What are we without welfare?

T

his parliament has seen extensive welfare reforms by Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions, accompanied by inflated rhetoric on both sides of the political spectrum. Katy Bennett asks whether the debate is losing its focus.

 
YouthVoice
By Katy Bennett (@katylikesowls)
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Myths perpetuated by the above “newspapers” are sadly not uncommon.
(Photo: Left Foot Forward)
64% of all families in the UK receive some kind of benefit – that includes child benefit and the state pension. Benefit fraud accounts for just 2% of the total estimated annual fraud in Britain, and represents approximately 0.8% of total money paid out in benefits. It is the second lowest of all the types of fraud calculated, only a little larger than identity fraud. And, no surprises here, the largest source of fraud costs, at 69%, is tax fraud by big corporations. 
 
I thought I’d throw some facts out there straight away before I begin. Fundamentally, there is no evidence to back up the prejudice used to attack the millions people forced to claim benefits, and yet the attacks are stronger than ever – according to the Daily Mail, all you need to do for disability benefits is “fill in a form.” I’m picking an easy target using the Daily Mail, but the extreme views sadly highlight the way that many people feel.

In January, Tory councillor Mark Winn was forced to delete his twitter after comments claiming that food banks were only used by people with “drug, alcohol and mental health problems.” His attitude towards those people is troubling to begin with, as mental health issues are often a result of extreme stress and bad circumstances, and very difficult to live with – not negative personality traits. But his claim is also outrageous in its generalisations and inaccuracy. People turn to food banks as an absolute last resort – they shouldn’t have to feel this way, but who would endure the humiliation that comes from the public scorn and prejudice if they felt there was any other option?
 
Although no longer active, the quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation) Atos came under fire for its unfair process of “screening” applicants for disability benefits, with a success rate of just 38%, leaving many people without any source of income, or even any hope for one. This highlights the complacency of the government in dealing with the system – and more significantly, in fact, underlines the fact that they simply don’t care.
 
To say that the government doesn’t have any money to provide people with help and support is wrong, yet so many people act as though it’s the worst thing in the world. People act as though vulnerability is something people bring upon themselves – and on the flip side, those who are successful and rich are more “deserving” than others. If only people could admit to themselves how much luck is involved – but this is something that scares a lot of people, and it is far easier to remain in denial.
 
Britain’s welfare system is something to be proud of – one of the few things I feel truly patriotic about. It isn’t perfect, but under the current government, a lot has happened to mean it’s in a pretty bad shape right now. But I continue to be hopeful that with enough public demand and debunking of the awful myths that are out there right now, something can be done for the better.
Of course. (Photo: Blogistan)
 
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