I have no idea why my wife and I ever bothered paying into the system. Which, in turn, means we wonder why we ever bothered working.
People buy into all the TV productions, media headlines and political nonsense about benefits. But the likes of newspaper stories, “Benefits Street” or Benefits Britain are not factually typical or realistic. They are far from representative, and always one-sided.
There is a great myth that has been spun by the government and media; the myth is that welfare benefits were too generous, too high and needed to be cut.
However, the reality is very different from this image that has skewed people’s perceptions of welfare. The truth is that welfare benefits were never too high. Far from it, they were in fact inadequate.
The truth is that pay levels have been and still are grossly insufficient. Combined with high prices and a high cost of living, it is no wonder most people feel ‘cheated’.
But welfare benefits were only set at a level to meet these costs and prices. Even then, they were only set at levels to barely meet those costs. The fact that low pay could not meet these costs was never the fault of people on welfare benefits; they have no impact on your pay level.
Blaming people on welfare was a tactic government used to cause divisions across the country; so while people are busy blaming those not working, they don’t focus on their own poor pay levels, rising prices or what the government are actually doing.
Rents have been a particular issue. David Cameron promised that cutting Housing Benefit would bring rents down. This was always, obviously, complete nonsense with no basis in fact. Rents have risen year on year.
Of course, expensive areas have special characteristics when it comes to, for example, property prices, rents and other associated costs living in such an area – with London being a more special case.
But the government has taken London as a model and, as a political mechanism, applied the ‘one fits all’ idea across the country.
Of course, I do not need to tell you that house prices and rents in London are not the same as those in, for example, York, Great Yarmouth, Chelmsford, Huddersfield, Nottingham, Southampton (etc etc).
In fact, rents differ greatly, and this is why setting the Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit) on the median had some logical sense. On the 50th percentile, people were still likely to need to top-up their rents, but at least it gave people options (if they could find a landlord who would accept Housing Benefit).
On the 30th percentile, in many areas across the UK, people will never be able to find a home. For example, in many parts of the UK, family homes begin well above the 50th percentile. It’s no surprise there is a housing crisis – and a growing rent debt crisis.
This distortion of the truth by this government is absolutely appalling. They portray a nation of lazy scroungers – when in fact unemployed people account for only 3% of welfare spending. And, of course, unemployed does not automatically equal ‘lazy’.
The reality is that, after pensions, people in work are a much bigger draw on welfare benefits.
That is largely down to pay being grossly insufficient. The State knows pay is too low – that’s why all the in-work benefits exist.
The truth is that the government has betrayed people – both in and out of work. By keeping your pay low (via in-work benefits – yes, people get paid AND get welfare benefits!), you are being held back in progressing your life and your career – whilst your employer, directors and shareholders benefit from all your efforts.
We worked hard for years, and both of us had excellent incomes. I worked in Computer Science and then later in Software Development and management. My wife worked in finance. We had cars, a house (or should I say mortgage), holidays every year, and we didn’t want for anything.
One can argue that we worked for it and earned it, but the truth is that we had good fortune too. As much as people try to ‘make their own luck’, we all need the cards to be kind.
But now, I am full-time carer to my disabled wife. I also bring up our children (one of our children is also disabled). We have costs due to disability that are both high and unavoidable. But we have no way of raising or earning money in our situation.
Most people who have never experienced disability would be astounded and scared by the sheer extra costs. They can easily run to several hundred pounds extra each month. We don’t set these costs/prices no more than we asked to be afflicted with disabilities.
It is atrocious and shameful what this government are doing to disabled people. David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Iain Duncan Smith and others, such as Lord Freud, are not fit to be in power. Supporters of this government should be ashamed of themselves.
Both my grandfathers fought in World War 2. I’m sure they would be disgusted with the way this Govt., the media and many people in the UK view and treat vulnerable and disabled people. I’m sure they’d have searching questions about what they were fighting for.
My friend’s father worked all his life whilst also looking after his disabled wife, and bringing up his son. He paid into the system all his life. He worked hard all his life. And his reward? He died suddenly, shortly after taking early retirement. He never got to enjoy retirement.
His son, who is now himself unwell, is another who is being hit hard by the government’s welfare reforms. His son also worked for quite some years. People have worked hard and paid in, and the government are now not providing enough money, help and support.
What was the point of his working and paying in? Why bother?
It is very hard to get insured against such things. It may be easier or harder now, I’m not sure. But when we did it, it was near impossible to get cover with multiple medical problems and unpredictable progressive conditions. The policy we had would not pay out, arguing on legal technicalities. We progressed with it for a while but we eventually hit an impasse, where they basically told us we would have to take them to court. Of course, we were no longer in a position to do this. Subsequent cuts to legal by the coalition government were the final nail in the coffin. I do not see how David Cameron can say this is helping people, do you?
Moreover, though, it’s irrelevant in many ways. Had insurance paid out, we would not have been able to claim many welfare benefits. We would have had to live off that money until it was exhausted. And with no options for earning more money, that would not have lasted very long. As costs are far more than what we get, savings would have been exhausted too. Ultimately, we would still be in this position, even if insurance paid out. But it didn’t. And we are not alone.
Now, our fixed income does not even meet 70% of basic bills. These welfare reforms are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. They are causing anxiety, depression, illness, homelessness and increased child poverty. This cannot be acceptable. We saw the terrible effects of homelessness and child poverty in the late 80s/early 90s. It was terrible. It put tremendous strain on the NHS, which of course costs a lot more than welfare or the likes of housing benefit. It’s government irresponsibility that costs money and punishes rather than empowers people.
We are adversely affected by a number of the welfare reforms, and the number of changes has a cumulative impact. Our situation is directly attributable to the welfare reform policies. We did not have these problems before the welfare reforms. These reforms have adversely affected the vulnerable, and to challenge this legally is very difficult with parallel severe cuts in legal aid.
When my wife’s condition worsened, we both had to stop working. I too have a slight disability but nothing like my wife’s. We lived off our savings for a time, but ended up having to down-size our house, sell the cars, belongings etc. Eventually, after having to give up our smaller home, we had to rent. We exhausted our savings to live on, sold everything. We lost everything we had ever worked for. What was the point in our working?
And now – now we need something back from the system we paid into and trusted, the government deny us this. They have broken that trust. They have put us into personal debt that is spiralling and – if our fixed remains so insufficiently low – inescapable.
Had we not worked, we’d be no worse or better off today. So what was the point? There wasn’t one.
This isn’t about party politics. No decent human being with an iota of intelligence could support this government’s welfare reforms.