At times of financial downturn in the economy and when politicians are having to justify the bad news about raising taxes and cutting public services to refill fiscal potholes, it is always the easy option to highlight those in our country who are unable to defend themselves. I refer of course to those who are receiving benefits.
Of course, forgetting for a moment, the obvious point that training is about as much use as a cat flap on a submarine, when there are not the jobs available for the newly ‘trained’ to fill, it is insulting to brand, by implication, that all of those who are receiving benefits are a drain on public funds and scroungers.
It is no fun to be unemployed and the people who target them are usually those who have never themselves had to suffer the indignity of entering a job centre. They have never been unfortunate enough to need the help.
Most of them watch programmes and read papers that sensationalise the actions of the minority who abuse the system and then tar all other claimants with the same brush.
As we have found out recently, however, where there is a system to be abused, there are always those who abuse it. I refer, of course, to the MP’s expenses scandal.
Most people who have received benefits over a long period do not want to be in that position. They want to work but have often lost all self belief and confidence in any ability they may have for finding a job. Single mothers are unable to afford the childcare that will enable them to work even part time. Many do not have the help of immediate families. They are not living the high life, they are trapped by the same system they are accused of abusing.
Interestingly, the simplistic view of the Conservative policy announced today makes no mention of those who have entered our country from abroad and used the UK as a benefits ‘cashpoint’ and then sent the money back to their families abroad.
Neither, is there a mention of the billions of pounds being lost by those who are able to exploit loopholes in the tax system and deprive the revenue – and the rest of the country – of the benefit. These cheats are not treated with the same scorn as benefit claimants and instead are often feted and admired.
Perhaps, this is because funding of our political parties is largely received from such donors?
It is regarded by many as a socially acceptable fraud but, in reality, it is just as much of a fraud as that perpetrated by the minority who abuse the benefit system.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who has been trapped as a long term claimant of benefits. She has fought to bring her two children up as respectable, intelligent, responsible and much loved individuals. She has struggled and her children have missed out on the things that most children take for granted, but they are neither bitter or envious; they are grounded.
I have gained far more respect for her, than I will ever have for the politicians who seek to make cheap political capital by attacking those who cannot afford a voice!