There Is a Problem

Part 1:

I think there is a problem with welfare and, to me, it’s really just another example of government failure. That may be unfair and simplistic, but I think it’s still valid to say it because I feel it. In this case, I’m not blaming any specific government, although Gordon Brown is said by some to have almost single-handedly screwed up most of the UK’s public services with his love of red tape, targets, paperwork and quangos.

This is rather long, so I’ve split it into two parts and I should say, right here at the outset, that I don’t exactly have the answer to this either, but it’s my view that welfare is a problem because no government can be relied upon to organise the proverbial party in a brewery, let alone something as individually variable and important as welfare. All I want to do here is to try to identify the problem and hope that someone who reads this will have an actual solution.

So, for the sake of my argument, let’s take two hypothetical scenarios where stereotypical people lose their jobs …

  1. A middle income man who was a senior manager, is married with two children at private schools, a four bedroom house in a fairly well to do neighbourhood, two cars and a mortgage that would scare the hell out of most of us.
  2. A single mother of three children all at state schools. She is in her late twenties and living in a rented two bedroom house in a poor district. She has one fairly battered old car and she worked in a call-centre until she lost her job.

Which of those people most deserves to receive unemployment benefit? I suppose the simple answer you and most other people would give is, “both!” You’d be right, on the face of it, and I believe that is how it works – more or less – since they have both paid into the system. Anyway, it’s pretty much correct, at least under current legislation in the UK, assuming they were both sacked (that’s as far as I know, since I’ve never claimed any sort of benefit myself).

Let’s find out a bit more about these people, shall we? As far as I’m concerned, you could swap the financial status of my two examples and it would make little of no difference to this…

Man 1 … has done almost everything his middle class parents expected of him – went to university, got a passable degree, married a girl from the neighbourhood, had their two children three years apart and has been a model father and husband until he was made redundant by his employer who, incidentally, speaks very highly of him. Although their financial commitments are pretty high, they were affordable whilst he had the job he’d worked at for three and a half years. He and his wife even have two or three thousand pounds put aside for a “rainy day” and he did receive a small amount of money as redundancy pay.

Woman 2 … was left in the lurch along with the oldest of her children when her live-in partner left. They had been together for four years at the time. She has since had her second and third child by different lovers that, in her words, she thought at the time were going to be permanent in her life. She didn’t exactly have the best education during her formative years and the call-centre job was probably the best she’s ever had, or close to it. She has no savings and is desperate for money after losing her job of only four months.

So, do you think there is a significant difference yet in how much each deserves help? Some will, I’m sure, perhaps feeling that the man is better placed to manage his own problems and deal with this crisis on his own, but that’s about it, I imagine.

There’s more in part two and it doesn’t quite turn out the way some of you might think…

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