Workshy Scrounger

Tag: shameless propaganda

Energy providers “stockpiling” money

It seems that the Daily Mail and minister Greg Barker do not understand what direct debit is all about.

Energy giants are to repay customers up to £2 billion which they have stockpiled from direct debit overpayments.

Yes, they have our money and it will pay for our winter usage. In my view, setting up a direct debit to your energy provider allows you to pay the same amount all year round regardless of what you actually use. Then, your annual review will adjust your direct debit value. For instance, if my bills were based on readings, in the summer I would pay £30 and in winter – £80. DD allows me to pay £55 every month and I get a discount. Throughout the whole summer, I save towards the energy-demanding winter so that I do not have to worry. (I do worry anyway but at least I know how little heating I can afford.)

For this to work, I have to know my energy needs and for that I need those pesky energy statements nobody apparently understands. I need to provide meter readings regularly to ensure that I am not over- or underpaying. I must be aware how any changes will affect my energy consumption (a baby/partner/elderly relative moving in or out, a redecoration project involving steaming off woodchip wallpaper throughout the house, upgrading my appliances or draught-proofing) and ask for the DD to be adjusted accordingly.

For some time, the energy provider will have my money because I am saving it for winter. I can just as well put it in a jar or in a separate bank account and pay tax on any meagre interest. What is the problem with someone making a profit where I cannot make any? Instead, I get my discount and the peace of mind and am happy with it.

Next winter, those applauding the Big Six’s “concession” will wake up with their hands right in the potty when it turns out that one month’s energy money will not pay for winter excesses like having the heating on in the evenings. There will no doubt be another round of price hikes and this time it will be accompanied by steep increases in direct debits because people will have underpaid throughout the year and will be in the red.

Can’t afford to pay? They will install a pre-payment meter (they like to rip off the poor the most). They will not let you switch. They will give you little choice when it comes to tariffs. They will finish you off. Of course, nobody can see that coming.

The whole give-us-back-our-money is just a shameless propaganda. Nothing really changes. There is nothing to be happy about. There is no victory. Thousands of vulnerable people will die needlessly this winter. Meanwhile, the energy companies’ profits are not endangered in the slightest.


Save with Jamie

Jamie Oliver is doing a programme on food poverty. The problem is that he does not believe in it.

The Naked Chef said: ‘I meet people who say, ‘You don’t understand what it’s like.” I just want to hug them and teleport them to the Sicilian street cleaner who has 25 mussels, 10 cherry tomatoes, and a packet of spaghetti for 60 pence, and knocks out the most amazing pasta. You go to Italy or Spain and they eat well on not much money. We’ve missed out on that in Britain, somehow.’

Here are my predictions as to what the programme will advise:

– use local markets they are cheap (we all live in London after all)

– splash out on olive oil, it’s healthy (not if you use a bottle a day)

– use cheap cuts of meat and slow cook them (I am yet to find those in my local supermarket and, sadly, there is no butcher here in non-London)

– fresh herbs will liven up any meal (yeah at 80p a pop, they are totally worth it)

With a bit of planning, you too can live on 50 pence a day (doesn’t matter that the recipe is three quid per portion – eat less and lose weight).  Just think and acquire some cooking skills. Food poverty? I don’t think so. You are just a lazy and incompetent if you think otherwise.

I am a glutton for punishment though and I will watch it. On the off-chance that just one of the recipes will prove affordable. After all, the Great British Budget Menu gave me corn fritters. At the same time, I do not hold high hopes that his low-cost recipes can be replicated here. Not to mention that his version of budget grub is probably a big birthday bash in my world.

NHS – expect more, pay less.

I had a wee chuckle to myself thanks to the MSN article:

Sir Bruce Keogh, the Medical Director of the NHS, said the health service should adopt the business models of PC World or Dixons, where people expect more but pay less.

Immediately some incongruous images flashed to my mind:

– limited time offer – get your hip replaced in August and save 10%*

– bypass surgery – get your anaesthesia for free**

– book a GP appointment by 3pm today and you will be seen the next day***

As far as I know, companies save money by sacking people (the slack is picked up by the remaining employees until they cannot take it any more and quit), hiring inexperienced people as they are cheaper, putting excessive pressure on the suppliers while sacrificing quality (horse meat scandal) and moving their business online (Littlewoods, HMV and Woolworths).

Keogh forgets that NHS is not a company. It is not there to make profit but to save lives and preserve health. You cannot cut corners when it comes to health care with some half-baked fatuous schemes.

Who is going to pay for Dragons’ Den style coaching for executives? I just know it is going to be a back-slapping session with days out to encourage team bonding and to get the creativity flowing. Why not introduce an incentive scheme for employees and patients alike – present your idea and get 1% of first-year savings as a reward. These are the people who know how NHS really works and how to improve it.

Example: I have a lot of appointments in different hospitals in a 40-mile radius. Before every appointment, I get a thick, colourful glossy booklet that does not say anything I didn’t know already or would have been unable to find online. Give me an option to opt out instead of filling up my paper bin. All it would require is an extra line on the referral letter template (booklet yes/no – delete as appropriate).

Actually, stop sending me appointment letters altogether. Send me an email instead – saves paper, postage and the sanity of the poor soul who does the letter-folding and envelope stuffing. You immediately get confirmation that I received it and whether I will attend or not. It also minimises the risk of the letter getting lost and my inadvertently missing the appointment.

Speaking of missed appointments – introduce fines just like the dentist do.

There – that’s what I came up with in about five minutes. Heavens know how much money it would save but every little helps, right?


* 10% discount applies exclusively to dressings.

** basic anaesthesia only – one hit with a mallet by an inexperienced final-year medical student; pharmacological anaesthesia available for £999. Terms and conditions apply.

*** next day used as an example only; usual waiting time three to five working days. We are not responsible for any resulting delays or losses.

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.

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?

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.

Et tu, Labour, contra me?

Not wanting to stay far behind the Tories, Labour came up with a solution to the soaring benefits bill:

One central idea under consideration is the creation of a flexible payments system offering higher benefits to those who have been employed for longer and have therefore made more national insurance contributions.

What a great thought! Let’s make them (us) all suffer. Those on long-term disability benefits and those who cannot find a job because there are no jobs to be found should live in penury. No job, no status, no human rights. Jumping on the skiver’s lifestyle choice bandwagon to steal some votes from the Tories is morally reprehensible. Is Labour not meant to be a political party representing the working classes?

Why can politicians not see that the only way to make work pay is to increase the minimum wage to a living one? I know that loads of people in work have the same standard of living as my partner and I: poverty. However, lowering our benefits will not make it better. It will just make it seem that those on the minimum wage are better off because they still can choose between topping up their meters or eating. We will just have to chose what to take from supermarket bins so that we can heat it up on a bonfire made from newspapers salvaged from the paper bin.

Labour is also economically wrong – if a person is judged to have insufficient contributions:

– they will not be offered a council house; however, to prevent homelessness the taxpayers will have to pay a private landlord market rates (an extra £100-200 pounds in my area) or for a room in a bed and breakfast;

– they will suffer through no fault of their own – eg if you become disabled and permanently unable to work at the age of 22 – what then?

Social housing and social welfare were introduced to support those unfortunate enough unable to do it themselves. They were not meant to be a reward for health and being lucky in the workplace. You cannot leave us destitute so as to make the working poor look better off on paper.

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?

Enemy of the British public

And so we go again: skivers vs strivers. Guardian says that George Osborne is going to make a speech trying to convince the public that the benefit system is bloated and broken and that workers should unite against the workshy scroungers and everything will be hunky dory sometime soon.

“For too long, we’ve had a system where people who did the right thing – who get up in the morning and work hard – felt penalised for it, while people who did wrong thing got rewarded for it. That’s wrong.”

There are two problems with that statement: there are not enough jobs to go round* and some people cannot work because of health issues. It appears that being sick is the wrong thing to do. What now?

Being against the demolition of the benefit system means being against the British public. This sounds uncannily like sort of reverse Communist propaganda (esp when it comes to their choice of vocabulary). I have a vested interest in the benefits system as it allows me to pay my rent, buy food as well as electricity and gas. It must have something to do with the entitlement culture they keep talking about – I seem to think I am entitled to shelter, food and warmth. As if I was a human and the Declaration of Human Rights actually protected me.

* Very often, even if there is a job ad, you cannot take it because you cannot commute for five hours a day and you could not afford the fares anyway  You cannot move because you cannot afford it either.

PS How funny that WordPress and Google spell-checkers rejected “workshy”, “strivers” and “skivers”. Newspeak or what?

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