Monday, 15 July 2013

Capping Benefits

There is an age old image of a certain group of people living by sponging of the state, helping themselves to handouts that make their lives nice and comfortable, while the rest of the country works hard. It is something that we all, at least to a degree, believe just that little bit. We all are completely aware that the benefits system is a bit screwed up, even if we can't agree on how to fix it, or the scale of the problem.

The government, however, has decided that it has dealt a huge blow to the problem of benefit scroungers in rolling out a cap on benefits. Now, a couple will not be able to get more that £500 a week, and a single person will be prevented from getting over £350 a week, in one of the coalition's flagship policies. A lot of Conservative MPs, as well as a fair few from other parties, think this policy is one of the high points of this government.

Yet, as usual, the country has immediately divided itself into those who view this new law as something that is universally labelling the poor as scroungers, taking the money that they need, and those that are wondering why the coalition has been generous enough to allow £500. As usual, the debate has started over whether or not this distinctly conservative policy is a good idea.

You can understand why people would support this policy, since it is all about the sensitive issue of money. Simply put, people don't want their hard earned cash being poured into an endless pit of those who would rather stay at home and watch daytime television than work. Many are questioning they work so hard, since the government simply takes their money and gives it to those who do not deserve it.

Really, for a lot of taxpayers, if the government is misusing money that they have taken for the national good, then that is as good as theft. They have a point, as the administration has the responsibility to make sure that they are not being reckless.

Yet, the fact of that matter is a huge number of people in Britain receive benefits, since they are something which is used to make sure that those on lower incomes can get by. They are a fact of life for most people, even the hard working ones who contribute to the country through taxes. The number of people who are stereotypically scroungers is likely to not be that high, even though there are countless numbers of scare stories that a lot of that tabloids like to talk about.

So, a simple cap on benefits seems like a bit of a massive grouping of people into one group that shall be named hereafter, "The Lazy Ones." It does not seem to take into account people's individual needs, although, thankfully, disability benefits have been excluded from this cap, and is being pressed on people as if they are all the same, when we are all clearly not.

This cap is going to sting for a lot of us, and is, if we are completely honest, about saving money. The government are talking about it as "encouraging" job seekers, but it is in reality forcing them to find work. This is not a kindly nudge over the line, but a stark message that we cannot afford to help anymore, so you better start finding a job, something that would be a lot easier if the economy was in a better shape.

This is a measure that is probably better suited to warmer economic climates. When there are not that many jobs for people to take, cutting their benefits seems like kicking them when they are down. For those people it is meant to help, because they currently get more out of benefits that they would be paid when working, this is actually just going to remove a chunk of their money, and do them no favours financially, at least.

So, this cap has an awful lot of flaws, and politicians should really be honest about it being a cost cutting measure, but it is also an unfortunate necessity. The government is skint, and can't afford to invest in benefits that might outpay jobs, therefore preventing people from working. It is still an artificial grouping of the less well off and the lazy together, but there is not really much that can be done about that.

Money had to be saved out of the welfare budget, and every way that it could have been done was going to hurt, so it is better that they have just picked a way and gone with it. At least this will prevent the worst of the abuses.

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