The front page headlines in the Daily Mail this morning screamed how under planned proposals from the Conservatives, ’Jobless with big families could lose benefits’ and since we have a large family and write about large family issues I had a hunch that this would be something I’d be covering at some point.
We have spoken previously about the UK benefits system. Having more children than average we are often questioned on financial matters that two-child families don’t get asked.
My first thought when reading through this article was that it has become a sad state of affairs when we are talking about taking away a privilege which shouldn’t really exist. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, it should never, ever be the case where it is more beneficial not to work than to work.
This is regardless of the size of your family. I believe that an honest day’s work deserves and honest day’s pay. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to exist any more.
We have spoken before on this site about how the benefits system has become a lifestyle choice rather than the safety net it was originally designed to be. The safety net has been taken and has, over several years, become far removed from something designed to help in the short-term to a long-term job description for some. Now we see the second or third generation of family members who have been raised through state handouts and benefits with no work experience because work simply doesn’t pay. They have no ambition because they are better off not working and they place no value on their education or on their future because why should they work on minimum wage and worry about paying rent or buying food when they can have rent paid and money for food provided for them?
This became apparent a few weeks ago when Mike and I were queuing in a shop. The lady in front of us was talking very loudly to the two men with her and to the lady behind the counter about the place she had ‘just been given’. She was talking about all the furniture which had been provided for her, and then referred to her washing machine which, having been the only thing she had saved up and paid for herself, was out of bounds to anybody else using. She was the only person who could use it because ‘if it goes wrong, that’s my problem. I don’t care about anything else’. She didn’t care because she didn’t buy it. She didn’t care because she didn’t pay for it.
As she held onto her young daughter’s buggy she went on to talk about what she would be cooking for lunch that Sunday, debating between pork or duck. Then she and one of the men she was with, who turned out to be her son, began discussing their soon-to-be-delivered new purchases – an iPhone 5 each. None of them mentioned working or jobs, but talked about their ‘money going in’.
Mike and I stood there, stunned and wordless. We were buying new nets which we had waited a month for until we had set aside enough money to pay for them. Lunch that week was due to be a meatless, mixed veg roast with Yorkshire Puddings. The food budget didn’t stretch enough to meat for the meal. We didn’t think anything of it. It’s just how the money situation fell that week and we were used to it. Both being self employed it’s the case that some weeks you’ll have more spare cash than others. You roll with it and juggle the finances when you have to. Yet, the more the people talked unashamedly about all this free stuff given to them and their plans for their new purchases I wondered who the real mugs in that shop were. There wasn’t any reference to rolling or juggling in their conversation. The real mugs? Clue: it wasn’t them.
George Osborne’s plans to possibly cut back on additional help for those who continue to increase their family size isn’t just about singling out large families. Surely something should be done as a whole? When a person refuses a job on the grounds that they are better off on benefits it tells you that something, somewhere is desperately wrong.
What Osborne et al need to realise though, that it does not just stop at curbing benefits. We do not want to plunge people into the depths of despair and great, stinking poverty. But we do need to encourage a work ethic, and to encourage that work ethic they need to find a way of making work pay. The recent minimum wage rise to £6.19 does not cut it. £6.19 an hour is not a wage that a single person can live off independently, let alone raise a family on.
We need a government which will not only address the benefits system, returning it to the safety net it should be rather than making it a lifestyle choice that people and families from one generation to the next opt for – but a government who will make work worthwhile. Make it possible for small businesses in particular to pay their staff a decent wage. Yes, we are in a recession and cuts no doubt do need to be made but more pressingly there is a society who needs to re-learn that hard work does pay.
Rather than taking the savings from any benefits cuts and ploughing them into paying off the huge debt the nation has, perhaps an idea would be to raise the minimum wage to something much more realistic, to re-invest it into the businesses – small businesses in particular – to offer employment opportunities for a wage which people can support themselves on. This would be an investment into their own children, who will see how their parents also worked for a living and provided for them. Surely this would be a more effective way of re-building a nation of workers and provide a long-term plan for dealing with the countries debt?
Think of the quote: ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll feed himself for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll feed himself and his family for life’.
I am very interested to know your thoughts on this subject. Should benefits and financial help be capped to people who refuse to work yet continue to increase the size of their families or is it a right to have a family, regardless of whether you support them yourself or not? Was the woman in the shop an exception to the rule, or an example of society more typically seen in the UK now?
Please leave your comments and thoughts below.