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The Benefits Trap?

October 8, 2010

Reading through the latest changes to the benefits system that are being talked about this week, my firsts thoughts are “its about jolly time”.

As someone who has had the misfortune of having to claim benefits on more than one occasion over the years, its easy to see how some people simply can’t be bothered to get work when so much is offered by the state.

My latest period of job seeking, due to redundancy, was less than a year ago. As someone who tries to be responsible, I had my mortgage insured for job loss. Imagine my surprise when 6 weeks after losing my job, I was sent a form to claim help on the repayment of my mortgage, I think the offer was to pay the interest section only, so less than my insurance would cover. No such offer was available when I had been made redundant 6 years previously. At that time I had no such mortgage cover and had to finance my mortgage through savings. It had a devastating affect on my savings and I am still trying to recover from that now.

Mortgage insurance is not cheap, the monthly premium is significant, a bit under 10% of my monthly mortgage payments. It’s a sum that I definitely notice and could definitely put to other use (like saving) if I was to cancel it. While I certainly don’t want to see families being made homeless due to back luck; it is very disheartening to have paid all that money to protect my family from losing their home, only for the government to do the same for anyone who can’t be bothered.

Where is the incentive to financially prepare?

Another surprise I had was the news that people who didn’t have a computer were being given laptops to help with their job searches. Why is this at all necessary? If people need internet access to search for job, then there should be computers at the Job Centre providing that function. Job centres already provide phones for people to use and terminals with lists of jobs. A couple of computers connected to the internet would be far more suitable than providing a free laptop to every benefits claimant. It never occurred to me why I kept being asked if I had a computer at home or not. It wasn’t until I’d got myself back into work that I found out it was so that those without computers could have one provided for them. Who would have checked that I was telling the truth if I said no? It also turns out that many recipients of these free laptops then sell them on eBay for the cash. 

That’s a blatant waste of public resources and this sort of state generosity should be stopped. 

Live within your means. 

One specific complaint, which has left me utterly baffled, is from a politician complaining that the proposed changes will drive poor families out of affluent areas. Well if they can’t afford to live there what right have they got to demand that the state pays the balance? There are areas in my town that I can’t afford to move into, the benefits of living there would be fantastic, walking distance from the town centre and a good local school, large gardens surrounded by trees, enough distance between neighbours that their loud music does not bother me, I could go on. Why should anyone deserve to have the government provide for them housing that is associated with the affluent? The government has a responsibility to all of the population and all its residents, both rich and poor, working and non-working. It is unfair on the rest of the population to provide housing to families that is disproportionately expensive. The provided housing should be modest and inexpensive.

Won’t somebody think of the children! 

Predictably, the vast majority of press coverage and comment is on the child benefit cap. Lots of people are complaining on how the poor will be poorer and it’s the children who will suffer. No one seems to be acknowledging the fact that there are many cases where a new child has been brought into a world for the extra benefit that will bring the family, especially where it produces a larger home, provided for by the council. 

A quick straw-poll around some friends revealed a couple of stories of families that can at best be described as ‘benefit families’. Neither parent works, they rely totally on the state for all their income, they have increased their child count in order to secure larger housing, as well as the increased benefits. This is surely a far bigger crime, bringing a child into the world for the increase in handouts it gives you. 

Personally I think that child benefit should be scrapped across the board, rather than capped, maybe this is the start of phasing it out completely. One can only hope. 

When did having a child become a right? 

Another of the attitudes that bothers me is the assumption that it is any person’s right to, at any time they choose; bring a child into the world. Why? On what basis is that right taken? 

If a person does not have the means to provide for a child, and can only do so with state provided help, then the only ‘right’ choice is to delay until provision can be made. It is called being a responsible adult in a world already over-populated. 

Bravo to the government, the proposed changes are long overdue and frankly I welcome them.

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