The Benefit Trap

Sunday, 23 February 2014

[Apologies in advance if this particular post appears somewhat disjointed, it's a rant that was desperate to escape my head yet was hastily written whilst refereeing three disgruntled and rather manic children]

There is often so much emphasis on the figures relating to how many people are claiming unemployment benefits with very little attention to the glaringly obvious fact that there is simply not enough jobs to match that figure whilst the government try and exacerbate this issue by attempting to force even more people into the already over saturated job seeking pool such as stay at home parents, the sick and the disabled.  It doesn't take a mathematical genius to realise that if we have x people actively seeking employment with a vast deficit in available jobs, forcing more people to seek employment which doesn't exist will simply equal a rise in those seeking unemployment/job seeking benefits.  Lets not forget the abomination that is Workfare which essentially allows the Government to temporarily alter statistics giving the false picture that unemployment is going down. Ditto with unfair sanctions and those that are appealing work capability assessments all temporarily leave 'gaps' in the unemployment benefit claimants numbers giving the illusion the numbers are reducing.

Yet perhaps the questions that should be asked is not how many people are unemployed and claiming benefits but how many people who are employed yet still in the benefit trap.  For you see, that is exactly what it is, a trap.  Even when employed, many families are still reliant on benefits of the tax credit variety.  Remove these benefits and rent/mortgages won't get paid, homes won't be heated and bellies won't be filled., despite people working hard day in and day out in paid employment. In 2010-2012 alone, 90 percent of new claims for housing benefit were made by people in employment*.  

You can trace a direct link from this to two things:
* The National Minimum Wage
* 0 Hour Contracts

Simply put, the minimum wage alone, isn't sufficient to support an adequate basic standard of living.  So, why don't the government raise the national minimum wage or indeed introduce a much needed 'living wage'?  Good question. The getting down to basics answer is control or more aptly the loss of it.  The most effective way to control someone is financially.  People need money to survive.  Control their finances and you have control which you can assert over them in order to gain obedience.  The government want people to be dependent on them, they're banking on it.  Literally.  So long as we're dependent on working tax credits and child tax credits they can dictate to us.  They can tell us when to work, how much we must work, who should work etc.  They eliminate the fundamental right of choice.  You can't choose to be a stay at home parent and live on one wage at a basic 'bread line' standard of living because that wage isn't enough.  The choice here is to be unable to survive or to bow down, accept government financial dependency and then be granted enough money to survive whilst being controlled and dictated to.  You need tax credits.  Yet to become eligible for tax credits, after a certain point, both parents must work x hours and earn y amount.  If you fail to do this Big Brother can step in and insist you work more or even push you to seek alternative or in some cases additional employment, just to be eligible for the tax credits that you need to live.  They will control you. 

Employment should bring freedom, especially financial freedom yet for the millions of working class people in unskilled or low skilled employment all it achieves is another struggle, another layer of misery as it becomes painfully obvious that they're not enough

What exactly is wrong with these jobs?  Could society function or even exist without them?  Not everyone aspires to a career. Some people just want a job.  They want to go to work, do their jobs to earn their money and go home and enjoy the life they have.  They don't want prospects, competitiveness, stress, responsibility and authority that come with many well paid middle class careers.  They may see their job as a means to an end and quite frankly, why bloody not? Why shouldn't they?  Why can't they clock on at 9, off at five and not have work infiltrate their life until the next morning in exchange for a living wage? Yet why should they be punished for this through an inadequate minimum wage? Why should they be subject to the merry dance they have to participate in to be eligible for enough government benefits to live on?  Surely working full time should be enough to sustain a decent basic standard of life?

Being a house wife or a stay at home parent used to be a choice.  You willingly sacrificed a better lifestyle (financially) to be one.  It may have meant missing out on luxuries, tightening the belt and a bit of financial juggling but it was do-able.  It was a choice you could make and was neither frowned upon nor seen as a privilege.  It was respected and accepted equally as the choice many make to work. These days a housewife isn't a woman who chooses to run the household and family full time, working bloody hard to do so, it's now a privilege, a label....a choice only worthy of those who can afford it.  Often so called housewives are from affluent families many of which do very little housework nor hands on parenting instead utilising nannies and cleaners.  Yet the real housewives, the real stay at home parents who tirelessly work full time in the family home are now considered scroungers, lazy, unwilling to work and unnecessary.  Perhaps this could be adding to the dissolution of family life and maybe even a result of a hungry disposable society (where nappies are thrown away, clothes are replaced not mended and ready meals make up the so-called healthy diet) Where is the time to live? To enjoy the so-called fruits of your labour? Depression and stress related illness' are on the rise, family time is being eaten away, latch-key generations are being born.  The governments answer?  Rather then make it easier for families to choose whether both parents work or how much they should work ( I have full respect for families who's parents both choose to work in order to gain a better standard or living or even to save sanity but the pivotal point here is choice.  They however should not both have to work, just to sustain a basic standard of living, unless they're willingly living beyond their means) the government work harder at removing the choice, do we really believe introducing free child care from age two to low income families is to help the child or parent?  Or is it merely the first step to push mums into work earlier?  Do we really believe their preposterous and potentially harmful suggestions of longer school days is to help children and families or yet another step to increase mandatory conditionality for the much needed tax credits thus once again forcing both parents into longer working days too and denying the basic human right to a family life.  Whatever next?  Mandatory full time boarding nursery from six weeks of age for all children who are a product of families earning under 22k a year?  

Working should be for financial freedom, a necessity to sustain or elevate your quality of life.  It should not be to conform to eligibility requirements and conditionality so that you still require financial assistance from the government just to be able to financially survive and be under their control.  

They want you to need them.  They are depending on you falling into their benefit trap.  They want to control you and your family.

The real issue isn't unemployment benefits at all.  It's the ridiculous necessity of benefits for those already working.



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