Workshy Scrounger

Tag: Iain Duncan Smith

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.”


ATOS losing monopoly is not good news

It is not bad news either. The government is simply looking for a scapegoat to justify the appalling outcomes of the work capability assessments. It will also allow them to spend some more money in the name of saving it and then complain that the benefit bill is spiralling out of control.

Every Atos recommendation is reviewed by the holy and inaccessible Decision Maker. Why have they not picked up on the flaws within the reports? Why was an action not taken sooner? Why are they not being punished for it? Because the reports are not the problem here. A written summary of a document that records incorrect answers will be flawed by necessity. The company is paid to say you are fit as a fiddle – they have to lie somewhere to ensure that they get the targets required by their client.

The problem is within the work capability assessment itself. As long as there are targets, tick-boxes and presumption of scrounger-ence, no amount of written report improvement will change anything. They will just find a different way to deny us the help we need. In the meantime, more people will be put into destitution and more people will die while the public rejoices that something is being done and something is finally changing. It’s not. It’s just the royal birth preventing us from seeing this smoke screen for what it is.

Breaking news: babies cost a lot

I wrote before about the true cost of having a baby when we, the scroungers, were accused of popping them out just for the sake of extra money from the government. Mind that I wrote it without the benefit of ever having a child, even being close friends with someone who has a child or actually planning to have one. Therefore, the recent report from Aviva and Santander was puzzling:

Such is the extent of the monthly outlay on children that one in 20 parents say they would not have had a child in the first place if they were aware of the true cost of raising them.

The 0.05% might not seem like a lot but it means that just last year over 40,000 babies were born through sheer ignorance of their parents. Perhaps family clinics should start promoting arithmetic skills along with the awareness of contraceptive methods.

They go on to say that £537 is spent on a child every month. That already includes (to some extent) reliance on hand-me-downs, charity shops and accepting help from family members.

We would receive £357 a month in child tax credits and child benefits. That would leave us £180 short every month. No amount of second-hand items and family goodwill is going to cover such a shortfall day-in day-out for the next 16 or so years.

Unfortunately we are not the sky subscribing, cider drinking mythical creatures who can have it all while living on benefits. As all our expenditure is scaled down past the minimum, we would go hungry (very often). We would have to rely on our non-existent food bank (for the joy of free food, obviously). IDS will be happy to hear we will not be having a child partly due to our financial circumstances. Even if by some miracle I will be able to work again, we will still not take the chance because redundancies and ill-health happen. It happened once to us and it could happen again.

At the same time, the government and the tabloids are trying to say you are actually in profit if you have children while on benefits. Forget money education at schools, we should start with the politicians.

Interview with Workshy Scrounger

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.

What a stunt

It’s funny to think Iain Duncan Smith was ever out of job considering how he is trying to dismantle the benefit system. According to the Telegraph, he had two periods of unemployment in his life. He is quoted to have said:

“It was a shock – absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: ‘God, what are we going to do for money?’”

That second spell of employment happened when he was married and had the second child on the way. He fails to mention he had access to his wife’s inherited wealth. It’s ironic that he denounces people who are in exactly the same situation he was in:  you have a job, you have kids and then you lose your job but still have to take care of your children.

IDS still insists that he knows how it is and that we are trying to take attention away from the welfare reforms. Quite to the contrary – we are bringing attention to it by pointing out that it is already near impossible to survive.

Greg Clark, the Treasury minister, admitted that any MP would find it hard to live on the breadline (yes!) but went on to say that

“I think the context is this – we’re all having to tighten our belts…right across the board there are difficult choices to be made, it is an incredibly difficult situation.”

Why can’t he see that our belts cannot be tightened any more? That the belts themselves were pawned because we could not afford the ever-rising bills? That people, even those who work, are already using food banks?

For the poor, it’s not a matter of having meat-free Mondays or forgoing the annual retreat to the Alps. It is making the really difficult choices about buying a tin of value baked beans or a pint of milk. About topping up your electricity meter (cooking) or gas meter (heating) – March 2013 was the second coldest on record. Usually, I guess, it’s simply energy versus food. Nobody believes us when we say it because such pauperisation of society is too hard to comprehend in a developed country in the 21st century. It’s easier to blame it on us being workshy scroungers.

£53 a week

According to Metro, Iain Duncan Smith said that he could live on £53 a week if he had to. It provoked outrage, which surprised me. Come on, he couldn’t quite say – this cannot be done and I don’t know how so many people are managing on benefits.

For propaganda purposes, he might even go and live like that for a week (which I doubt). But it would be just trying to live like common people:

  • he would know that the hardship was going to end soon – he could even survive on bread and water – his pride and career would be at stake
  • he lives in a comfortable house – no lumpy mattress, draughty windows and threadbare carpet that need replaced even though there’s no money
  • he has everything he needs already – his winter boots are not falling apart, his kitchen blender is in fine working order and the microwave is not just a distant memory
  • he wouldn’t know the fear many of us feel every fortnight – will the benefit be arbitrarily stopped or sanctioned? What happens then? An hour on the phone to get a crisis loan? No electricity or gas until they sort out the blunder?
  • he would not feel the shame when a cashier chattily asks you about what you do for a living or how was work – you don’t want to lie but neither do you want to justify yourself.

Anyway, let’s be really daft and imagine that IDS would come to live with one of us and share everything. Do you think he would say what he really thought about this experience or that it would have any impact whatsoever on his policies? Just listen to him: we are scum. We put ourselves in this position by not being able to find a job in the recession or by getting sick. Now we are bankrupting the state by asking for handouts. Do you ever compare your life to a sewer rat’s? Well, nor does he.

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