The Benefits Mess- A Personal View

July 10, 2012 8:30 pm

It is easy to criticise people on benefits for not wanting to work but there is another side which nobody talks about, a side I have first-hand experience with.

What actually happens when you’re the unlucky one out of a job, unable to pay your rent and now at the back of the line to claim unemployment and housing benefits? Not only are you filled with guilt and fear, as well as the hope that nobody you know sees you; you’re also faced with a system that is so complicated you start wondering is it really worth it? There’s a misconception that your advisor will help you find a job and better your skills with courses available. I’m yet to hear of or see this happening.

It’s easy to see why the job centre is seen as a cash machine when that is exactly how it operates.

Things are not made easier with a housing benefit system which seemingly disadvantages British people while those from a non-British or EU background find the doors opening more quickly. In what world is it acceptable that anyone has to prove they are unable to look after themselves on the street? When did the UK become a third world country to its own people? A criminal may have broken the law but can go straight on the priority list for housing benefits above all the law abiding citizens. What a message to send to society.

Once you begin receiving job seekers and housing benefit you are normally in some form of temporary housing, awaiting permanent housing. If you’re lucky enough to find a job, obviously you want to take it no matter if it’s full or part time, minimum wage or more–you’re just excited someone’s given you a job again.

The excitement soon wears off upon discovering  the £70 weekly wage you now earn means you’ve lost out on any help from the job centre and you are no longer eligible for a grant to furnish your permanent house when -and if- you get it.  In addition, if you earn anything more than £70 per week, housing benefit take any extra by increasing the rent so leaving only the £70; exactly amount you were receiving on job seekers benefits.

So there is absolutely no reason to go out to work and pay transport costs to get to there, when by doing so you’re making yourself no better off financially than staying in and doing nothing all day.

Yes, you will have a purpose and you will feel you’re achieving something with your life. Some may say it’s better to work than not, especially in this economic climate.  Some would argue paying rent is simply a part of life.

But how many of you reading this can honestly say you would get up every day, go to work, become physically and mentally tired and stressed when you knew it wasn’t improving your financial situation?

It doesn’t encourage people on benefits to get back into work, it does the opposite.

The people who actually want to put in some effort and get out of their benefits situation aren’t helped and are disadvantaged, yet our Government complain about spending too much on the benefits system and propose the need to make cuts.  When these cuts come in, they will affect those who are trying to get up and work their way out of a life dependant on benefits.The current Government needs to have a close look at the system as a whole before it makes cuts. If they want a country where people are in employment, they must create a system which encourages it. Currently it just is not working.

(N.B -Views expressed in content published are those of the individual writer and may not represent the opinions of  MoonProject or any member of the MoonProject team. – Ed.)

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  • ChrisRobinson

    Sympathise with a lot you say, but I think you’re wrong about non-British and EU people AND criminals getting priority. I work in a hostel and I see many offenders who pass through here and they get ‘priority’ ONLY because they have got a shabby little room in a rundown hostel. They can wait upto two years before moving on to a sky high rented private accommodation.
    The same for many non-British and EU migrant people. Only some of them take jobs that sometimes pay well below the minimum wage (illegal) and provide ‘accommodation’, usually something amounting to a big shed or caravan shared with six or seven others.
    This, and previous governments, have encouraged immigration for the simple reason they want to create a cheap pool of reserve labour and help hold down wages. Some unions camapign for equal pay across the board, this way, it would make no difference and businesses would not be able to undercut by bringing in unemployed people from a broad.
    I think the answer is for the government to launch a massive house-building programme which would not only provide tens of thousands of jobs and apprenticeships, but would certainly go some way to providing homes for the five million people on waiting lists.
    But this government won’t do that. They’re interested in keeping wages low to help maintain their rich friends’ profits.

    • Sallie Bruce

      Chris I agree with you to a point. I was a ‘priority’but never had a shabby room I was in a bed & breakfast, maybe I was lucky.
      I have seen the letter which clearly states if you have evaded court or are a criminal you have priority for housing over anyone without this.

      I not against immigration but if we don’t have the houses for our own why are we housing people from outside the UK or EU?
      I know if an Australian comes here on a working visa they are not entitled to any form of benefits including housing & some of them do some very low paid jobs.
      We do need loads more affordable housing & this is something Grant Shapps MP is working hard to ensure occurs.

      • ChrisRobinson

        I’d like to see that letter. In all my time working with homeless and ex-offenders I’ve never come across it. We need a government that will invest, say, the billions the rich soak away in tax evasion/dodging schemes, in a massive house-building programme (a happy by product would be more employment). I wouldn’t hold your breath for Grant Shapps to do anything, personally.

  • John33

    I have to disagree with both the article and the comment of Chris. Whilst I accept that it is extremely difficult to get a job sometimes, I will not accept that it is THAT difficult. I have friends with no qualifications or connections who have been able to get decent paying jobs – enough to let them rent perfectly nice flats in London, without THAT much effort. I know it isn’t an easy time currently, but I genuinely believe if someone really tries to get a job that they can. The benefits system has been taken advantage of and encourages laziness. Essentially people get paid to do nothing – they arent out there looking for new jobs and trying there best to get on their feet because they just get given money by the government, and this is one of the reasons I have gone so off labour (who i used to vote for). The government is not there to provide everything on a silver platter for the people – the people have a responsibility to get up off their ass and do it themselves. There are always stories of unfortunate people whom things don’t quite work out for properly, but in the vast majority of cases, the disease is laziness.

    As for the last statement in the comment – i think that is a gross misunderstanding of what the tories stand for and rather a naive view.

    • Sallie Bruce

      I’m not sure where your friends looked for work or which recruitment agency they used if any. I can say for close to 2 years I have been searching for work on a daily basis spending numerous hours per day doing so & I have found it anything but easy. I am experienced & qualified in 2 different areas plus willing to do any forms of work. I also have no contacts I can use.
      I would love to be in your friends situations but I don’t believe it’s as easy as you’ve made out.
      I understand thereare people whom take advantage of the free handouts & are lazy but what about the people whom aren’t but have found themselves in a situation where there’s no other option & then when they want to come off benefits but can’t afford private rent they still earn the same as those people unwilling to work but happy to receive free handouts.
      Surely if your working & trying to come off free hand outs aka benefits you should get more than those that are not??

    • ChrisRobinson

      Spoken like a true blue Tory (or pale pink Tory). ‘Essentially’, people receive benefits in order to survive UNTIL they can find work – not to ‘do nothing’. You’re betraying your prejudices – ‘in the vast majority of cases the disease is laziness’? Do me a favour, so we’ve got nearly 3 million people tossed on the scrapheap because they’re lazy? Oh, dear me.

  • David

    Chris, I think your comment is borderlines ridiculous. Excuse my blunt response but what you have written is pure speculation and completely unsubstantiated by evidence.

    • ChrisRobinson

      How do you know I’m speculating? I work with homeless people, asylum seekers and ex-offenders so I come across lots of official statistics (evidence) provided by government policy. We know that immigration was relaxed in the 1950s (by a Tory government as well as Labour – by the way) because of the shortage of ‘manpower’ in the vastly expanded public sector and transport. EU regulations also allows for free movement of people and, due to a whole host of reasons (wars, famine, political persecution, economic reasons) lots of non-EU migrants are arriving. Immigration of late has been because of these factors including the unwillingness of our govts to broaden and invest in our skillbase particularly apprenticeships for young people. It’s a well-known fact that lobbyists from big business often have an influence on immigration so they can offer peanuts to undermine wage levels, hence a recent (2010) strike in the construction industry when employers were using non-unionised Italian migrant workers – the incident that Gordon Brown chose to jump on the nationalist bandwagon with the phrase ‘Britsh jobs for British workers’ in a crude attempt to garner popularity. Workers on strike kicked members of the BNP off site who were trying to exploit the situation and one of the strikers’ calls were for Italian workers to become unionised to receive equal wages. Speculation? I don’t think so. Evidence? There’s plenty there. Ridiculous? Well, that’s a subjective opinion and probably tells us more about where you stand politically than anything I’ve written.

  • David

    I meant to say earlier that I think this is an important topic and I admire you for bringing it up. You have an interesting perspective.

  • Sallie Bruce

    I love all your comments and sorry for not commenting earlier I have had Internet problems. I am now going to compose a response to you all.
    Again thank you for your views x

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