – a one-off boost of £25. However, to receive one, the temperature in your postcode area must be zero or below for seven consecutive days. Apparently, this year we did not qualify – the temperatures hovered around one degree. Last year we would have received two payments if it wasn’t for the fact that we were on contribution-based benefits.

People born before July 5 1951 might qualify for winter fuel payments where £100-300 is automatically transferred to their accounts every winter. These do not depend on temperature.

So, as ever, we are not in it together. If we were, it would be much warmer.

%d bloggers like this: