Workshy Scrounger

Tag: out of touch

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.”

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All talk and no action

Salford council, where obesity rates among final-year students hit 23%, is considering a ban on chippies selling hot food until after 5pm if they are located within 400 metres of a school, Guardian reports.

It always gives me a funny feeling when the authorities pick on one element of a problem and insist that they can offer us a wholesome solution. The problem is more complex than that:

– fruit and veg prices are exorbitant – yes you can get value veg and it is absolutely tasteless. Value range does not include “luxuries” like celery, courgettes or spinach. You are basically reduced to subsisting on potatoes, carrots, onions and mushies.

– processed veg is much cheaper – a pound of potatoes works out more expensive than a pound of oven chips.

– celebrity chefs do not help. Jamie, despite his school meals campaign, has recipes that are expensive and high in calories. I struggled to find a recipe in his 15-minute meals that would cost less than £10 (with shopping around) for four portions. Give me any meat and I, too, will create a masterpiece. Unfortunately, our diet is mainly vegetarian due to money constraints. We cannot afford posh veg either (see point one). Basically, we eat red pasta, white pasta, rice with veg and rice with beans. Exciting stuff. Sometimes we splash out and have steamed veg.

Back to the story: the kids will just get their chip-fix from the school cafeteria or home dinner. It’s not fat or sugar that makes us fat. It’s our choices. Nobody thinks that horse burgers and chips are a healthy option. A generous helping of peas notwithstanding. Our choices are largely dictated by our financial situation and no amount of campaigns is going to change that. The lack of money makes obesity more common among the poor. Trying to deny it is like insisting that Ethiopians are actually anorexic and their problems have nothing to do with lack of food.

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.

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.

People of Britain – your MPs are going hungry

Dear Hon. MPs

I was really worried to read Metro reports about your dinner allowance. It is simply unacceptable that you can claim only £15 and only after 7.30 pm. It is unnecessary cruelty to hard-working people like yourselves and I am sure it contravenes some laws. However, not all people are as understanding and to prevent civil unrest, I have a few suggestions for you.

Firstly, I think that the whole issue of a £15 limit for your dinner should be dropped for a while – the benefit cuts have just came to life and people’s salaries have been frozen for a while. The price of your one (taxpayer-funded) dinner could pay for someone’s food for the whole week.

I would also not compare yourselves to soldiers – emotions will be flying high. Let’s say that you do not work physically so you do not need as much food as they do. Some would say you don’t even work that hard but I would never contemplate that idea.

Your constituents usually get no dinner allowance when they work overtime – you might get a bit of pepperoni pizza even if you are vegetarian but only if your boss is in a really good mood and actually there to witness you slaving away at your desk (at his request). I would count my blessings for now.

As for choice, Mr Jones, you have the money to pay yourself for whatever and whenever you want to eat so why not try that? You have to spend your salary on something so it might just as well be a big lunch seeing as we pay for everything else.

In the interest of saving you money, here are some cut-price lunches that the precariat and strivers alike enjoy for lunch: value instant noodles, can of value soup with a slice of value bread, a tin of value (probably horse, might be a cat) meatballs with spaghetti. There’s also the faithful old sandwich (perhaps not egg mayo or tuna – you do sit quite close to each other in the chamber). You could also try a portion of your batch cooked lentil soup, meat-less stew or tomato pasta. Just ask your personal chef to make you some. Not only will it be healthy and cheap, you will also gain a few points in the eyes of the electorate.

I hope that helps. I urge you to cheer yourself up with the taxpayer-subsidised alcohol we provide at your convenience. I am really glad you spend long hours working to benefit all the people of our magnificent and fair country.

Yours sincerely

Workshy Scrounger

Life below the line

While googling cheap meals, I came across the Live Below the Line campaign. It’s all about “challenging the way people in the UK think about poverty and making a huge difference”. Extreme poverty affects 1.4 billion people in the world. Translated to the UK conditions, it means that they have less than one pound a day to spend on everything. The campaign asks us to survive five days spending up to £5 on all food and drink.

Pretend you’ve got no money
The recipes suggested by the campaign are ridiculous: traditional jam and porridge – 50g of oats and one tablespoon of jam. It’s only nine pence! Only you cannot buy three pence worth of jam or a third of a carrot. The problem is having to buy all the basic kitchen ingredients in one go so that then you don’t end up eating jammy porridge on water for every meal. Yes, a bottle of oil will last you quite a while. However, every week we spend £3.18 under the broad “cooking” category – oil, flour, tin foil, tomato puree, spices – cupboard staples that you cannot do without if you are cooking everything from scratch.

You’re so funny
There are some more “money-saving” ideas. However, replacing ketchup with a home-made concoction based on canned tomatoes is bad economy – a bottle of value ketchup is cheaper than a tin of tomatoes. Pizza base without yeast? Haven’t you just call it chapattis a few pages ago?

I can’t see anyone else smiling in here
The full menus are even worse – value sausages with 40% meat content. Stock cubes used liberally. Hardly any fish. Hardly any fresh vegetables. Hardly any dairy. Breakfast is bread. Dinner is rice or pasta with frozen veg or a jar of sauce. Or a home made pizza. How uninventive, how tedious, how unviable in the long run.

You’ll never live like common people
I thought that the blogs of people who took part in similar “experiments” would be more worthy. Not a chance. It’s all about the joys of bargain hunting at supermarket closing times and free canapés at art gallery soirees. Or bumping foodstuffs of well meaning housemates and using stuff already in the cupboard. Or going hungry. It just five days so who cares.

If you call your dad he could stop it all
To me, this looks more like governmental propaganda than an awareness raising campaign. All the posh folk foregoing their daily grande skinny vanilla latte with soy and a blueberry muffin for five days thinking it makes any bit of difference or that now they “know” what it’s like to be poor (with the perspective of a huge blow-out at the weekend because, of course, they deserve it after all the deprivations you’ve suffered).

Common people like me
I didn’t know how much we actually spend on food and drink. Our weekly budget of £45 includes toiletries, cleaning stuff, small household items, stationery and the like. It was quite sobering to see that the average from the last eight weeks is £1.9 per day each. Every week the prices are going up and we can buy less and less for that amount.

The campaign has raised £71k so far. Why does the British public have more empathy towards poverty in far away countries than to what is happening on their own doorstep?

We are all in it together

The benefits are cut left, right and centre. There is little transitional protection offered in most cases. Some rules are even applied retrospectively (eg limiting contribution-based ESA to one year). As ever, those who have it better, will have it better for longer (possibly for ever) because that’s how the “we are all in it together” works.

The Telegraph talks about the amazing perks enjoyed by civil servants:

  • letting civil servants in London work an hour less than others because it takes longer to get to work
  • work nine-day fortnights by cutting short their lunch breaks and staying in their offices until 6pm
  • extra two and a half ‘privilege’ days off every year
  • six weeks’ annual leave plus eight bank holidays

 “Some terms and conditions are contractual and cannot be changed while civil servants are in post, which is why departments may choose to change them for new entrants or those on promotion.”

Well, why don’t you do what any self-respecting private employer would do: present the new contract and the employee can take it or leave it. With the salaries being frozen or cut all over the place, I have little sympathy for the civil servants’ plight.

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