Deserving poor, undeserving poor and welfare reform – can you have one without considering the others?

Like many people, I often hear about welfare reform in terms of finding ways to cut spending in difficult times with a degree of nervousness. Experience tells me that, at one extreme, dozens, nay thousands, will suffer horribly, whereas at the other, the public are apparently horrified by the number of alleged skivers. But to even suggest that there might be deserving and undeserving poor is anathema to those who believe in greater state action in challenging poverty.

And yet, without using such phrases, the debate seems to have swung towards making such distinctions. For example, EU migrants without work are undeserving poor, and their right to state welfare is restricted accordingly, whilst the unemployed are to be ‘encouraged’ to earn their benefits through workfare or mandatory volunteering, implying that they might graduate from undeserving poor to deserving poor by dint of personal effort. On the other hand, pensioners are clearly deserving poor, as they’ve done rather better than most groups over the past decade or so, and are declared protected by politicians of every stripe.

In truth, this is not a new debate. In the eighteenth century, parishes administered what public welfare there was, making decisions locally about who might receive public monies, for how long and to what extent. With differing parishes setting different support levels, and having different levels of income to distribute, the itinerant poor might be attracted to one parish over others, so rules were introduced to prevent ‘abuse’, imposing a requirement that the claimant have a connection to the parish, for example.

Today, the debate is couched in such terms as ‘strivers versus skivers’, as if individuals can so easily be defined as either one or the other. But, moving on from such perjorative language, isn’t any system of welfare provision based on defining those who need our support and those who don’t deserve it?

So, instead of finding more intrusive, more dignity-sapping ways of taking marginal cases out of the welfare system, might it be possible to redesign the entire welfare system from the floor up, to define what we hope to achieve by supporting the vulnerable, and to argue for integrated policy actions that might make it easier to transition people from welfare to work without coercion or humiliation, rather than scapegoating them, as politicians and media alike too often line up to do?

Claiming to be tough on welfare spending is easy, as both Labour and the Conservatives have proved recently, yet the impact upon those who make perfectly legitimate claims is corrosive, and the decisions that follow cause untold misery and despair. As political activists, we have a responsibility to open a more inclusive, more honest debate with the British public, because if we want them to trust us, we have to demonstrate that we trust them enough to be willing to debate complex issues in a thoughtful way.

So, for 2014, I would like to see a debate based on people, rather than claimants, with hard data rather than anecdote, and with no element of the current system ring fenced, and the concept of living with dignity drawn so as to include the working poor, a group much talked about but seemingly rarely talked to, and not just those whose income comes solely from the state. And, instead of deciding how much needs to come out of the welfare budget, and then making changes to achieve that, why not debate what should be done and then drawing up a budget accordingly?

Is that too much to ask for?

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  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Dec '13 - 4:25pm

    The problem though is that I don’t think that hard data is really the problem here. Deserving and undeserving are terms that get thrown around a lot, but I think that the real question is about allocation. Let’s take an obvious example – my Dad about 18 months ago got his bus pass. He drives two cars. Now my Dad has worked and is, to my mind, ‘deserving.’ But in these austere times it is very difficult to see that welfare spend as an appropriate allocation.

    Surely that money should go to a younger worker who struggles with fare increases. Infact the drop off in young drivers is a real untold story of the post crash time, but leave that aside here.

    Similarly, a few months ago the country spent (borrowed) something in the order of £2bn to send a cheque to every pensioner in the country to be spent on winter fuel or a bottle of wine or down the bookies. Are the pensioners deserving – very probably. But is someone sitting on £250k house price inflation really in NEED of a fuel payment cheque? Does my Dad need a £10 Christmas Bonus?

    Take housing benefit, which is of course money straight to a landlord. Is it right that people, often in work and hard working/striving etc get large sums in HB whilst others have to take their chances? The people involved may or may not be deserving, the question is really about the nature of HB, not per se the people getting it. Free school meals for wealthy parents – is that a sensible allocation, aside from whether those parents are good eggs or not?

    And all this is before we get to funding personal care for those with houseprice wealth.

    If anything, I suspect that people are quite able to look beyond undeserving. My good friend after 12 years work and paying in was unemployed – about £70 a week was his prize. He has 2 kids. I don’t want a 3% increase, 30% would have been more appropriate.

    Deserving and undeserving is too often a cover for the real debate that needs to be had about how much welfare is allocated to those who simply don’t need it. Now, of course it is going to be a very brave person who tries to get elected on a platform of a rigorous allocation of welfare correlated to need rather than, say, age. But I think that questions of allocation, rather than whether people personally are deserving/undeserving is what we are really talking about here.

  • Part of the future problem is more people will depend on the state pension. I paid 10% or more into a defined contribution pension scheme for 25 years totalling to a 6 figure sum but even with an annuity which depends on my poor health I get less than the state pension each month. Where did my money go? To the profits of the insurance companies. My other pension schemes from earlier work give a small top up but at least 10 years working for a university has given me a small index linked pension which the larger pension does not.

  • Shirley Campbell 30th Dec '13 - 11:26pm

    Thank you Peter for drawing attention to the issue of “PENSIONS”. Free spirits like myself refused to opt out of the state system and, seemingly, have benefited for having done so. Please, someone, explain.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 12:11am

    Thanks for asking the hard questions Mark. If we start from scratch and then say the government will support everyone who deserves help then I think we’ll just end up with a humongous welfare bill and offending the people who we say are undeserving of our help. I don’t think the deserving/undeserving is the right way to look at it.

    Rather than deserving/undeserving I look at it as a question of responsibility for helping the poor, which I think should be spread between the state, charities, themselves, friends and family.

    However putting the semantics aside I think we need to get rid of corporate welfare and middle class schemes immediately. Any tax revenue should go towards helping those really in need. It pains me that we have been coming up with new ways to spend money on the middle class and business, whilst taking it from those really in need.

    When it comes to the question of who we should help, I think we need to consider both need and cost, justifying it on the responsibility basis. Finally, which individuals should our help be prioritised for? The unemployed, the disabled and those in part time work. We also need to support things like the NHS for the working poor and even the middle class.

    You touch on an issue that I have struggled with – that of welfare sanctions. At first I was against welfare sanctions, believing positive motivation is all that is necessary to get somebody back to work and I know this costs more money initially, but perhaps less in the long run. Once I consider cost and a bit more realism I can accept welfare sanctions on a limited basis, but they are not something I will be calling for more of and I think we should be reviewing the extent of these in our 2015 manifesto.

  • Please, please, please start with the reasons why some people, in spite of trying their best, remain poor. Forget, to start with at least, redistributive welfare transfers, focus on the wealth that is being stolen by state privileged systems of property rights, money cartels and, to use the term properly as I’ve known it for longer than a decade (as opposed to Milliband’s half hearted attempt) “predistribution”.

    We can *solve* (not maintain) most poverty. And leave us with only a small, intractable problem for which to find long term solutions. Any government that fails to do this doesn’t deserve a second chance IMO.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 12:54am

    Jock I’ve had a look at property rights, eager for a liberal solution to poverty, but my conclusion was that most of them should stay in place. I see things like copyrights and patents as part of the justice system. We shouldn’t go overboard on them, but we can’t just start being anti property rights and allowing people to copy other people’s work like for like.

    I came back on here because I thought of another example that demonstrates why we can’t go for a need based budget on welfare – the international aid budget. 1% is probably the maximum this could ever get to.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 12:57am

    Just to clarify, I believe in considering both need and cost. I’m not saying just pluck an arbitrary budget and stick to it.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 31st Dec '13 - 1:55am

    @ Jock,

    I agree with you, to the extent that we need to consider why people are poor, and then use a wide range of levers to address that, rather than simply handing over money and washing our hands of the problem otherwise.

    However, the sort of radical change that you propose is almost certainly undeliverable by democratic governance, which leaves us at an impasse. So, what smaller steps on that road would you suggest?

  • Fiona White 31st Dec '13 - 8:15am

    I agree with the principle that payments such as winter fuel allowance and the Christmas bonus should not be paid to pensioners with high incomes. To me the only argument is where the cut off point is to be set. Below that point, I do believe in a universal benefit as many people who are entitled to claim additional benefits fail to do so.
    On the issue of bus passes, we need to be careful about the law of unintended consequences. Many bus services only remain viable because of pensioners who use their pass. Without it they might either go by car or not go at all. Keeping those services open also benefits the fare paying passengers who might find it difficult to travel otherwise. If taking away the bus passes means the same money is just spent on supporting bus services, the overall benefit is lost.

  • Peter Davies 31st Dec '13 - 8:56am

    The undeserving poor (who have the skills to get a job but don’t want one) will always be better at proving that they are deserving than the deserving poor. Best to stop wasting time and money trying to discriminate.

  • What Peter said. Experience of working at CAB shows me that any system by which enormous government agencies try to divine “need” ALWAYS ends up punishing those who actually ARE in need because they don’t have the mental energy to jump through the required hoops; the actual fraudsters have no such issue. And, of course, the tougher you make the system to crack down on fraudsters, the more true this becomes.

    That is why Jock is correct, Mark, and yes it might be difficult, but until it happens inequality and resentment will keep growing.

  • Surely the use of deserving/undeserving seeks to justify the idea that there are those in our society who are undeserving.
    It is a symptom of an increasingly nasty nation. There are over 2 million unemployed perhaps Peter Davies can tell us how many out of the 2M+ he can identify who don’t want work. Doubtless the Tory Press can ferret out a few for headline purposes. How about the kids of the ‘undeserving poor’?.
    I am a pensioner who witnessed the foundation of the Welfare state and I am proud of the civilised concept underlying it, Many of my contemporaries are insulated from the effects of the austerity which affects the younger generations. Worse still many of my(Mail reading?) contemporaries say “I worked all my life, I’m entitled to my bus pass and heating allowance!” My response is always ” Aren’t you lucky to have had a job all your life, pension cheap mortgage, free higher education etc. the younger generation haven’t been so lucky”
    Perhaps my memory is faulty but I really don’t remember this debate before Thatcher created the conditions for it along with accompanying meanness of spirit to justify it.

  • As a thinking exercise I often look at a problem by way of analogy, or on a small scale, with the idea that if you can work out a solution on that small level, then it may (!) scale up in some way, to solve the bigger problem.
    Take the example of famine relief. We see videos of food trucks with the tailgate down. The hands stretched up waiting for bags of rice and water likely come from general 3 sources :

    1. A person who is not hungry at all. His intention is to secure as many bags of rice as he can, in order to sell on the black market to desperate people.
    2. A person who does need food, but not with the immediacy of others. He has food stored or hoarded at home, and the rice and water he gets from the truck, will be added to his store of food.
    3. A person who’s family has not eaten for several days. They need that rice now, today.

    Even though I said 3 general sources, with a few moments of thought, you can very likely come up with other categories of people, waiting at the tailgate for food. And there is likely, a person who is not standing at the tailgate, because they are too ill or vulnerable.
    I haven’t labelled any of them with the title, deserving or undeserving, but I think the picture speaks for itself. So what is the answer to this problem? Do Oxfam and the other relief services and charities, have a generic solution, or an off the shelf technique of triage to solve this issue.? And more importantly, would that method of triage scale up, to handle a £200 billion welfare bill?
    I have no answer, but I just wanted to open up the debate with a bit of lateral thinking, and maybe fire up a different set of neurons to solve an age old problem.

  • Peter Davies 31st Dec '13 - 10:21am

    “perhaps Peter Davies can tell us how many out of the 2M+ he can identify who don’t want work”
    I can’t identify any of them and I don’t think the government can either. My guess would be that they are too few in number to make it financially worthwhile for the government to identify them if it could.

  • Andrew Colman 31st Dec '13 - 10:47am

    One group of poor people who are clearly deserving are the working poor

    Therefore I favour a significant increase in the minimum wage in high cost areas. The minum wage should be doubled to at least £15 to £20 per hour in central London but could remain at its current level in the cheapest areas.

    Such increases in the minimum wage should lead to significant reductions in the benefits ill, particularly housing benefit in high cost areas.

  • jenny barnes 31st Dec '13 - 10:51am

    Perhaps a citizen’s income would avoid the whole deserving/undeserving striver/skiver workfare nonsense. As a side benefit it would save an awful lot of admin attempting to detect who is entitled to what.

  • Andrew Colman 31st Dec '13 - 11:10am

    Helping the poor is not just about charity, its about maximising the strength of economy.

    If poor people have more, money, they can buy more goods, creating more jobs and no longer need to rely on benefits. Its a win – win situation.

    If we just allow the market to drift as the “free market purists would like”, then thev economy can easily reach an equilibrium where many are not working and living in poverty whilst as small group of people are doing fine.

    The economy is like a game of Monopoly, If all the players have roughly equal share of the wealth, the game remains exciting and will continue for the forseaable future. If one players get a lot richer however, hotels will be built, the other players will soon go bankrupt and the game will come to an end.

  • Jenny Barnes: Yes, all the evidence suggests that citizen’s income is an astoundingly good idea which helps most and hurts no-one. Unfortunately there are always (and I suspect always will be) some dog-in-a-manger types who object about “undeserving” people getting money…

  • I would suggest that helping the poor is a requirement of a civilised society, no more no less.

  • andrew purches 31st Dec '13 - 12:28pm

    The whole concept of welfare has got to a pretty pass now, and is primarily aimed at keeping things as they are, to benefit capital without running the risk of riot and mayhem from not only those that have not,but also from those who could be described as the hard working middle orders, well educated and well qualified,but whom there is no well paid work available. Working tax credits are a barely disguised subsidy to employers, who get away with paying little more than a living wage / salary to most of those working. Nursery benefits do little more than help mothers who need to work, again in so doing being further subsidised with WTC’s. Housing benefit is there to benefit land- lords, when the state and tenants would gain more from having a statutory system of Rent Control taking the whole obscene system out of the market. The real costs to the state and to those in need must be reconsidered and any benefit recalculated, to cover all the unjustified expenditure meeted out by the energy,transport,banking and all other service industries. Things were better for all in the 60’s when I first started out in work, and they have not improved much since. We had a little child benefit, but nothing else, but there was always work for all I seem to remember,and the cost of living was manageable for the majority. It is now for most,in work and out, unmanageable.

  • Mick Taylor 31st Dec '13 - 1:22pm

    We will never get anywhere with this debate if we refuse to see what is before our eyes.
    1. In a variety of town centres one can see those who have nothing else to do but smoke and drink cheap alcohol. (I have seen this with my own eyes in at least two large northern towns)
    2. A visit to large social housing areas will also discover families who have not worked for several generations – and who don’t actually know what work means. (I know this for a fact as I have canvassed extensively in just such an area))
    3. Many electors feel aggrieved that they work and pay taxes and others don’t work, pay no direct taxes and are supported by the hard earned cash of those who do work. ( In 2010 this was mentioned more on the doorsteps than any other issue, when I was candidate for Leeds Central – a predominantly working class constituency)
    4. There are a number of individuals and families who choose welfare as a lifestyle. ( I know people who do this and have no shame about it at all and object more vehemently when the government tries to do something about it)
    None of this is easy for a radical social Liberal like myself. All my instincts tell me that we must be caring and help the less fortunate. I have no problem in paying tax to provide welfare, social housing, a decent NHS and good schools. I do, however, have a problem with the current welfare system, which is in need of root and branch reform from the bottom up as Mark has suggested. If we want a caring, sharing society, then everyone has to play their part. Taxes on high incomes are right, but so is opting in to society and doing one’s bit.

  • Simon Banks 31st Dec '13 - 1:48pm

    I wholeheartedly agree about showing respect for evidence and the real facts. This field is full of perceptions based on myths. There is no need, though, to import the moral judgement of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor into welfare policies which try to direct money towards those who not only need it, but also have no real alternative, while trying to keep the numbers who claim benefit when they could work to a minimum and also combat actual fraud. The public perception of the numbers in these last two groups is grossly inflated, but there is nothing wrong with government trying to keep the numbers small. The widespread anguish over the treatment of disability benefit, for example, has concerned unreasonably harsh decisions rather than the principle of checking that people are actually unfit to work.

  • @ Mick Taylor
    It is difficult to believe that while canvassing you were able to discover the entire life histories of 3 generations of a family. I mean quizzing people about the work history of their grandparents seems a very peculiar way to garner support for a political party. I suspect you made judgements without being in full possession of the facts. Academic research suggests there are very few, if any, families in the UK where 3 generations have not worked. Herefor example is a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that found it impossible to locate any such family and nails many of the myths that prevent us having a grown up debate about these issues.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 2:14pm

    Well said Mick Taylor. We need to consider both positives and negatives of welfare.

    The alternative to not considering the negatives of welfare is to stuff people’s mouths with benefits in order to make sure that nobody can possibly spend it all and end up suffering.

  • “and who don’t actually know what work means”

    I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate!

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 2:30pm

    Any contributions to this debate need to be in the realm of the possible, which I think is what Mark was asking for. Sounding like a bleeding heart on a tape recorder doesn’t provide any practical solutions.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Dec '13 - 2:38pm

    I’m not just left bashing either, I like the centre left, it’s just the far left that shows no concern about forced altruism that I’m bashing.

  • I happen to receive benefits/allowances.Government action/inaction of course reveals the ideology behind it.The language merely the method to justify it.That being the case ,the targets for reductions/removal of benefits/allowances are therefore the “undeserving”.Carers and the sick/disabled-who save the Country billions by such cost saving activity ,their entitlements capped,summarilly removed and vast cost saving rooms ,even if terminally ill subject to a financial penalty but only if in a particular type of housing,the complete removal of all housing on any earnings whatsoever under UC if in another type of housing and an increase in Council Tax but only for the poorest.I have saved(as many have) the State far in excess of most will ever pay in tax throughout their lifetime,yet Government literature is replete with my unfairness in receiving a small recognition that aids that activity.WE apparently are the “protected vulnerable”,yet an exponential decrease in income for saving the State money and a use of language against which should shame all of us-the latter the worse aspect to me. We are lucky we can cope with the former the latter is a disgrace.

  • Mick Taylor 31st Dec '13 - 7:43pm

    If you haven’t worked for 2 or 3 generations then the whole concept is alien. If your ‘pay’ comes every week for doing nothing, then the idea of working for it is a difficult one. I know of schemes where people have been got back into work by a scheme to take them to work every day and bring them home. After 3 months or so they go happily by themselves. Sadly such schemes have been discontinued
    @ Andrew R
    But if you’ve been to the door several times you get a picture. And no, I haven’t been making judgements. I was totally disbelieving and was persuaded of the facts by a very hard working and decent Lib Dem, who actually wanted to do something to help.

  • Chris Manners 31st Dec '13 - 7:59pm

    “If you haven’t worked for 2 or 3 generations then the whole concept is alien. If your ‘pay’ comes every week for doing nothing, then the idea of working for it is a difficult one”

    Sure, but nobody has yet found a family who haven’t worked for 3 generations.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 1st Jan '14 - 1:45am

    @ Jennie,

    I tend to the view that Universal Credit is an interesting stepping stone towards a basic, or Citizen’s, income system, which I support. Certainly, reducing the amount of duplicating bureaucracy can only help towards maximising claims from those entitled to do so.

    @ brianD,

    Whilst I can’t object to your sentiment, you are rather body swerving the question.

    If you want to introduce a new benefit, or withdraw or alter an existing one, what questions are you asking? If it is, “how much can we afford?, or “what entitlement do we want to create?”, there is at the very least an element of “who most deserves support?”, as the pool of funding is presumably not limitless.

    @ Simon Banks,

    You suggest that there is nothing wrong with Government working to limit the numbers claiming benefit who could work but don’t. Isn’t that rather agreeing with the concept of ‘undeserving poor’? They are entitled to certain benefits, so are poor. And that’s why I suggest that, regardless of the language we seek to avoid, we risk making subconscious judgements.

  • Mick Taylor 1st Jan '14 - 11:38am

    @Chris Manners
    Let’s not get hung up on 3 generations, though I have met families in that position. 2 generations is plenty to lose the idea of work. If you are brought up in a household where no-one works, what incentive is there for you to work?

    We need to recognise problems if we are to tackle them. That’s my motive in all this, not to stigmatise people.

    Another problem area is in parts of rural Britain. Here many people used to work on farms, where literacy/numeracy was not always needed. Now that sort of labour is not much required. The people who used to do largely manual labour on farms now find it difficult to get work, especially if literacy and numeracy problems persist. That’s where the problem of generational unemployment begins in rural areas, so it’s not just an urban problem.

  • I don’t believe in the concept of the deserving and undeserving poor because in the end it all ends up as clobbering people who for one reason or another are in a bit of a mess.
    Plus the bulk of welfare payments go to pensioners and people are simply not going to stop getting older and sicker and as a result less able to support themselves, The other reality is that the housing benefit bill is really subsidy that goes the property market rather than to the poor and will not go down unless we force it down because too many people make too much money from it and our economy is too reliant on property to simply let that market collapse. Also we are increasingly using welfare to counteract low wages and the reality of job instability because if we didn’t unemployment would be much higher. In truth we just have a debt lead economy and are persecuting the poor because they are easy targets and they have been politically disenfranchised along with a great chunk of the young to the point where they no longer vote enough to consider a threat. I think we should politically engage and mobalize the poor because most people are not actually doing that well, clobbered by indiect tax,, exploited by the utilities companies and increasingly unable to afford the most basic human right of a home. Pensioners prove one thing, if you vote in high enough numbers goverments get scared of your electoral wrath.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 1st Jan '14 - 8:36pm

    @ Glenn,

    I think that you’re confusing two sides of the same coin, although you’re not alone. The deserving/undeserving poor concept can be looked at in two ways – morality and need. There are some who apply a moral standard, conservative with a small c, and those who apply a more technical, needs-based set of criteria. Whilst we should seek to avoid applying moral criteria, every aspect of the welfare system is designed to address those who deserve the support of the wider community.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 1st Jan '14 - 8:43pm

    @ John Dunn,

    Your analogy isn’t a very good one, I’m afraid, in that in a famine relief scenario of the sort you describe, there is much less scope for a structured system of need evaluation, whereas in a state welfare system, there is an established bureaucracy, a legislative framework and a long-term involvement.

    Yes, there is an element of crisis management involved in our system of welfare provision, but it is a very small one relative to overall spend.

  • Passing through 1st Jan '14 - 11:21pm

    @Eddie Sammon “Once I consider cost and a bit more realism I can accept welfare sanctions on a limited basis”

    Not when there is an arbitrary target for imposing sanctions regardless of the behavior of the welfare claimants, targets which if constantly missed can threaten the jobs of those tasked with imposing them. In such a situation they become perverse and unfair.

    As it happens I was unemployed myself for a few months at the start of last year. I am well-educated, articulate, motivated and computer-literate without any mental health or substance abuse issues who rapidly moved back into employment so you’d think I am a good example of a “perfect” welfare claimant, capable and willing to correctly jump through any and all bureaucratic hurdles as required, in stark contrast to many others who are in the system.

    Despite which I managed to get threatened with sanctions on three separate occasions.

    Once when asked to bring in a CV so I naturally brought one in on USB stick, having no easy access to a printer, they wanted a printed one and wouldn’t even check my stick to confirm I had complied with their demand – Strike One.

    On a second occasion my signing-in slot got brought forward a day at short notice because the administrator had to attend a funeral, they couldn’t contact me in time to inform me so I missed my slot – Strike Two.

    Finally I found work on the Wednesday which started on the Monday so I stopped filling in the pointless and useless Universal JobMatch job diary, a buggy and Kafkaesque piece of software provided at large cost by the private sector and typical of the government’s IT projects, for the last couple of days as there was no way I could be expected to find and start any additional paying working in the space of those couple of days particularly, as starting that new job required a degree of preparation – Strike Three.

    As you can tell they were three totally spurious misdemeanors which are only enforced to meet their sanction quota. What should concern you is if even someone like me was regularly falling foul of the sanction regime how often are genuinely vulnerable people, unfortunate enough not to have my advantages, getting sanctioned? Why do you think the food banks are so busy?

    Any so-called “liberal” should hang their head in shame to be associated with such a system. I suspect like the hateful Bedroom Tax it probably ultimately costs the taxpayer more to implement than whatever it saves and comes at a high social cost. Still it is nice to know that at a time of austerity the Government can still feel free to waste billions punishing the most vulnerable in society just to make some of the nastiest members of the public feel better about themselves.

  • Passing through 1st Jan '14 - 11:40pm

    Oh dear terrible mangling of metaphors in my last post, you clearly jump through hoops or over hurdles. Sincere apologies *oops*

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jan '14 - 11:50pm

    Passing Through, thanks for bringing to my attention the state of the welfare sanction system. I have never been comfortable with it, but I think your worry is that this is a policy of the right and shouldn’t be accepted by liberals or moderates.

    I am not properly aware of the details, it is just something that I think should be looked at because I am generally not a fan of conservative style negative motivation tactics.

    However, when push comes to shove, I trust that our MPs wouldn’t adopt something draconian as Liberal Democrat policy. This might highlight a lack of compassion from myself, but the way I look at it is there are no easy options and tragedies happen in all walks of life.

    If we want to avoid tragedies completely we will have to ramp up the welfare bill, but i am afraid the question begs: where is the money coming from?

    You should write to your local MP or to the Liberal Democrats directly, because I think there are a lot of us who are uncomfortable with welfare sanctions.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jan '14 - 11:56pm

    To tackle your argument head on, Passing Through, I need to provide an example where a welfare sanction would be appropriate. Perhaps if somebody comes to the UK to claim benefits and refuses to learn English? Or if someone repeatedly refuses to attend the job centre with no good excuse? This is possibly why I am not blowing with steam over the idea of welfare sanctions.

    I’m off for a bit. Good night.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 2nd Jan '14 - 3:01am

    @ Passing through,

    As a professional bureaucrat, I can see why you would be frustrated by the events you describe. However, they appear to stem from a mechanistic adherence to a process, rather than from sensible interpretation of legislation, and I think that quite a few of the problems that people describe fall into that category, rather than from malevolent policy making.

    You were entitled to the benefits you claimed – there appears to have been no suggestion that you weren’t – yet the design of the process intended to police your entitlement appeared to have no sense of proportionality, nor allow the officer handling the case to apply some common sense.

    A properly trained bureaucracy wouldn’t behave like that, but it’s cheaper, and easier, to impose ‘tick box’ processes instead of proper public administration.

  • Passing through 2nd Jan '14 - 4:42am

    @ Mark Valladares

    I don’t blame the bureaucrats, these changes are being foisted on them from above and they’ve had the ability to use their discretion removed.

    In the case of the woman having to take compassionate leave at short notice her entire day’s worth of claimants were effected. Some had been contacted in time but many hadn’t plus there are issues about last minute changes to child care arrangements and those who are working part time.

    The person who dealt with me was very apologetic but said they had no discretion in the matter and so had no option but to proceed with a sanction however they did fill in a form explaining the extenuating circumstances to their line manager who in turn had to fill in a second form explaining their decision to quash the sanction. All told it took the best part of an hour’s work just to deal with my particular case, you’d have to multiple that with everybody else who found themselves in the same boat, so they’ve probably wasted a day or more’s FTE dealing with something which should just have been immediately and simply waived as “just one of those things”.

    The decision to strip frontline staff of their discretionary powers and impose sanction targets which MUST be met was made centrally to meet specific political goals, namely to unfairly massage down the claimant numbers and to allow IDS to posture as being “tough on shirkers”, and it is unfair to take it out on the PBI who are left with no choice but to implement it. It does however make a poor, inefficient and unresponsive service and should be anathema to any sensible, and humane localist agenda.

  • Shirley Campbell 4th Jan '14 - 12:20pm

    Since my previous comment is awaiting “moderation”, I shall seek to “moderate” my previous comment.

    I posted a comment earlier in respect of the second state pension. Many moons ago I declined many invitations to “opt” out (contract out) of the state pension scheme. I declined to do so and that which has transpired has vindicated my decision to do so. It was possible to straddle that of state and private pension schemes and I thought it wise to stay within the state scheme whilst hedging my bets elsewhere. The state alternative proved to be the best option and I am now able to sustain a comfortable lifestyle thanks to my second state pension.

    No doubts my further comments are in danger of being moderated as beyond the limits of those tolerated by a compliant readership; however, folks beware of those who seek to sell their own agendas because the name of the game frequently changes. We all, or did, pay into a state insurance scheme in which devastating personal circumstances (bereavement, sickness, unemployment) were met with compassion and the need for financial assistance. I am old and I have not changed; I still think that we should reach out to those to whom life has dealt a cruel blow.

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