Tag Archives: benefits

Choice paradox

I’m writing this already angry as I’m in my first day of going cold turkey on the cigarettes for the second time in 2 years, so forgive me if I rage.

Today the government ‘announced’ how many people are on incapacity benefit and its successor because of drug and alcohol addiction or obesity. It didn’t announce how many are claiming this benefit because of learning difficulties, or because of back pain – that doesn’t grab headlines. Picking on alkies, druggies and fatties is fair game for the media and the public and the government knows it. Check out this Cameron quote:

“We are finding a large number of people who are on incapacity benefit because of drink problems, alcohol problems or problems with weight and diet. And I think a lot of people who pay their taxes and work hard will think: ‘That’s not what I pay my taxes for. I pay my taxes for people who are incapacitated through no fault of their own.”

How nice of him to anticipate what tax payers may think so they can make his argument for him. He can’t come out and say that people with severe issues with drugs, alcohol and obesity aren’t going to be given any money, because then people might complain about the extra number of homeless that could create, or the further burden on over-stretched families. Oh, but he’ll listen to the hoards of Daily Mail readers saying that these people choose to be this way and so they, the honest and never-ill taxpayers,  shouldn’t have to support their lifestyle.

Really? A choice, really? You think alcoholics choose to be alcoholics? You think that anyone chooses to become secretive, bloated, paranoid, unemployed,, friendless and with no family becuase it’s so much fun and they get at most £94.25 a week?

And drug addicts choose to be addicts, not users, right? You think people choose septicemia, visible track marks, a constant worry about supply, worry about police raids, blackouts and potential overdose because it’s such a happy lifestyle?

You think people choose to be 500lbs (35.7 stone) with diabetes, heart disease, breathing issues, skin infections and the constant judgement and disgust of other people because hey, fat people are always jolly!

If people chose to be those things in the first place, if it was that easy as to be a choice, like I choose to put on red shoes and I choose to take the Tube today, then it would be as easy to unchoose it. To not choose it in the first place. To choose to be a recovering addict. and yet. The facts remain that breaking addiction is one of the hardest things to do. Because you’re a fucking addict.

An addict is very different ot a recreational user or even someone with a dependency. Addicts have different brain chemistry, deteriorated impulse control, and a physical dependency on the drug to feel and operate as ‘normal’. This isn’t some drunken lager lout getting to bevvied up one night and signing off on benefits the next day. This is someone who actively has to stop the brain and their body from needing – not in ‘I need a holiday’ kinda way but in a ‘I need air’ way – that substance. It takes time, therapy, sometimes other medication. It needs compassion.

And for those tiny percentage of claimants who are obese (it’s 0.1% of the total. 0.1%)? Many, many illnesses cause obesity, include hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, PCOS, and depression, and some medications can cause obesity. And yes, a lot of people are obese because they like fatty food and don’t move round enough. and this in turn can cause depression and more eating and breaking that cycle is just as hard as breaking an addiciton. But really, you’re going get all up on your high horse because 0.1% of claimants are obese?

These things, alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity – these aren’t choices. No one chooses that life. That lifestyle is something I wouldn’t wish on my bitterest enemy. So how dare you say that it’s a choice, and try to make it so that the baying public calls to get their incapacity benefit taken away. How dare you say that these alcoholics should be searching for work when it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to keep down a job even if they are offered one? (Of course, some do, and some drug addicts have 9-5 jobs. Well done. They can cope. these people can’t.)

Can they physically work? No. Then they get incapacity benefit. That’s the only choice we have in a society that gives a shit about others.

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Legal Aid consultation

I’ve had my say about the proposed Legal Aid reforms here – now go read (it takes a loooong time to wade through it all) and tell them what you think. My two mains points (other than the whole women and divorce thing) were:

  • the lack of funding for employment tribunals. While I agree that there is some alternatives, in cases of severe bullying or harassment, an employee may not feel protected unless they have some form of legal support or representation. These cases can have severely affect mental health and in some cases lead to suicide, so I would argue that quality of life and in fact, life and death are at stake here, so I ask for a clause for those who feel that their life has suffered other than financially because of the situation.
  • Legal Aid for those contesting Welfare Benefits. If the government are planning on taking away benefits and installing an pointless and frankly, insulting, test for those on incapacity benefits, I do not think that they should be taking away Legal Aid to contest this either. Essentially that will keep the poor poorer, or force those on waiting lists for transplants in work where they could be seriously injured, or those that are suicidal in a dead end job where their depression gets worse. They are taking away their money and then taking away and recourse to fight for it and that’s plain wrong.

The Benefits Bluff

I had a bit of a scare reading through the press coverage of today’s White Paper on Universal Benefits. For a moment I thought that they’d added Child Benefit into the Universal Benefits, which the Tories propose would be claimed by one person in the household.

The very reason Child Benefit was always given to the mother was to prevent it being spent on beer and poker (seriously) and therefore more likely to actually reach the children. For many abused women, controlled through money by a dominating husband, Child Benefit is the only money they can claim that can help them and their children out of that situation. Allowing it to be wrapped up and claimed by what could be a violent husband would have been detrimental on a large scale.

So I breathed a big sigh of relief, took a sip of tea and promptly choked on it.  What was that, Ian Duncan Smith?

more than one in four working-age adults in the UK does not work, and at least 2.6 million people spent at least half of the last ten years on some form
of out-of-work benefit

Um. Say what now? Last time I checked, which was about five minutes ago, unemployment was 2.45million. Those that are categorised as ‘inactive’ make up 9.28million, and over half of these are students or stay-at-home mothers/fathers. Other reasons for being inactive: retired early, sick/disabled, caring for family member, hasn’t arranged childcare yet but looking for work.

Currently, our working age population, as determined by the ONS in mid-2009, is 38.31million. Our employment rate is 70.7%, or 29.16million people aged 16-64.

I assuming that when Ian Duncan Smith says one in four does not work in a White Paper about benefits, he’s using the number of inactive people to imply serious work shirking in our nation.

I would like to call bollocks to that. For one things, not all inactive people are claiming benefits, nor are they refusing to work. For god’s sake, not even all unemployed people are claiming benefits. We also need people to be inactive, otherwise there would be no students or carers or stay-at-home parents, all of whom contribute to society and for another thing, appear to be doing the damn job of the Big Society just like Cameron asked.

I’m staggered at the Tories’ hypocrisy right now.

That one in four figure is just bunkum, pure and simple. He’s implying that people are dodging work when in fact they are working as carers etc for free, or learning skills to contribute to the economy, or have retired, or are disabled. To use them as a reason for stamping on benefit fraud or worklessness is misdirection and pandering to the Daily Mails of this world.

Utter tosh. Oh, and the 2.6million claiming an ‘out-of-work benefit’ for five years? Until I get a good definition of ‘out-of-work benefit’ I’m also calling hogwash on that. It looks like he’s lumping Jobseeker’s Allowance, Disability Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, State Pension, Widow’s Benefit and Carer’s Allowance altogether and again making it look like they are living off the state and giving nothing back.

He’s trying to fool us with Snake Oil, but I sincerely hope that no one is buying this bullshit.