I wish the new coalition government would grow a pair and actually tackle the major flaw in the entire benefit system rather than just messing around with tit for tat payments. Yesterday at the Conservative Party conference, George Osbourne announced that from 2013 they will be scrapping the payment of child benefits to families where one of the parents earns more than £44,000 per year. There are two problems with this that has arisen which is that if each parent earns slightly less than the threshold, then the payments are still made, but if one parent earns more than the threshold it stops. Or in the case of single parent families if you reach the threshold the benefit stops. Why does it not run on a household income? And why does it take 3 years to actually introduce?
To be honest I had to look up how much Child Benefit we get as a household, still often referred to as Family Allowance. I get £20.30 a week for my first son and £13.40 for my second son so get around £135 per month. Now I’m not quite sure what you are meant to do with this extra cash from the government, but it will help families towards the cost of bringing up kids. But then again should you really have kids if you can’t afford them… are they are luxury or a necessity? To put the £135 into perspective, I currently pay £66.50 per week to have my kids picked up from school and to go to their after school club for an hour and a half each day, so that I can work until nearly 5pm. But during the holidays it cost £35 a day for them to go to holiday club, so £175 per week. So maybe the money should help towards generally looking after them or buying the new school shoes or the latest xbox game!
So this is where the government needs to bite the bullet and actually tackle the whole benefit system so that it helps people in need without it being a lifestyle choice. How often do you hear, “If I got a job I would be worse off than on benefits!” – How totally wrong is that? My viewpoint is that even if you are worse off initially with a job, at least you are earning your own money, getting out of the house and interacting with other workers, and once in a job there is always the potential to earn more if you work hard. Benefits should be there for people who for instance have paid their taxes but then perhaps get made redundant, or people who end up with an illness and can’t work.
The answer is to move from doleing out hard cash to handing out vouchers in my opinion. For instance if the child benefit (my £135 per month) turned into vouchers that could ONLY be spent on a range of fruit and vegetables then maybe we might not have the situation of loads of obese kids and the government would be helping them get the best start in life. If you hand out cash, and I don’t want to go off on one, then some people will always make sure that they have enough booze and cigarettes available and then say they don’t have enough money to eat.
So what should happen is that the money paid out to the unemployed in whatever guise it is should be given out in vouchers. The only thing that the vouchers can be spent on is the things that people actually need to live off, not to give them a luxurious lifestyle. If the rent on the housing is paid, along with some sort of allowance for the utilities like gas and electric, then all people need to live is food along with a clothing allowance of sorts. This way it ensures that all the money that the tax payers contribute to, that is then handed out as benefits is spent on food and necessities for the household. As I mentioned before the benefit system should only sustain you and not keep you in a position where you are happy to stay there.
Another way to look at the benefit system that has been bounced around is that if the unemployed get benefits for not having a job, at least they should be given some community or volunteer work to be done. They could be there to help keep the towns and cities looking their best, to spend time revamping the communities or to help the elderly with odd jobs. At least give them something to do so that they have earned the money. Or as we all know there are jobs out there for the unskilled, but often they would be worse off if they have a job… but should there be a choice… or should a job be allocated and made to be taken?