The truth about benefits

Hey everyone and welcome back! How are you all?

So whether we like it or not we are of course in the run up to the next election and you can therefore expect each of the political party to try and garner your vote. So be warned I am now going to put my “Labour Party” hat on.

Over the next few weeks as well as stating my very own educational series about the basics of politics, I have decided to let my party political side show through and I am therefore going to attempt to smash some “Conservative Party myths”, that I believe exist.

Now I know that not everyone is going to agree, that’s fine I encourage debate and welcome differences in opinion, however where possible I have used concrete evidence.

So today I thought that I would start off with a topic that has been bothering me for a while now- benefits. This is one of the elements that ultimately contributed to the defeat of Labour at the last election, playing on public upset and concerns, the Conservatives were successful at appearing tough on welfare. But how successful have they actually been and what lies have they told on this topic?

In preparation for this post, I spoke to a few of my non-political close friends and asked them their views on the benefit system and what beliefs that perhaps they upheld. Their views were remarkably similar and incredibly telling of what many in modern Britain believe to be true. Below are just two examples:

  • “Lazy, they don’t really look for work because they know that they can get away with the system paying for them. Why would they because they have massive TVs and everything they need, costing us hardworking people millions”
  • “They sit around and do nothing. It makes me really angry”.

While I found these view extremely disheartening I can’t say that I was particularly surprised, and even less so upon learning which newspaper’s they read (the mail and the sun no less), but I did find their views really useful because for me they confirmed the false ideas that people have.

Now I feel that this post could quite easily turn into a bit of a rant, so to limit myself and ensure that I don’t run away with the topic, I am going to address the two big misconceptions (two are done in one point) I have identified in bullet points.

  • Cost. In a recent survey launched by the TUC, the public were asked what percentage of the benefit bill they believed went on the unemployed, with the average estimate coming in at 41%. In actual fact this figure is grossly exaggerated, and just shows how successful the right-wing media and parties in Britain have been in demonising and exaggerating the cost of the unemployed. The real cost of the unemployed is just 3% of the total benefit bill, far less than what many people believe. Now anyone that maybe sides with the Conservatives, or is just a bit naïve might be asking why they would want to demonise the unemployed. You see the answer is obvious, as this government has pointed out on thousands of occasions, cuts have to be made. In order to cut the welfare bill however, they need a reason because they don’t want to be seen as cruel. So where does the money go? The vast majority of the benefit bill, a huge 36% is spent on the elderly and 4% is spent on topping up the wages of societies lowest paid, the hardworking members of society. The Conservatives and their campaign teams are very clever and understand that to criticise any of the other groups that fit into the “benefit” headline, would be foolish regarding their public appearance. They might be cruel but even they don’t want to vilify the elderly or disabled. So of course, the easy target for their campaign is the unemployed but don’t let this fool you, because the welfare changes that have been made by this government are hitting everyone with those in work, the unemployed and the disabled equally hurt. Now the observant amongst you will notice something here, the elderly remain largely untouched and this is no coincidence at all and the reason is really very simple- the elderly are the ones that vote.
  • Scroungers. So in order to cut the benefit bill, they need a reason to and as I have already said the unemployed prove the perfect target because of the way that they are already demonised in popular media (Vicky Pollard anyone?). The truth is however (as I will explain a bit later) the government still have done very little to help the unemployed. While it is true that they have created a number of new jobs and it is crucial to welcome this, there are nowhere near enough. It is estimated that for every 1 job in the UK at the moment, there are at least 4 applications. Now I am no mathematician, but I can surmise that it would be fairly difficult to fit five people into one job. Here of course lies another problem, the number of people “underemployed” is the highest it has ever been and therefore there will be more people needing financial assistance such as Working Tax Credits, a fact that could see the benefit bill rise even greater over the coming years. I also feel the need to point out that it is estimated that less than 1% of the benefit bill is claimed fraudulently. Yet despite this small number, in the same survey mentioned above it by the TUC the public yet again mentioned their flawed belief, stating that they thought 27% of the bill was claimed incorrectly. Now although the 1% still amounts to a fairly large amount of money (£1.6 billion, but small in the grand scheme of things), it is estimated that massive £70 million is lost because of tax avoidance, but do you ever see these big businesses demonised in the media? Apart from the odd occasion, the answer is of course no.

So, what have this government done?

This government have hailed it’s Welfare Reforms as the greatest social reforms of a generation, and sure it is unique but not in its greatness so much as the negative impact that it is having!

  • Bedroom tax- affecting the disabled more than anyone else.
  • Universal Credit- means people are paid monthly, not fortnightly. Hard when you count the pennies in each month.
  • Now of course they are talking about removing “benefits” from the U25s and considering daily jobcentre visits.

So there we have it, this is the first in a series of posts that I intend to post under this title. I hope you have learnt something, please let me know your opinions or any “Tory myths” you want to smash!

Next week- The economy

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  • Reply Kay Page October 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you for commenting! Your more than welcome. Glad it helped!

  • Reply Tory Party Myths 2- The economy | OhKay, DohKay November 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    […] ago I published a post about the myths that the Conservatives have been spreading regarding the benefit system in the UK, and I tried to smash some of the lies (they aren’t lies so much as very clever manipulation of […]

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