Thursday, December 23

Welfare gone crazy in the UK

What's the unavoidable end result when a government gives "free" (that is, taxpayer-funded) benefits to people who don't work?

Economists say the result will be more people not working. The tale of one 27-year-old British woman living entirely at taxpayer expense is...enlightening:

As you read the following article notice how well the woman--who is perfectly able to get a job but prefers not to--rationalizes living at taxpayer expense: "If it’s offered to us, then of course we’re going to take it--and we shouldn’t be criticised for doing so."

From the U.K. "Daily Mail" 21 December 2010:
Like many mothers, Eloise has been stockpiling her four children’s Christmas presents for months.
She’s had to budget, too: what with the designer clothes and expensive gadgets on their wish lists, she'll spend at least £300 to £400 (about $450 to $600) on each of them in order to meet the demands for laptops, computer games, trainers and bikes.

Then there’s all the food and drink required to see the family through the festive season. That, she reckons, will set her back several hundred pounds, on top of the thousand pounds or so she spends on presents.

They’re the sort of figures that would surely make the average working parent [depressed] — after all, few are in a position to spend such a sum.

But then, 27-year-old Eloise isn't a member of your average working family.

In fact, she doesn't have a job. Instead her entire income consists of government benefits.

Moreover, as far as Eloise is concerned, it’s all perfectly fair — in fact, the merest hint of a raised eyebrow at her circumstances is enough to make her see red.

"It makes me furious when people criticise how I choose to spend my money," she says.

"Taxpayers seem to feel that they have the right to tell people on benefits how to spend their money,’ she adds. ‘They don’t — the government decides what people like me are entitled to, not the taxpayer.

"I'm just thinking of my kids. That what a mum does. It's my right to do what I want with my benefits.

"If it’s offered to us, then of course we’re going to take it and we shouldn’t be criticised for doing so."

Strong sentiments, and ones that are bound to stir strong feeling at a time when even the most cautious hard-working couples are feeling the pinch.

Especially as it’s unlikely that the average working couple will be able to afford a £3,000 blowout on festive treats for the family as Eloise has this year — not that she sees it that way, of course.

In her view, what is unfair is expecting her children to downgrade their expectations.

"If my children ask me to buy them something for Christmas, then I’m going to bust a gut to get it for them,’ she says.

"I don’t want to have to say to the kids: 'You can’t have that.' It’s not fair and I’m not going to do it."

There are thousands of young women like Eloise around the country — women who have never had more than a fleeting acquaintance with the world of work.

Certainly, elements of Eloise’s tale are all too familiar: a teenage pregnancy, a fractured relationship and four children with a father who contributes not a single penny to their upkeep.

Yet there are notable differences, too, which in some ways make her story all the more depressing.

Intelligent and articulate, there is no reason why Eloise should not be in the ranks of the employed. Indeed, the truly wearying element of her tale is that it simply does not pay her to work.

"I went to the JobCentre and we found that if I went back to work I would actually be £10 a week worse off. I receive £21,528 in annual benefits, and I’d need to earn thirty grand a year before tax to match that.

"I’m not qualified to do a job which pays me that, so it makes no sense for me to do anything other than stay at home. I defy any parent in my position not to do what I’m doing."

As a teenager Eloise wanted to be an air hostess, but pregnancy just before her 17th birthday ended those plans.

After the birth of her daughter, Emily, in March 2001, the young family were allocated a council flat — the first step on the benefits chain which Eloise would now assiduously start to climb. After their second child was born, she moved into a two-bedroom house--again, paid for by the taxpayers.

Eloise and her boyfriend split up in April 2004 — although not before Eloise had given birth to another daughter, Katie, now six.

"I thought we’d be together for ever. But he cheated on me and was violent — he’d smash up the house," she explains. "It was on-off, on-off for a long time, but we finally split up after he hit me."

She did, however, let him back into her bed on one further occasion two years later, when Billy, now four, was conceived.

It rather begs the question, though, that if she knew how unstable the relationship was why continue to have children — in particular, the one who was conceived a good two years after they had finally ‘split for good’.

‘I was young and naïve and every time I got pregnant he would tell me he was going to change,’ she says. ‘Plus I’m a damn good mum. Why shouldn’t I have more kids if I wanted them?’

Particularly, of course, if someone else can pay for them, as Eloise quickly discovered. After attending her DSS office to register as a single parent, she learned she was entitled to a series of benefits, including income support and housing benefit.

The council would, she learned, pay the £61-a-week rent on her council house (by now, she’d upgraded to a three-bedroom property), as well as her £100-a-month council tax and give her £145-a-week child tax credit on top.

Under the current system, her child tax credit has gone up to £180 a week and her rent and council tax are still covered. Her three older children also get free school meals.

It all adds up to a reasonable sum, but Eloise says it’s not enough. ‘It’s hard work making ends meet,’ she says. ‘From that, I have to cover everything from the bills to food and clothes shopping.’

Which, of course, brings us to that huge Christmas bill — a bafflingly large sum — paid for, Eloise says, by saving some of her benefits over the year and taking out a £1,500 private loan, which she will probably manage to pay back only at the end of next year.

‘I’m always in a cycle of borrowing,’ she says. ‘I’ve only just ­managed to pay off the loans from last Christmas.’

As far as she’s concerned, though, it’s more than worth it. ‘The kids deserve nice things. They’re very respectful, they’re not greedy and they appreciate everything they get. Every child deserves a good Christmas, whether their parents work or are on income support.’

In Eloise’s case, "good" includes Xboxes, computer games, a Nintendo DS and, of course, the ubiquitous designer trainers.

‘They don’t demand designer labels, but I like to buy them because I want them to look nice,’ she explains.

‘Not everything they own is designer, but I will buy them stuff from time to time, especially at Christmas, and I don’t see why I can’t do that. I’m just doing the best by my children, and that’s all you can ask of any mother.’

In fairness to Eloise, her offspring do seem a polite, well-behaved bunch — something which, Eloise insists, is a direct result of the fact she is a full-time mum.

‘I’m always here for them — I take them to school, I’m here when they get back and, of course, I’m looking after Billy until he goes to school full-time,’ she says.

‘I’m thinking of my kids in all of this — that’s what a mum does.

‘My kids are better off the way they are at the moment — if I went to work, even if I could afford it, they’d be farmed off into childcare. If their dad was around, maybe it would be different — we could split shifts and make sure there was always a parent around. But I’m not going to do it while I’m single.

‘They’re not young for very long, so I want to enjoy my time with them while I can — and there’s nothing to say you can’t be at home with your children just because the dad isn’t there.

‘It’s hard work being a single mum, looking after children all day, and I bust a gut to do it properly. Whether people like it or not, it makes no sense for me to go to work.’

Of course, many working mums would love to have the option to spend more time at home with their children — except they have the opposite argument, in that they can’t afford not to work.

‘That’s their choice,’ Eloise says blithely. ‘If they want to see their kids more, then they should change their shifts or choose a different job instead of blaming me for their problems.

‘I get sick and tired of others focusing on people on benefits as though we’re the root of all the problems in the world.

‘Would it make them happy if all the people on benefits got sent to internment camps and fed gruel? People need to look at their own lives before they judge us.’

That, of course, is precisely what many working people are doing, one suspects — possibly wondering where they went wrong. Still, things may change: as Eloise knows all too well, government cuts may well see benefits to families such as hers chopped back.

‘Of course I’m concerned,’ she says. ‘It makes me angry when I hear about all the money the Government spends on foreign aid when they’re looking to make life harder for people in this country.’

Eloise does, at least, hope to train as a midwife once her children are all in full-time education, and she insists she has no plans to spend the rest of her life receiving handouts.

‘At the moment I’m at home with Billy, but once the kids are out of the house for most of the day, I do want to get out there and do something. But it’s going to take time and I won’t able to do it overnight.’
Multiply this by ten million and one starts to see...um...a bit of a problem.

Now, like you, I don't believe children should go hungry or cold because their parents are unable to work, or have made obviously bad choice regarding drugs or alcohol. But I sure don't think the government should be paying welfare to people who use it to buy XBoxes and designer clothes for their kids.

More to the point, when Jean sees Eloise staying at home with her kids while the taxpayer pays for everything, is there anyone who believes Jean wouldn't be tempted to jump at the same chance to stay at home with her kids?

As Eloise said, "If it’s offered to us, then of course we’re going to take it."

Hard to blame Eloise for taking what the system will give her. Rather, blame politicians who either sold out for votes or failed to supervise their own welfare system.

Eh, who cares, right? Nothing can shrink government expenditures enough to matter, they tell us-- simply because government spending is so huge, in so many different areas. Might as well just smile, stock up on booze and ammo, and watch the ship go down.

I'd love to be wrong on this. Unfortunately...

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