Benefits are a scapegoat


As debt rises, standard of living worsens and 3.6 million children are growing up in poverty we are presented with pathetic solutions from government. Caps on welfare, whether it is limiting it to £25,000 or stopping child benefit when a family has more than 2 children are now openly discussed by a government that has lost its course and forgotten its purpose. Government has allowed itself to be distracted by media outlets that are too concerned with right wing scare stories about public sector workers and benefit claimants.  Beyond these sensationalist stories the real endemic problems which caused the Global Economic Crash remain, as many seek to attack the perceived gluttony and greed within the most vulnerable of society.

An old fashioned Victorian definition is beginning to rear its unwelcome head as some seek to define the jobless between the deserving and the undeserving poor. It is an argument as irrelevant as it is old as for thirty years now mass unemployment has, for many, become a fact of life. It is a callous definition and a desperate form of scape-goatism which has only served to create divisions within society.

In his address to the Conservative party conference this year, David Cameron reinforced this belief by saying ‘if you choose not to work, you can get housing benefit, you can get a flat.’ A statement that would not look out of place in the Daily Mail, it is not totally a lie but one that ignores an uncomfortable truth. 93% of housing benefit claimants are in work, and are victims of a housing market crisis which no government has sought to solve in the last few decades.

With Shadow Work and Pensions minister Liam Byrne saying that Labour will make cuts in welfare, should they win the 2015 general election, there appears a cosy consensus around the idea that slashing the welfare bill is a necessity. This has led to other more practical methods being ignored. Cutting the cost of the welfare bill may save money on spending but offers no solution for reducing a spiralling deficit. Instead talk of a living wage and lower rents, plausible methods of reducing reliance on welfare, are ignored now dogma has replaced necessity in the present cuts agenda.

There is a malevolent attempt to divert discussion away from those to blame for the crash and the vulnerable who themselves are easy targets. Or to put it even simpler those who claim a basic £56.25 a week are denigrated, while Philip Green, who is estimated to owe Inland Revenue £300 million, is given a government job. It is estimated that benefit fraud costs the treasury an estimated £7 billion a year, a high figure but one that pales in comparison to the estimated £70 billion a year lost to tax evasion schemes. It is an utter failure of the tax system that cunning lawyers exploiting loopholes deprive the treasury of hundreds of billions of pounds in a parliamentary term while nurses, teachers and doctors pay every penny in tax. And yet only shallow statements are made on this topic while wealthy men based in the Cayman Islands and Belize load the coffers of the Conservative party.

It is a diversion which threatens communities within Britain as those in work are angered by exaggerated reports of benefit claimants with plasma TVs and regular holidays as they struggle against the backdrop of a double dip recession and rocketing living costs. This fabrication of an army of benefit claimants living in luxury without desire for a job or fear of any repercussions is both factually and morally wrong. Too much blame has been afforded to the most vulnerable instead those who hold the wealth in this country need to be held accountable by a parliament prepared to do what is morally right and take on the comfortable elites and establish a system of fairness within Britain, one which does not demonize its most vulnerable citizens but seeks to help them at a time when it is most needed.


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