Wednesday, 14 September 2011

I'm a Benefit Scrounger...

...and so is my son. I've read and heard plenty recently that proves it beyond any shadow of a doubt. The proof we're benefit scroungers – well it seems the only proof needed is that we claim benefits!

Is that fair? Of course it's bloody not, but it's the way people are being trained to think about people on benefits due to the drip drip of lies (mainly from or led by HM Government) in the press.

Take my situation. I left school on a Thursday in 1984 and started work the next Tuesday; it was Easter weekend after all! I hadn't had much choice about it as although I was doing my 'A' levels my family couldn't really afford to support me at the time and my potential income was needed. Not a problem, I found a job fairly easily and was lucky enough to find it to not only be a fairly good job, but one I also enjoyed greatly. In fact I far preferred it to school and threw myself into it.

Over the next 20 years or so I worked at a few different places. Again I was lucky that I enjoyed every job and as I found doing nothing incredibly boring I worked hard. And I was good at it, good enough to regularly get promoted and also to be head hunted a couple of times. I was also lucky enough to be comparatively well paid for what I was doing, certainly well paid enough to have decent savings and to have bought a house. Basically, I played the game as we were told to play it.

In all that time I only had one experience of benefits. A firm I was working for went bankrupt and having nothing lined up (to say it happened rather suddenly is an understatement) so I trotted off to the local DHSS as it seemed the logical thing to do. I walked in on a Friday and filled all the forms and what have you. On the Saturday I got another job through a friend so on the Monday I signed off again.

Then my son got ill and I gave up work to look after him. That was 7 or 8 years ago. I never even thought of claiming benefits as, to be frank, I had savings and didn't need anything extra to get by. I did sign on at the local job centre, but that was simply for the age old (and now pretty useless to be honest) tradition of getting your stamps. I made my situation clear and was clear I wasn't applying for benefits or looking for work but after a while it became such a chore, and as I found a pointless one, that I stopped bothering.

Last year I started to claim carers benefit as the savings were gone and I needed something to support me. I've documented elsewhere on this blog the problems I had but in my 40s I was receiving benefits for the first time. And despite paying a lot of taxes for many years (never begrudged) and using up my own savings to look after Jr (which again I have no problem with) I get told I'm now a benefit scrounger purely because I happen to be claiming some much needed benefit at this point in time. The rather obvious fact that if I wasn't here he'd have to be in full time care at a far greater cost makes no difference to me being seen by some as a scrounger.

That is how ridiculous the situation is becoming. I'd say it's fairly obvious from the above that I'm no kind of scrounger and simply someone who need the state to fulfil it's duty of care to those in need. I don't even want to be on benefits – nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be out working every day but I simply can't in my situation. Simply by claiming I'm perceived by many as a scrounger.

So I've made my case. I think any benefits I receive are wholly justified and I think it's grossly unfair with my history to call me any kind of scrounger.

But...should any of that matter? Should the fact I've 'paid in' for most of my life separate me in perception from people in other situations? Would it be right to call my son a scrounger as he has never been able to work at all? Or if my son had a different condition that had presented when he was a baby and I'd had to give up work after only a few years should that make people view me any different?

Of course not. I've waffled on a bit about my history, not to big myself up at all but to make the point that people in need of benefits are not scroungers, regardless of their history. People with disabilities NEED help, and need more help than most people. People without work (and let's be honest there ain't a lot of it around these days) need money to get by. Carers such as myself need financial help. The benefit system isn't (and should never be) about getting out what you've put in, it should be getting out what you can't get for yourself and therefore need to get by.

Obviously there are some people 'swinging the lead' out there, only a fool would deny that. They annoy me as much as they annoy the most rabid Tory but they are by any measure a tiny minority and it's incredibly unfair, not to mention offensive, that people are now being branded scroungers and demonised purely on the basis of them receiving benefits without any regards to the facts of their situation.



  1. An interesting article and I would certainly agree that the majority of people on state or local authority benefits are in genuine need and, given kinder circumstances, would be only to happy to return to work.
    However, just a few points from your article that I disagree with. Firstly, the 'drip drip of lies' that come from the media are in no way from or led by the Government. I worked for the DWP for several years and in my experience, the average civil servant, from the administrators through to the senior management are fully aware and very sympathetic to the needs of the majority. Our government provide us with some of the safest, most stable living conditions in the world. We have welfare benefits, free healthcare, free emergency services and much more.
    The media on the other hand have their own agenda, because bad news sells. There is a simple way to avoid and ignore these media driven opinions and that is to buy a proper newspaper and ignore the tabloid press. These gossip columns breed nothing but ignorance and stupidity.
    Also, I would suggest that if your were to canvas the general public, the overwhelming majority would happily admit that cases such as yours are genuine and precisely the kind of case that the welfare system is there to support.
    My advice would be to not group yourself into the same category as those of the idle benefit culture and listen to the opinions of your friends and family, whose opinions should be the only ones that matter. Yours is clearly a genuine case and by assuming that the tabloid media is grouping you into their 'scrounger' category, you are complicit in giving a voice to the sensationalist and the ignorant.

  2. Hi.

    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to comment.

    I must say I disagree with pretty much all you've said though, and i do think you may have missed the whole point of this piece.

    Firstly anyone who has dealt with the DWP (you only have to look back on this blog for personal experiences and elsewhere for similar) deals with a very different organisation than the one you describe. Unhelpful, rude, aggressive and downright ignorant would be a better description in my experience. Throughout the year it took to sort my son's DLA I did not find this sympathetic culture you claim exists and it seems few others can either.

    Despite what you say this IS led by the government with their constant demonisation of disabled people and THEIR tendency to lump all benefit claimants into the 'scrounger' category. Welfare benefits are being slashed (20% off DLA budget, removal of mobility component for those in care homes etc etc etc) and so are services as now rather than someone trained we get to see a 'jack of all trades' (their description) and any kind of beneficial 'treatment' is virtually impossible to get now.

    As for the simple way to avoid these opinions, again you miss the point. It's not what I read that matters, it's what the majority of the newspaper reading population read that is the issue and that is a constant attack on anyone receiving benefits.

    The whole point of this piece was the point that a genuine case is someone who needs the help - regardless of anything else. The pre-amble about my past was just to stress the point that we are no more worthy than anyone else but to many the fact I have worked and earnt well for much of my life makes a difference, when it really should not even be a consideration. The sad fact is that if you did canvas the general public many would say we were deserving because of our past, not because we need help now.

    The narrative being pushed is to try and create a picture of a divide between (supposed) deserving and undeserving poor based on all the wrong criteria and that sickens me.

    The bald fact of the matter is I (and my son) have had to put up with abuse from people purely because we receive benefits and this is a very new thing.


  3. Hi.
    I have read your blog for the first time today. I think it is really excellent.
    I enjoyed this post as i thought it raised and commented fairly on many important issues. I agree strongly with your response to the comments above.
    I have over the last few months been involved with public mental health services for the first time (as an advocate and part-time carer for a family member) and have found that the attitude of these services is not the one that their websites/ literature/ and they themselves claim it to be. We too have found ourselves let down time and time again, being lied to and treated rudely and aggressively, simply for trying our best to ensure the correct care is in place. We wouldn't have to do this if others did their jobs properly and it has been a struggle.
    My recent experience has taught me that it is only when you take a hands-on involvement in dealing with these services that you discover that the reality is nothing like what it is claimed to be.
    I should of course mention that, like you, we have encountered some really excellent staff whose ability and interest has been second to none. But they have been a small percentage.
    It sounds to me like you couldn't do any more for your son. What more could anyone ever ask? Reading about your long-term care has re-energised me at a time i have really needed it. Thankyou, and good luck.