Wednesday, 25 January 2012

More on the Benefits Cap...

I may be banging on about this, but benefits is a huge business in the UK and the current generosity with benefits makes life for those like myself, on low wages difficult.

I've already outlined the perks you get on benefit, that someone like myself doesn't get like free school meals, free prescriptions, etc. The way the system works is that one benefit unlocks another: you have to be receiving benefit in order claim another.

There is no assessment of need, or means testing. You receive such and such benefit, you are then entitled to x y and z benefits too.

We came a cropper on this a couple of years back when the wife was employed and I was out of work. Now because I wasn't working, I stupidly assumed that we'd get some help like maybe council tax relief, housing benefit, or tax credits, or maybe something to offset the fact that 90 percent of the wife's wage was actually going on paying the rent and keeping a roof over our heads.

In fact we got no benefits, other than my jobseekers, which ran out after 6 months.

Actually much worse than that... the council assumed that because we were so badly off, we would be entitled to some housing benefit and started paying us. Only 3 months later to send us a letter demanding all they'd paid us back, because we weren't claiming or entitled to certain other benefits. I'm actually still paying that back in small instalments. And while I was out of work, we survived by not paying bills such as council tax, gas and electricity. Mainly because we couldn't pay them! Again, I'm still paying off a few of those debts, which doesn't help.

This is where the system is totally wrong. Had my wife left her job, then we would have been able to claim all the benefits under the sun. But being proud and my wife actually likes her job she didn't want to give it up just to sponge. Or if I'd moved out, splitting up a perfectly functional family we would have both received benefits in our own rights. But being together with just one person working, we got penalised.

There should be no circumstances in any system of benefits for the non-disabled, where it is more advantageous to be on benefits than it is to work.

Actually the system of benefits we have in the UK hugely skews certain markets. Take for instance rented accommodation; with the demise of council houses, the rented sector is now the domain of the private landlord. Because of housing benefit, rents are pushed to the absolute upper limit, rather than what the market would normally stay at. That's because its the government paying a large proportion of rent to private landlords. Its pretty obvious when you look at the discrepancy between true social rents and private rents that the ability of the government to pay no matter what, pushes up the cost of rents by around 50-100%. I've seen some horrid homes rented out for stupid money by unscrupulous landlords, but the local councils still pay  the money. Of course in that situation the tenant has no hold over the landlord like the option of withholding rent if certain work isn't done to maintain the property. Its a pretty shitty cycle of no maintenance and landlords getting inflated rents for doing sweet fa renting out shitty houses that get shittier over time.

Its a cycle that also has to stop. State-funded rents need to be capped to bring down rental costs across the board.

3 comments:

  1. A friend of mine never claimed benefits in his life until he got cancer and had to give up work. After dropping from 14 stone to 6 following major operations and debilitating chemo/radio therapy the council sent him a letter.

    He received the letter whilst in hospital with just 4 months left to live. The letter informed him that, due to a change in circumstances, he was no longer entitled to any benefits and that all the money paid to him for the previous year should be repaid.

    He had no money and no income. his circumstances had only changed in so far as he could barely walk and was approaching death.

    The council (a London borough) showed no sympathy whatsoever when he tried to speak to an official from his hospital bed. He was told that he would have to submit a new claim, which required him to complete the forms all over again and visit the council offices.

    He was a a 40 year old white Englishman. The council, with callous indifference, made his life extremely stressful, in the last few weeks of before he died.

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  2. At the end of the day, the blunt truth is you're a statistic and if you don't manage to tick those boxes that unlock benefits, then you're treated with callous indifference.

    I'm sure your friend was like us, bemused at how some can get every benefit under the sun, but yet we got nothing even though the wife's wage just covered the rent.

    Hundreds of thousands of people are now experienced at working the system and the system dictates that in order to maximise benefit you have as many children as you can bear, better to then suffer from the stresses of too many childbirths as another tickbox is some sort of long-term illness.... etc etc.

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  3. i totally agree , it seems to be a system of entitlement , with no responsibility , there seems no correlation between what you have put in , for when you really need it, why was the 24k rule defeated in the lords. benefits should be targeted for those truly disabled and not playing the system, im in a stressful job as a support worker for people with learning difficulties , for the last 7 years i have had 10 sleep ins amonth 35 a pop , due to be moved will lose over half of these . i have studied at leeds poly and hochschule bremen , but i needed to survive but sometimes you are tempted to think why bother

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