Welfare or benefits claimants have been tarnished with terrible smears, stereotypes and misconceptions.
It is evident in the media and government, in narratives from the 80s (Thatcherism), the 90s (The term chavs) and today (universal credits). It seeks to undermine, demoralise and dehumanise the people affected. This enables the government to push through policies which are, entirely inhumane and unproportionate compensation for the levels of issues they need to address.
It is a mysterious way to behave if you consider that the media and politicians know full well that the economic system in place, promotes winners and losers and creates perfect conditions that only enhance poverty. It celebrates individualism and denounces social responsibilities.
Therefore, I can only conclude, vilification is a deliberate attempt to cause division; treating these people as if they are criminals or degenerates when in my view, they are merely victims of economic circumstances chosen by the powerful.
Unfortunately for anyone finding themselves on the wrong end of the food chain, stereotypes, judgement and abuse are common. Because of course, that is what they need, on top of an incredibly traumatising, punishing and psychologically draining plight.
Despite grossly exaggerated claims, by the mainstream media, that large sums of money are provided to benefit claimants this is a complete fabrication and is entirely unfounded in the majority of cases.
Two hundred sixty-four billion pounds was spent on welfare in 2017 which is 35% of government’s total spend for that year.
Just 2.2 billion was spent on unemployment, according to ONS, the office of national statistics.
Therefore, this discredits the views currently held by narratives in the mainstream media and general stereotypes.
Because it means most welfare claimants have a job, are disabled or retired.
So predominantly benefits are paid out for the following reasons:
The benefits system has already been in the spotlight, of course not by the media but by a film called ‘ I Daniel Blake’ which focuses on the struggles and unnecessary stresses while demonstrating a demoralising process, designed to punish people and ignore their realities by and large just to meet government targets.
The film is an entirely believable account of life on benefits, despite what some of the media and politicians tell you.
How do I know this?
Well, in my younger years as a child I have the first-hand experience of the struggles it can cause and the impossible situations you are put in. I know what you are thinking, that was years ago it is not relevant now.
Well to illustrate the experience of people needing the support of benefits because of social, economic situations and Ill health. I will provide you with three real, current accounts of encounters with the benefits system. These accounts are confidential but, are an actual demonstration of how callous and purposely tricky the system is.
A good friend of mine has spent a lifetime working in excellent and honourable positions. Not only have they contributed to the tax system for nearly 30 years, but they have also done it by providing a service to society in their work as well.
Over the last year, something has changed in their body. They have started to experience crippling pain, and the ability to mobilise within their normal capabilities has deteriorated. They accessed help from health care professionals to try and come up with a diagnosis. Some months had passed, and various test investigations and consultations had been carried out. Eventually, a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis was diagnosed.
It causes back pain and stiffness. Also, it causes pain and swelling in other parts of the body. It is caused by inflammation in the joint’s, tendons and bone. It is a chronic condition, symptoms tend to get worse over time and cause constant pain upon movement. This can also have a massive impact on the individual psychologically and is a life-changing condition. This means, alongside battling constant pain, they also have to fight with severe depression and with a deterioration in the ability to mobilise.
The need to apply for disability benefits due to new financial constraints was found to be a lengthy process.
On seeing the report from Department for work and pensions, she was angry to find that some inaccuracies documented on the form claiming there was no impact on the ability to work; this goes directly against medical advice provided and is a distortion of the facts.
A consequence of this incompetence, we are now accepting it is ok for someone to work in constant pain, reduced mobility and solely place the burden on the individual.
Another friend of mine is entitled to benefits because the wages she is on are not sufficient to live on. Her payments are supplemented to support her and her children to live. This is an example of in work poverty.
Although she is not an extreme case, it still highlights the fact that companies are not acting responsibly in terms of paying employees a fair wage and as a result the wage has to be supplemented by the government.
Her employer changed the dates of payment of her salary which didn’t seem significant because the pay hadn’t changed. But without any warning, the DWP stopped payments claiming that her situation had changed.
This means the money provided to supplement her wage had been withheld and vital support had been taken away without communication. Because of this, the family had to struggle to afford basic needs like clothes, electric and rent for that month.
The benefits services are actually causing an unexpected loss in finances and leave claimants on the edge of poverty.
It isn’t fair as these people work as many hours as the majority of us and contribute to society.
Don’t you think they deserve better than this?
Claimants are always questioned, not informed of payments being withheld and treated with suspicion. Doesn’t this sound similar to interrogation? Unless social mobility has dramatically improved or enforced regulations have been implemented on levels of pay, the situation hasn't changed.
This last case happened a few years ago when a friend approached me to borrow money.
They had left a job because they felt the level of service was below standards for them. They had applied for a job but were waiting for clarification of any criminal conviction. This is standard in positions where you work with vulnerable adults or children; it is called a DRB and was formerly known as a CRB.
There was a delay in the process, and it was four weeks after having confirmation of the job role. The person applied for job seekers allowance and the individual was offered the £30 every two weeks!
He felt the offer was shocking and didn’t do anything to help in this time of crisis. He asked questions like, how will I pay my rent? What will I eat? How will I live? I don’t know how long I will have to wait to be employed? But the response from the representative from the jobcentre just said: “you will have to make it work”.
His response was to tell them to keep the money, and he will find something else. He asked friends, but no one could afford the amount he needed. Eventually, he applied for a loan and a credit card to get him out of this situation. He had consciously been put in a position where the only option was to accumulate substantial debt because the system that is supposed to support people at a time of crisis was inadequate.
In conclusion, the system treats individuals with suspicion and can be related to the treatment of criminals.
So, before you utter the stereotypes widely accepted just recognise that the system does not deliver and often leaves people in states of frustration, depression, with additional stress when in an already desperate situation and leaves people to fend for themselves.
This government does not care about these individuals, it is merely inherited by more exceptional politicians.
They place emphasis on not giving any benefits at all to people who need help, despite knowing that the system creates poverty, and not acknowledging this is being wilfully ignorant.
Let's be more understanding and become more aware of the economic structure. Ultimately promote social responsibility. I am proud of the welfare system, but for me, it is nowhere near adequate. Especially when you consider the levels of poverty and the complexity of the problems.
We as humans are not immune to fall on hard times, it is in our interests to ensure we are all looked after in times of hardship.
Jennie Formby: Labour's new general secretary