Claiming Benefits

Thoughts on the welfare state and the British underclass

Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 29 Mar 2014, 01:16

As promised I will relate the tale of my nephew and the situation he found himself in, the way the 'system' dealt with him and the lack of any real opportunities there were (are) for people like him. I wrote some of this a couple of weeks ago and then an additional version. I hope nothing comes through my editing that is disjointed.

A new thread here for this subject - actually claiming (and maintaining a claim) for welfare benefits in the UK as of this current time.

This is such as I know it, which is inevitably limited to what local knowledge I have gathered in recent times (say the last two years now), and related to the practices in this area - North West UK.

It will still only be a fraction of the total knowledge of all benefits, in all circumstances, which is not likely something anyone knows fully - apart from immigrants!

I don't know anything about sickness benefits. and all the supposedly more rigourous and reputedly cruel observations of the medical authorities of late. I wonder if we have yet reduced the number of 'sick people' to somewhat below the level of casualties following WW1, as we once had recently? Though of course where will they go, being conveniently parked 'on the sick' for years because that flattered the supposed 'unemployment' figures?

None of this applies to me because I am of course employed - or rather self-employed. It relates to those currently unemployed, but fit and so required to 'sign-on' every two weeks (some maybe per week) to qualify for those benefits. I know (and know of) several people at least and a couple of people in the family.

Of course I know considerably more about benefit claims (or rather claimants) than the latest practice because I've been surrounded by them for ........ well forever really.

But that was then, and has led to now! Now is austerity and recent cuts and a tightening of the system. Despite what we may think (though correctly in many instances, especially nationally speaking) there is no longer exactly carte-blanche with claims and a laissez-faire attitude by the authorities. This is not a Labour Government after all, we may say.

Unfortunately (very much so I say) and perversely, there is an almost (to me) indescribable level of deceit, pettifogging, private business interaction, quangoism, high cost (extremely high cost I suspect), obfuscation and pointless antagonism - all to no effect except the private enrichment of someone, or some few. This sounds conspiracist but I've not gone mad. I can smell it, sense it, perceive what's happening. There are, additionally, some mind-numbing and utterly insulting things many of the unemployed have to do. I would not stand for a tenth of it or at least a tenth of some of it.

What makes anyone think that the authorities concerned (actually they are private businesses, quangos, agencies or some strange melding of private organisations and the public tax coffers) are any the less bumbling, unfit for purpose, pointless and essentially corrupt than many of the other public services supposedly rendered?

Now having said all that, the economic and work situation is not the fault of the persons on the front line employed by these organisations. They are between a rock and a hard place and directly see their fate across their desks, should they lose their own jobs. They are in a hopeless situation, success-wise, pushing thousands of souls about for work that simply isn't there. It's all gone - to the wall, or to foreign countries or to the machines that now do it.

I've no idea what young women, and school-leaving girls now do. There are a fraction of the shops there once were. Girls were often on a shop counter. The textile mills have all gone, every single one and these employed hundreds of women. Nobody wants rows of typists and shorthand girls any more, surely. The cafes have gone. But the girls' plight has never been within my observance, so I shall forget them.......



Here then is a tale of what happened to my nephew in the last eighteen months or so since he left education:

Since aged about 11 or 12 he has expressed an interest in joining the Army. He has maintained that as the years progressed.

My brother-in law (unrelated to him) was then himself in the army. He's now recently left after 22 (+2) years service, aged 40 and an NCO and walked into another full-time job. He has advised my nephew here and there over the years.

Nephew is now aged 19 (twenty in July) and currently undergoing basic training at a Royal Engineers barracks in the South of England. If all goes well he should pass out on Good Friday (as it happens) this Spring. He can of course still retract without prejudice if he feels it's not for him. So he stuck with the idea and got there at last and a credit to his determination. It's a good job too because.........

In his final mandatory year at school, aged 15, he saw Army Careers personnel and got other information, including online. The overwhelming and no doubt correct advice was to remain at school and sit A levels, dependent on GCSE results.

My mother was relieved because it meant he wouldn't be going in the army aged just sixteen.

He got - wait for this - sixteen GCSEs. In actual fact to my mind he got about ten, of which two or more could doubtless have been combined together as well. So in fact he might have got five or six O levels - though he would have had to work harder for them!

I shouldn't say that. He is a bright lad. You can play all the theoretical shots in the world, but you can only bat against the actual deliveries you face. It's not his fault.



[I must digress: He said to me once - "Yes but mathematics wasn't as advanced in your day - obviously".

Facepalm.

Another thing. One of his GCSEs had an Orwellian and incongruous title. I forget what it was entirely. Upon questioning it turned out to be something to do with the UK driving test. I became even more darkly curious. Driving test? That's not a school matter and how can it be an O level (sorry GCSE)? He wasn't even old enough to possess a driving licence, for any vehicle. You can't sit a driving test aged 15 and besides, when you do sit one as a 17+ adult, you don't get a GCSE as well. You get a driving licence.

I wondered whether it was simply the 'theory' part of the driving test which is now part of the two-part British driving examination. That's a multiple-choice (of course) series of questions concerning road signs and markings and other general Highway Code stuff. But how can you get a GCSE for it and why are they doing this in schools?

It was worse. It was something about (and little more if any) the procedure for obtaining a UK provisional driving licence and matters thereon. In other words it was about ........... go to the Post Office, get an application form and here's how to fill it in. When you've done that you can learn to drive. Then here's how you fill in an application for a driving test.

Have you got that? Now then, you fill in this exam sheet in and tell us how it's done again? Well done - here's a GCSE. Maybe there was a computer version of it too, where students could just tick some boxes.

It sounds bizarre doesn't it? I'll check the exact details again. My nephew was laughing and agreed it was ridiculous and said he thinks they did the whole GCSE course in a about a day and a half. My O levels took two years, themselves backed up by another ten, though of course things weren't as advanced in my day. Obviously.]



So he sat and passed three A levels. and by this time he was hovering with the idea of a degree at university but got a bit lost (and maybe insufficiently advised) wondering how to tie it into an army career. He then got a little astray with the idea of officer training and wasted two or three months there. By this time, the date for university enrolment, etc (he had an offer or two) has elapsed and probably courses begun. He had left school with A levels in June 2012 and now it was Sept' or even October.

To be honest I know that in fact he didn't want any more education, certainly not three years more and wanted to be 'out in the field'. He wanted to be a soldier by now, full time. There would have been a small amount of peer pressure and competition (he knows one or two that have preceded him) and from what I can gather ......... all the girls seem very impressed by it.

(This is in direct and stark contrast to my early 1980s Gen' X experience by the way. Hardly any young woman then would have been impressed by military aspirations, not that I recall at all.)

So he went back to basics and went to Army Careers again and formally requested to join the Engineers asap. There was then another round of applications, interviews, and an eventual medical and so on occurred. All this takes several weeks.

By now it was approaching the year end. He looked for temporary jobs and part-time jobs but to no avail. At this point he was claiming no benefits and was refusing to entertain the idea, mainly on the basis that he didn't want to mix, or be seen to mix, no matter how little, with any underclass people - whom he equated to anyone claiming benefits - anyone whatsoever. Quite aloof and quite amusing in fact.

But, by not interfacing with the (helpful as even I thought) government authorities, benefits or not, he wasn't able to avail himself of their facilities for job-finding (as we thought). They after all discover the bulk of any vacancies and have all the details. And surely with a young chap with A levels and an ongoing and promising application with the army, they would look favourably on his situation. He is fit as a fiddle too. He would have been fine with a part-time job or a known temporary position, if there was one available.

He was by this time, eighteen years old. He had formally left school around June/July and was now technically unemployed and not in receipt of any kind of income.

As December 2012 arrived he was by that time, bored and penniless (excepting basic funding by his parents - which would never be enough for an active eighteen year old). Fortunately (and obviously given his plans) he doesn't smoke and barely drinks. I don't think he likes alcohol.very much. However he was also making noises about learning to drive - not an inexpensive option these days - and then how does a young person afford a car on the road without a very decent income?

His father (my brother) could technically (and would) employ him but my brother has for the last couple of years been doing mainly contract work for retail corporations (Tesco, Primark, and M & S), upgrading stores, and the certification and Health & Safety requirements are considerable and the work is sudden and intense (and deadlined) but with periods of inactivity in-between. The situation is complex as are most work situations in the UK now. It's very difficult if not impossible to employ 'casual labour' these days, in many skilled trades, even if one is declaring it (for tax purposes) and so operating fully legally - except these days it wouldn't be legal - and so stalemate.

I might employ him but there's nothing really I could find him to do. It's too exclusively in a niche. He just hasn't got the skills for what I do. I wouldn't want him to get hurt either and he could be, badly.

What he needed was a part-time or temporary job, telling any employer of his army plans. That would go down well with anyone looking to hire casual or temporary help - once upon a time. He could not find one single opportunity and believe me, that wasn't for the want of trying. What he wasn't doing however was availing himself of the services of the Job Centre, an arm of the benefit agency - one would think (I did).

(Did you know that the Job Centre (or Job Centre Plus now, in that Orwellian name change they keep having for these sort of organisations) is some kind of private concern? It's a quango, an agency. It's not wholly an arm of government and so by virtue, one of 'ours'. It doesn't sound right to me. Why have private organisations running (or tied to) the unemployed and benefit services?)

I had a word with him one day and gave my view on his situation:

In the complete absence of work and on the basis he was trying hard, it would be best to swallow any pride he had and go 'sign-on' for benefits - but also in the hope he may find a vacancy. Obviously and additionally, any financial benefits he received would go some way towards his life of penury - or being subsidised by his parents, something else he was conscious of. And of course his father had plenty of grumbling to do (as I would have - sons need to be grumbled at).

There was also the not inconsiderable factor of how much tax his father has paid (and is paying) over long years. And his grandparents and so on. and by law, he is entitled to some help. Lord knows, enough other people are getting it. The matter of family taxation swung the matter for him and he saw things in a slightly new light. Granted he wasn't starving but.......

He also had a monthly subscription at the gym. Not a fancy one, just the local authority sports centre place. Incongruously, he couldn't get a discount there for 'unemployed' status, because he wasn't technically unemployed - he wasn't registered with the Benefits Agency. He was in the worst of both worlds with things like this. He wanted to keep fit because that's how he is, and for the Army.

So he signed on. There began a merry-go round of fruitless interviews that led nowhere. I realise one should be required to undergo some of this and told him so. But then he started being sent on 'courses' for the unemployed at separate local venues. What follows next is incredible.

There are, locally, three (so I've become aware) agencies (private concerns) that are 'contracted' to the government to interface with the Job Centre (private) and 'get people off benefits - to save money'. These agencies run 'back to work' courses. They may be different in different areas (according to opportunity there) but the tales I hear from the local venues are frightful.

My nephew was sent several times to local venues where he was required to sit all afternoon in a 'classroom; type environment ........... with lots and lots of people who were too uneducated (or unintelligent) to even write their own name and details on forms they were given. Seriously. This type of tale is not alone. I've heard similar things from other people. There then followed completely simplistic questions about meaningless trivia. Anyone I know (including my nephew) would complete it in 4 or 5 minutes. An hour later and several severe underclass people are still struggling with page one!

He was sent on a five-week course (but Wednesdays only) to a local college. This was a course concerned with gaining employment in 'social care' work. Drug addicts, at-risk types, geriatrics I suppose and similar things. It's quasi-medical in some ways I would say, with some of it worthy and much of it not so worthy (imo). It's not something that produces anything, particularly wealth, and is in fact something that drains it. A lot of it is make-work to some degree, unless the idea and projection is that the UK is heading towards some kind of place where half the population are in need of care and the other half do the caring.

I think I and a scant few others will be the ones paying for it all.

The main thing was that of course he was not looking for this kind of 'career' and wasn't really suited for it. Dare I say it is more a female occupation, though not exclusively. Still, all the girls need some employment too. What courses were they going on - engineering? Quite possibly.

I kept saying to him to tell them he has A levels and is on course for the Army. Surely there's something for him more suitable and not some long-term Orwellian plan that will go nowhere.

You see, there are scant few shops left except supermarkets. Ten jobs are applied for by 1200 people (I heard something like this recently for Morrison's jobs). There are no factories left, or barely. I don't know much that is left really. Takeaway shops? Good luck with that one.

In January 2013 he was invited by the Army to go on a five-day induction and pre-sign-up course, at a barracks in Surrey (SW England). Of course he eagerly accepted. He had to visit the local Army Careers office to collect a travel warrant and details. The course was Monday to Friday inclusive. This precluded him from 'signing-on' at the Job Centre on the Wednesday. He informed the staff prior to this (two weeks prior at his previous signing). A note would be made on his file.

He attended the course, train travel either way and came home full of pride and with a bag of Army goodies. Some nice stuff actually, including a nice quality outdoor jacket and a holdall.

However on checking his bank account he soon realised he hadn't been 'paid' by the Benefit Office. To cut a long story short he never got the money. His personal 'advisor' hadn't made a note, the computer says 'No' and the automated mechanism doesn't pay. In addition, he was in breach of the rules and had been thrown off benefits.

This obviously disappointed him, but by way of 'honour' rather than the money. He couldn't quite understand it. Well of course he could, he's not completely unworldly-wise, but it was his first taste really of 'adult-world', interface with a large entity, be poorly served. He couldn't understand how someone couldn't do their job (or worse, lie to him) and then nothing happen in redress. He was told he could appeal, which he did, but to this day has heard nothing more. Obviously now he's forgotten it, it's 14 months ago.

Oh, entirely on his own steam, he actually e-mailed the benefit authorities a 'Completion of Course (British Army)' certificate that he had been given, on the evening of his return and then additionally took it in person, with some other stuff, as proof he was genuinely unavailable to sign-on, on the day in question. It could be said in fact, that his attendance on the course was in pursuit of gaining employment (in the Army of all places).

Well, it's not something to revolt about but it is a tale of dishonour and incompetence. But that's not all.

He was then invited to take part in a more serious three-day selection event in Edinburgh the following month - February 2013. Exactly the same thing happened. He missed signing-on, with perfect reason and was again stopped two weeks money. He proved his absence and that went nowhere. Meanwhile they were requiring that he continue going to meaningless events for jobs that don't exist.

By the way, on the five-Wednesday course at college, the course wasn't actually about 'social work' as such. It was about how to go about applying for a job in social work. One entire day was spent 'learning' how to fill in an application form. Another day consisted of making some kind of bright and fluffy construction out of card and coloured paper (I jest not) that was some kind of childish (or retarded) bauble designed to jolt a sub-adult brain into 'markers' and directives towards ............ getting a job in social care!

Honestly, bizarre stuff. Chilling even. What would I do in this situation? Starve?

There were other things afoot. I can't remember them all.

It sounds too bizarre. But in a slightly parallel universe, I would think TD himself might relate similar bizarre practises, in the health service or certainly in similar 'support' agencies and in fact in all arms of government I suppose.

He didn't attend the last two (of five) college days. Nothing happened. He wasn't bothered if it did. He wouldn't really be too worse off. Obviously in his case he wasn't claiming Housing Benefit, anything to do with children or any other top-up benefit. He did qualify for reduced cost of gym attendance and no doubt reduced-cost dental and similar services, should he need them.

It's come to my knowledge from others that absolute strict attendance at these 'courses' and other 'job-plan' procedures isn't necessary. To some degree (quite large I think) one can just walk out, or not turn up in the first place. Maybe go once or twice and then fade away. This is why:

The agencies in question are being paid for every 'claimant client' (of the govt) that they take on board. It isn't in their interests to have claimants removed from their books. To some degree it is a whole charade. Another way of looking at it is that claimants are costing the country twice, or thrice, and more besides. That's how I see it.

My nephew attended the Edinburgh selection, which included a strict medical and a work-out and assault-type course. He had to take PE equipment of his own with him.

He was subsequently informed (by text) that he had passed selection and was invited to take up a post as trainee recruit with the Royal Engineers in.......January 2014 - a whole eleven months later. So what to do in the meanwhile?

Due to length I will interrupt this tale here, and proceed later in a separate post.
Paul
 
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Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Elliott » 29 Mar 2014, 07:52

Very interesting. I can relate to a lot of what you're reporting. The "back to work" agencies seem to differ across the country. I know that in my area there are two companies competing for the contract, and God knows how much money they get for it.

One of the companies, Ingeus, has a 4% success rate (ie 4% of the people who go on its two-year course end up with a job). In itself, that isn't surprising, given that there are simply aren't many jobs going. What is surprising is that the claimants who don't go on this course actually have a greater chance of being employed after two years!

My experience of Ingeus, by the way, is that it's a mix between staff who really couldn't care less and are just doing everything by the numbers, and individuals who genuinely care and do what they can.

Another thing I recognise - maybe every British person will recognise - from your report is that everything is complicated nowadays. Even in the time that I've been an adult - 14 years - there have been noticeable changes in this. Everything is more bureaucratic, long-winded, tedious, restrictive and demeaning. A good example relates to my brother. A shy and defeated child at school, he blossomed as soon as he left it, getting his first job with an electrical firm even though he was a few months short of the legal working age of 16. This was in 1996 and would be utterly unthinkable nowadays. At the time, the foreman just whispered to him: "just keep quiet about your age" - and a working man, who has gone from strength to strength ever since, was born. Nowadays he certainly wouldn't get that job at 15; he'd have to endure some (potentially devastating) months of aimlessness post-school, and then he'd have to spend some years at college getting a pointless pseudo-academic certificate before he could finally apply for a job and begin his life - by which time... depression? Listlessness? Drugs? Welfare mindset? Given up and plumped for an easier option like shelf-stacking? Any or all of these things could befall an equivalent 15 year-old boy nowadays.
Elliott
 
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Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 22:32
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 29 Mar 2014, 09:22

Good information Elliott

It seems counter productive in attitude to be pointing the finger at these benefit-linked organisations. One is supposed to be pointing at the claimants and supporting these organisations and the government. They're doing all they can to help - aren't they?

And also, complaining like this seems a little Socialist and the words of a typical malcontent re 'Tory plots'. But this is what's happening and it's not at all to say that these organisations wouldn't be used by a Labour government. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they were the ones who set these things up, in which case the current government have merely failed to dismantle them.

There's also the view that why should the government be responsible for finding people jobs? Bu the flip-side is why then should the government (which is actually the taxpayers in this case) be paying people not to work? But also, too many jobs are for the government in some way. TD will mention exactly what proportion of people are actually dependent on the state - for either employment or benefits - or both! This is then redolent of a socialist-type of set-up. There's also the matter that the government should not be placing barriers and impediments to private employment and harassing employers as they are wont to do. The trouble is there are so many people working for the government in some way that much of what they do has to be make-work. A sinister result of this is that it leads to repression in all kinds of ways. Any observation of communist countries seems to bear this out.

I know from what you have said elsewhere Elliott that you have some experience of these back-to-work schemes and not all is derogatory. That's fair enough but after all - if they're being paid to operate (and they don't produce anything remember), then surely they should be absolutely fit for purpose and be delivering very good results. Except that they can't!

The area I'm describing is the densely populated and formerly industrial North West. The authorities are simply besieged by sheer numbers.

The story of your brother is a typical one. I was quite surprised this kind of thing happened as 'late' as 1996 but of course that is now 18 years ago. It's a similar tale to my description of casual labour (not that your brother's was casual) in 1979, when I got a temporary job cleaning windows. Imagine how different it was in 1979.

Aimlessness and pointless pseudo-academic occurrences. This is what's happening and whilst there are very many serious underclass (in attitude) now and very ill-educated people, there are still obviously better people or even 'middle-of-the road' people (in ability). These are great numbers of people that could and would (once) have gone on to some productivity and been generally socially acceptable. Aimlessness and a feeling they are engaged in pointlessness soon turns an attitude. If they feel (as most do) that this is being accompanied by lies and deceit and enforced by a degree of bullying, then it's an easy road to entrenched resentment and the beginning of a life of dissolution. It has to be said that many people are not capable (or interested) in picking apart the situation and seeing things more philosophically or in a more nuanced way. They may become cynical or distrusting but not in any ultimately educating or empowering way. They may as you say turn to drinking or drugs, or endless video-gaming in a parallel world of make-believe. To them, it's not different (but much more enjoyable) than the make-believe they experience in the real world.

That sounds a little melodramatic but there are skeins of this thinking all over. There are millions of people and this is their way of life.

I shall continue the tale below
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Elliott » 29 Mar 2014, 16:21

Paul wrote:complaining like this seems a little Socialist and the words of a typical malcontent re 'Tory plots'. But this is what's happening and it's not at all to say that these organisations wouldn't be used by a Labour government. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if they were the ones who set these things up, in which case the current government have merely failed to dismantle them.

There's no doubt this kind of thing greatly increased under New Labour but I'm pretty sure that it dates back to the Major era. As has been discussed elsewhere on this forum, the Major government can seem in retrospect like a prototype of New Labour.

On the other hand, I think outfits like Ingeus are inevitable mistakes in a country with a welfare state. It rapidly becomes "not enough" to merely give people dole money; the government has to be seen to be doing something about these people. A pointless bureaucratic placement scheme is a good solution since it will cost a fortune and therefore seem important, will create employment for all the people involved in it, and will make the government look responsible, even innovative and courageous, seizing the bull by the horns etc. Of course, it would also look, in advance, benign, as in "it can't do any harm. It can only help, right?" But the truth is, it ends up becoming its own procedure, and sapping the morale of the welfare claimant, such that, as I said, the results for getting back into work are actually better if the person is not put on such placements.

What I'm trying to say is that, if you have a welfare state, schemes like this are just going to happen, because nobody can think of a more efficient/humane way of helping dole claimants/stopping people from going on the dole.

There's also the view that why should the government be responsible for finding people jobs? But the flip-side is why then should the government (which is actually the taxpayers in this case) be paying people not to work?

I suppose the simple answer is: because we've made the decision that it should. The fact is, I don't know anybody who would want to return to a welfare-less society. Everything after that fact is messy and complex, but the fact itself is simple and stark. We want a welfare state, we just haven't worked out how to do it properly - assuming it can be done properly.

There's also the matter that the government should not be placing barriers and impediments to private employment and harassing employers as they are wont to do.

That's the bizarre thing. You'd think that the last thing a government in a capitalist country would do is make life difficult for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the like... but you know as well as anyone does that this is exactly what they've been doing, for decades now.

The trouble is there are so many people working for the government in some way that much of what they do has to be make-work. A sinister result of this is that it leads to repression in all kinds of ways. Any observation of communist countries seems to bear this out.

Yes, definitely. Apart from anything else, I think technology is one cause of this. When it becomes possible to record, chart and trend this or that thing, there is a tendency to collect the data just because it's possible - and then the slippery slope whereby every large business in the country is obsessively recording its employees' and customers' behaviour etc. The result is stagnation and a slavish devotion to procedure for its own sake - an environment which women are more comfortable with than men, I suspect. The slavish devotion to, and proliferation of, regulations is a separate blight from this one, but obviously feeds into it.

I know from what you have said elsewhere Elliott that you have some experience of these back-to-work schemes and not all is derogatory. That's fair enough but after all - if they're being paid to operate (and they don't produce anything remember), then surely they should be absolutely fit for purpose and be delivering very good results. Except that they can't!

The area I'm describing is the densely populated and formerly industrial North West. The authorities are simply besieged by sheer numbers.

I don't think it's just that the authorities are swamped. I think it's also that, as you indicate, "they can't". The welfare system we have could never be equipped to deal with the situation. And the situation is that huge, perhaps massive, numbers of people are no longer required in the economy. Things run themselves, in hardware and software. Unintelligent people, and increasingly even intelligent people, no longer have any part to play. This is why I think the Unconditional Basic Income is, assuming global stability continues in the next few decades, inevitable. It would solve all of the problems we're talking about in this thread. Traditional conservatives might hate it on principle, but, well, the world changes.

The story of your brother is a typical one. I was quite surprised this kind of thing happened as 'late' as 1996 but of course that is now 18 years ago. It's a similar tale to my description of casual labour (not that your brother's was casual) in 1979, when I got a temporary job cleaning windows. Imagine how different it was in 1979.

Yes, I really enjoyed (if that is quite the word) your account of window-cleaning in your town, and what its decline represents. As for my brother's experience, yes 1996 does seem very recent. Maybe he was among the very last British men who started their working lives in such a way?

Aimlessness and pointless pseudo-academic occurrences. This is what's happening and whilst there are very many serious underclass (in attitude) now and very ill-educated people, there are still obviously better people or even 'middle-of-the road' people (in ability). These are great numbers of people that could and would (once) have gone on to some productivity and been generally socially acceptable. Aimlessness and a feeling they are engaged in pointlessness soon turns an attitude. If they feel (as most do) that this is being accompanied by lies and deceit and enforced by a degree of bullying, then it's an easy road to entrenched resentment and the beginning of a life of dissolution. It has to be said that many people are not capable (or interested) in picking apart the situation and seeing things more philosophically or in a more nuanced way. They may become cynical or distrusting but not in any ultimately educating or empowering way. They may as you say turn to drinking or drugs, or endless video-gaming in a parallel world of make-believe. To them, it's not different (but much more enjoyable) than the make-believe they experience in the real world.

That last sentence is an excellent summation of what our current welfare system does to people, and how it seems to them. The welfare system we have is fragile and unsustainable, but it seems eternally powerful to the claimant, and thus all of the hoops he's made to jump through (which themselves cost lots of money to set up and monitor) seem dishonest and absurd.

I shall continue the tale below

I am looking forward to it. :)
Elliott
 
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Joined: 31 Jul 2011, 22:32
Location: Edinburgh

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Nathan » 29 Mar 2014, 18:43

Elliott wrote:
Yes, I really enjoyed (if that is quite the word) your account of window-cleaning in your town, and what its decline represents. As for my brother's experience, yes 1996 does seem very recent. Maybe he was among the very last British men who started their working lives in such a way?


I've got a bit to say about the topic of benefits myself, but before I do that I'll just say how surprised I am about that kind of thing happening so recently. My great-granddad signed up for the Army aged 17 in 1914 and they didn't care about his age, and my uncle passed his driving test on his 17th birthday (meaning he'd actually learnt to drive before he was of legal age, and meaning the process of applying for a licence was much quicker then) in the 1960s, but I'd always imagined the days when these things were free and easy had long gone before I got to that age.

The first job I ever had was at a restaurant when I was in my last year at school, in 2001-2. I went in and asked if there were any jobs available, and then they gave me the company (the restaurant was part of a chain) application form, which asked me the standard clichéd questions that really have nothing to do with anything like what skills would I bring to the position, what are my hobbies, what's been my greatest achievement, etc, then after I handed it in I heard nothing at all for six weeks, then I got called in for an interview, where the manager (a woman aged about 30) went over the answers I'd given, plus asked me what I was going to study at university and why, and so forth. I might be remembering it wrong, but I seem to recall the interview lasting up to half an hour. All this was for a part-time pot-washing job which paid minimum wage, which I think then was about £3.50 an hour.

Once I'd started, the manager insisted I took a ten-minute (or whatever the time was) break on an evening shift, because I was under 18 and the law said I had to have one, even though by the time I got back the dishes would inevitably have piled up and I'd just end up leaving ten minutes later than otherwise. After I'd been there a few weeks one of the bar staff left, so thinking that would be better than washing up I asked if I could do that instead, and have the new person take over my job: not possible, you have to be 18 to serve alcohol, or even to clear tables where alcohol has been served, and I was a month short. There was no scope at all for common sense or the manager using her own initiative - everything had to be done by the book.

I think the one way in which it was freer when I was a teenager was in getting served alcohol in pubs underage. I think I only got refused once - a couple of times I remember being asked my date of birth getting into nightclubs, and adding a year or two to my age and thinking the bouncers weren't really bothered either way, but I don't remember ever getting asked for ID. I perhaps looked a little older than I was, so I'd volunteer to get drinks for friends who obviously weren't old enough to drink - the bar staff must have known what was going on, but nobody seemed to care enough to stop it. As far as I'm aware, now it's normal to get asked even if you look up to 25, and to take ID with you on a night out at that age has become the accepted norm, and only certain kinds of ID are accepted - God knows how 16 and 17-year-olds get round it now.
Nathan
 
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Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 29 Mar 2014, 23:04

Elliott:

You may be correct about Major's government and these practises being pre-New Labour. I would hesitantly go further and say they had their roots in the privatisation practises of the Thatcher government. It may have been runaway privatisation and unintended consequences, but I'm being generous there. These things don't just happen. They have to be put into place.

To be honest I can barely remember anything about Major's administration and tenure. It was a bland era in many ways, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I can't really say it was 'big government' at all. I remember being able to just get along with things. Now whether there was a creeping economy and workforce, as it has blossomed into today is another matter. You're probably right.

When was Major elected? 1990? That's how little I remember. I was 27 and very busy and had two young children. I took hardly any notice of politics that I recall and it took little enough notice of me, which was fine. I didn't have time for it or too many grand ideas. Children have a very good system for reducing one to a kind of slave! Yes, very bland time. John Major was depicted, so I discovered, on the 'Spitting Image' cartoon show as the archetypal grey man who spent his time at home in blandness, always eating garden peas. Ha ha, I couldn't get a grasp of what was being alluded to here. I didn't watch much TV, even then and didn't see this for some time. I quite liked Major because he was bland but more so because he was a cricket devotee. Such can be the flippancy of the electorate.

I agree with what you say about these agencies and gov't attitudes. There is a degree of charade occurring, always, and to some degree you could also say this is linked to garnering popularity and the sheer, almost materialistic desire for votes. You can understand some of this mechanism as inevitable and you might even appreciate that sometimes the gov't is in between a rock and a hard place. That doesn't really answer any questions though. It all sounds like one is papering over the cracks and making excuses and mitigation for what is decline.

Really, what I'm also saying is it's a very poor business model. It's like establishing an entire new department to oversee one of your activities, that is bound to be unable to achieve its objectives. This in addition to the original activity costing you in the first place. And all for the sake of company image and getting customers through the door for other purposes. It's like a huge loss-leader. The government isn't a supermarket chain and people aren't mere goods.In addition it destroys morale. It's also that 'we' that are paying for it and seemingly twice or more, so it's right we have a say in it.

I agree that broadly speaking 'we' have decided to have a Welfare State. I'm not sure that everyone appreciated that 'we' have to pay for it.

In so far as 'we' did decide, how accurately can that view be supported? We didn't have a referendum of all the people. I'm additionally not sure that everyone did (or would) agree to have a WS, nor that nobody would like to get rid of it. I'm prepared to concede such people are likely a minority and so would be out-voted. Still, we wouldn't silence them would we, nor refuse to listen?

There's the additional factors that, at the time of its inception, nobody had any experience or benefit of hindsight at what 70 years of such a system might mean. Also, immediate post-war (and war-torn) Britain would have had a weary and almost broken resolve (socially), once the hard facts of life again swiftly descended, after the relief of peace. People were apt to make decisions that they may not, in better times have been apt to make. That's probably wishful thinking.

But the gov't of the day decided, not strictly 'we'. I accept that gov't achieved a landslide victory by way of 'our' votes, on such promises. What I'm saying is that 'we' and the government might be in rare accord. We are the government, and they become 'as us' and that's quite cosy and archetypal English. We're running things and it's all very Magna Carta.

When it comes to paying for it, 'we' then don't necessarily like the idea. Let 'the gov't' pay for it, totally relieving ourselves of the idea that we and the gov't are one and the same in many ways. Suddenly it's Us and Them. This is of course a main plank of Leftist hypocrisy. Let's not drone on about it, it's obvious.

Your point about technology and observation is valid and doubtless part of it. I was talking more about meaningless or restrictive programs in themselves (not computer programs). Regulations, laws and all kinds of interference. The make-work of endless gov't departments. Diversity Officers in local gov't is an example - and they're all doubtless restrictive totalitarians in spirit.

The 'Living Wage' as I have also heard stated. I agree it could well be foolhardy to be dogmatic about (against) these ideas. But it is inherently socialist in a way - or can (will?) be exploited in such a way. It also sounds utopian, and history seems to suggest this mythical status is just that - and doomed. For sure though, the world more or less is now too complex for very many people. If we are to raise the 3rd world to our level (sic) then the problem (if so it is) is magnified immensely. I'm almost sure that there are now, and forever (until Armageddon) too many people for the jobs that are available. A rising population and an increasing technology will yet magnify this ever further.

I'm not sure about post-scarcity. It could just as easily be severe scarcity - and War. I'm not sure about much. I think the main thing to remember is that we, as a species, don't necessarily handle great change too well - we are inherently conservative. We often only realise what to do (or what we should have done) in hindsight and then it may be too late. We can pontificate as much as we like today about how we should have avoided two world wars. What good is that? We can learn from it. Really?


Nathan:

Like you say, a process that would seem like you were embarking on an apprenticeship or occupying a fairly important position - but you were just being a pot-washer. And it's certainly even worse now. In this case though, it isn't the State, but nonetheless a large corporation. They are then like carbon-copies of a socialist state, in a private capacity.

The matter of under-18s working behind a bar has always been strictly legislated. It was like that in the 1970s and as far as I'm aware, before that. There will of course be some point past when this was not so and I can accept that rural inns may never have slavishly followed every letter of ALL the licensing laws, but as far as most pubs and other licensed premises goes, it was always quite strict on the serving of alcohol. Glass-collectors were another matter and I remember under-18s collecting glasses. I remember them more specifically because it has been said to me, more than once, by such a person - "I'm not allowed to serve you".

I hear that entry to premises is now quite strict in many ways. This ties in with Elliott's 'Observation State' and technology statement. But whilst there was none of this in the 1970s or 80s (I was 18 in 1981), there were quite regular random checks in licensed premises by a different force - the Police. Very real policemen, usually in pairs or more, would enter pubs, in uniform, from the cold outdoors ........ and everyone would go noticeably quieter! If there were under-age people drinking, they would be identified, and arrested. The landlord would be in trouble too. I don't recall much getting away with drinking aged 15 or less. Even at 16 or 17, one had to look old enough and many landlords were of the old school and readily grumpy. I remember being asked to produce ID in an off-license on a warm summer evening, buying two or three cans of beer. I was twenty years old. The shopkeeper was an Asian lady.

Good stories anyway.
Paul
 
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Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 30 Mar 2014, 05:52

It was February 2013 and my nephew was 'unemployed', but with a promise of a job - the Army - eleven months later.

As I said he was twice 'kicked off' benefits through no fault of his own. He actually complied with demands - look for work. I can't stop going on about this. It's the Army. Is this not the very type of thing the authorities should be acknowledging? It's very hard not to feel these people (the individual employees in this case) are being disrespectful, unpatriotic and just downright inefficient. They're being paid, not only wages but private company profits. Anyway, not to keep harping on about it. He had to re-apply on both occasions. To be fair, I think he was swiftly re-admitted without much trouble. He never received the 'back-pay' supposedly due, despite two (or maybe only one) cursory appeal(s). This equated to four weeks benefit. He was of course fortunate enough to have a home, not likely to starve and be funded in minor pursuits. Crucially, he isn't criminally minded.

However, sometime in January, he embarked upon driving lessons. His benefit allowance was covering this, admittedly.

Upon signing-on again, post Edinburgh, he embarked upon the main diet of courses, schemes and attendances. There's a lot of online work involved too now. Technology, as Elliott said above. The claimants have to do quite a bit of real time at a computer and click through websites (or one linked one @ dotGov) and have their own log-on page at a secure (we hope) site similar to those operated by HMRC for taxation purposes. Everyone has a log-in code and has to 'check-in' once per week (minimum I presume) and then prove that hours have been spent clickety-clicking around these job sites.

Nothing seems to come of this. Admittedly I don't know much about the content. But he had endless interviews (with his 'advisors') and was sent on schemes and they couldn't come up with a vacancy. I don't understand what the internet side of claiming represents. I do remember that some of the vacancies (singular ones) he mentioned were incongruously as far away as Leeds and the Midlands - which is 50 to 100 miles. Yet we know that these areas have huge unemployment themselves so what is going on? Some of the job links were broken or led to very specific vacancies that all required specific industry qualifications - quite possibly modern, Orwellian ones.

He was only 18, of no experience in the workplace, straight out of education, technically penniless and without transport of his own. Then of course his particular circumstances regarding the future. He just needed a local (ish) job, neither an apprenticeship, nor long-term 'career' position and would be able to do most everyday things.

Get a job with the local window-cleaner even? Spring was around the corner. You could stretch such a job till autumn and avoid the austerity of winter and that would be many months ticked off. But no, not any more.

He did try himself around local shops (now few), pubs and bars (fewer) and - not much else. As has been said a lot of establishments are now franchises or large entities in some form and one cannot just apply 'on the door', as of old, nor verbally enquire in any way including by telephone. It's all now 'Head Office' (or recruitment office) and online. Much of it in any case goes (or should go - should it?) through the authorities. They should at least be aware of these vacancies one can say. That's supermarket jobs and the ubiquitous burger franchises.

He's very good at IT stuff too. He built his own computer with all the latest spec' later that year. He's more or less self-taught (via the web itself too of course). He enquired at two or three local computer shops but to no avail. One gave him a faint hope of 'maybe' or 'call again later' and maybe he took this with less of a pinch of salt than he should have. However one shouldn't be entirely negative.

He mentioned it to the benefit authorities next time he was required to call. Suddenly they seemed 'all over it'. They wanted to know everything and he seemed to think they were quite belligerent about it. He was actually quite amused in a way and wondered what was wrong with them! At one point they 'demanded' that the application go through them. But there was no formal application as such, certainly no paperwork as yet. He had just done some leg-work and called in a few shops. 'On your bike' as Norman Tebbit once said. This has long been a tried and tested method of getting jobs.

He was quite stoical about this and said he told them he could easily handle it himself. He was told to call back and so he would. He hadn't even spoken to the 'boss'. They wanted to know when. Next week? Why not tomorrow? Why not in an hour? Is there some kind of deception occurring? Very soon he was made to feel, once again, like he was cheating. Was he going to get thrown off again? Better he had kept his mouth shut. Granted there may be people about who would invent stories to hopefully pacify the authorities, but actually - given how things are today, would not the seasoned campaigners just keep their mouths shut?

Because of the ineptitude with how they handle things and their seeming extremism and inability to sift through genuine cases as opposed to fabrication, the system is just generating cynicism and distrust., even among the genuine cases. It was quite illuminating to see my nephew 'grow up' to the fact of the injustices and general inefficiency possible in the adult world. Even the government. Especially the government. It was hard to explain this and evenly and in a broader sense, given that he is ultimately putting his trust in the military authorities of all people - and expecting they will be superbly efficient!

The benefit authorities wanted to know the name of the shop, the proprietor's name (he didn't have a clue), the address and phone number, etc. I then began imagining the shop proprietor being interrupted (possibly repeatedly) by the authorities in lieu of a vague offer he may not have been serious about (or aware of!). I'm terribly cynical I'm afraid. I put myself in that position. If I was contemplating the foolhardiness of employing someone, I would steer a wide berth away from the benefit agencies. It would be entirely private business transacted between myself and the applicant. The myriad of laws could come later. The application process would belong to me alone.

Or would it? Is that even legal now to transact so privately? What about diversity? Have I made attempts to offer the post to minorities? What about Gays? Transgenders? Feminists?

(That sample by the way is not in any kind of order, such as descending desirability....... for instance!)

One wonders why the agency might be so keen to control or 'get in on' a freelance application by a claimant, one discovered and conducted by he/she alone? Is there something in it for them? Maybe I'm being over-cynical.

That situation petered out, there was no job and matters continued. In May 2013 he passed his driving test and of course then the desire was upon him - a car.

In early June, the authorities found him a possible job! It was at a brand-new facility on the point of opening. A re-cycling plant. Apparently it's a ground-breaking process in some ways and huge. There is a similar plant in Leicester so I'm told, similarly new. Others using this process are already in Canada! He became quite informed about it. Nonetheless it is dangerous and smelly work. Horrible really, for anyone, let alone someone with A levels. At foreign plants of a similar nature, there have already been fatalities.

He couldn't refuse to apply and yet stay on benefits unpenalised. The benefit agency (I'm not sure which one of several) handled all the set up. He was then given the details. The application amounted to, or included, an Induction and Training course that would take a week. That was attendance at the site from 9am to about 4.30pm, mainly in a training room (classroom type) scenario. There was no pay for this, but welfare would continue to be paid that week.

Let's be fair and say this is itself fair enough. The claimant is being eased off the system by being paid (just a week) whilst technically not looking for work or being available for it. The company are being subsidised in a roundabout way by not having to pay wages for unproductive days of training. Much of the week included safety considerations, but also some company history, the process itself and whatever else was padded out into a week.

There will inevitably be some people who will immediately default into the malcontent's view that it is 'slavery', that they are attending work premises but not being paid the legal rate, that they are being made to 'work for their benefits'. A main problem is that the vociferous Left of all varieties would highlight and exacerbate these feelings.

This could include the media, though not in this particular case. It's well also to remember, at some point in this thread, how the media can (and have) depicted various, often extreme, sides of the whole arguments. This exaggerates feelings and plants ideas.

My nephew shrugged and got on with it. I suppose you could say he's not a Baby-Boomer and is in fact quite pragmatic. He may not have the experience to put it into words but he seemed to project an image of - 'this is 2013, not the cosy 1960s - this is how it is'.

He was one of about 45 similar applicants which surprised me. Who offers 45 jobs these days? It was however a new facility. In fact there were allegedly 25 jobs available. There were however about 45 claimants directed upon the course. I think they were all males but of varying ages up to about 50 years old. The intention was that about 20 would be weeded out.

Some people could barely read and write apparently. Others had various other 'challenging issues'. My nephew found it darkly amusing, especially the older cases. Some younger were inevitably underclass and maybe thuggish. He soon enough manged to shoehorn mention of the Army into his conversations. Still, one has to be wary.

At the end of the week, he was offered a job, along with 24 other applicants. He was asked to sign a contract. The conditions were 5 x 12-hour shifts, a total of 60 hours per week, for a wage of about £6.25 per hour. Not all great compared to of old and no mention of overtime pay. He was only 19 but there was no increase in pay for the older applicants. Is it just about minimum wage for an adult - which is possibly over 25 - or at least 21? It would be quite onerous for anyone aged over 40 but that didn't apply to him. He is very fit as I've said.

Besides, he couldn't refuse. He would be deemed to have turned down a job offer and thrown off benefits. So he signed. And furthermore, despite the hardship to come, he now saw a route to a car - and insurance. It was all fair enough. He could just knuckle down and work those remaining months of the year. He might afford a car in a couple of months.

While he was on the week training, it was his week (every second one) for signing-on at the Job Centre (Plus) on the Wednesday. The time appointed was about 2pm. Obviously he couldn't attend. The Job Centre immediately wanted to know why (he telephoned them). Can you believe they didn't know anything about this job and the training? And so they wanted to know more - from him. They seemed to have no mechanism or desire to find out internally. This is astonishing. They then demanded that he attend on the day in question. But how? They actually changed his time (not without some punitive-sounding sighs I suspect) to sometime between 4.30pm and 5pm, at which point they do of course close their doors for the day. He only finished the training day at 4.30pm and it was about 7 miles away. He was travelling on a bicycle. He managed to be excused at about 4pm and I went to collect him (and the bike) and gave him a lift back to the JC. We were still convinced he would be somehow deprived of a further week's welfare but this didn't happen. I don't think it did.

By this time he had had enough of them. He was glad to be rid of them -as one should of course. I'm more minded towards those who may not be as fortunately placed as he was. I'm not sure how they cope with stoppage of welfare payments. There's the matter of housing too. Anyone not still living with parents will automatically have housing benefit stopped (by computer) additional to the stoppage of weekly bank deposits. They are then immediately in rent or mortgage arrears. What if they have children?

We have tended to see and hear of the other side of the coin, where abuses on a mass scale are being perpetrated. Undoubtedly they are. I don't understand the two opposing extremes. It's bewildering.

So he began the job. All went well at first. He had to work a month in hand, or in his case about 20 days (due to the date he began). The company only paid wages on a set date of the month and that was 20 days hence. I'm not sure what would happen to a claimant who had to wait up to a month to be paid. I'm quite prepared however to agree they should just get on with it and sort out their affairs. It's unlikely anyone would be evicted or disconnected within a month and with proven employment, various agreements can be reached.

In the second week, some machinery (new) involved with the process, broke down and/or additionally had to be adjusted or inspected after the initial 'run-in'. He was not required to attend for two days. He didn't get paid for this absence of course. One of the days was made up when they told him, at short notice, that he needed to come in on Saturday. He wasn't very happy but complied. Again, this would be a little worse if one had a family of one's own. In the first month he did work about 20 days and was by that time, in receipt of most of it.

At this point he bought a car. There is no telling a 19 year old. And after all, and as he said himself, he had that year - passed selection for the Army; passed his driving test; got a job. He was very confident and on the crest of a wave somewhat (despite the nasty job). I couldn't help but agree. It would be churlish to decry his confidence or achievements. I ended up supporting him on the matter of the car, in the face of his tut-tutting father and my clucking Mother, one scowling at him, the other worrying like grandmothers do. So he signed for this car on a 12 month agreement and it amounted to £8000, though he got a good deal on the credit and then signed away another £2000 on a 12 month insurance policy, payable monthly. I stood back a little and noted the minor furore with amusement.

The job proceeded for maybe another week or two. This may have been early August. There may have been another odd day where he wasn't required to attend. Then his non-requirement began to increase. On one week he only worked one day. This then extended over two or three weeks and the situation became somewhat farcical. Initially he would be telephoned and told not to attend work. Then this subsided to texts. Then - wait for it - he was instructed to ring them each day to ask if he was required!

I only gained this knowledge in fragmentary fashion. I didn't necessarily see him or hear of his plight for days on end. He spent a lot of time at my Mother's however (he gets cossetted there), but I don't go there every day. Nonetheless I saw a lot of him.

Once or twice he was contacted and told he could attend, but it would have to be the night shift. I'm not sure he could refuse and given the staccato nature of the work, it might be foolhardy to do so. Once, he was contacted (text) and told to attend that evening for a night-shift and that began in about 45 minutes time. He was at my Mother's house, sat down eating a meal. I know this is true because I was there at the time. He had to abandon the meal and rush off.

That's not to say I haven't done similar things and even gone without food for foolish lengths of time. Sometimes, back in my late twenties I used to forget when I had last eaten and have to ponder it. This when you suddenly realise how hungry one is. One may have gone two or three days existing on mere tea and inherent energy. I'm not sure about doing that now though or dashing about whilst eating.

During all this time he was still going to the gym about 3 times per week. Goodness me. He's not large, but lean and fit.

Upon thinking about his plight more and moreover that of potential others (with greater responsibilities) I suddenly was aware of - actually my Mother alerted me to it - the infamous 'zero-hours contracts' now endemic in the UK. And of course this is what he had been required to sign. Also of course, I have no experience of this kind of thing.

But what a plight to be in. He had a job, but one that didn't require him and so paid little or no wages. He couldn't resign and just sign on Benefits. He would be deemed to have deliberately left a job - and they would say for no good reason! He couldn't sign on via the basis of no money. He cannot enter that system - he has a job. What a ridiculous and chilling quandary this is. It's like you have been shoe-horned off the system, somewhat deceitfully, and once off it, cannot get back on. Meanwhile you have no money at all. Again, I don't understand this, or how it is working out. Mostly, what about the people with homes and families?

Here's the worst bit. By the time a third week of no employment had occurred, he discovered that the company had in fact received a further 25 claimants from the benefit agency who were now undergoing a non-paid week's training course, just as he had done!

At this point he resigned. This was all very shocking but he wasn't really worse off and (psychologically as much as anything) he was disentangled from the whole sorry affair. I'm not sure what other people might have done, or might yet do.

He sold his computer and also actually did a bit of innovative 'ebay' trading which gained him about £300. He may cut it fine but he calculated he could eke out the rest of the year, pay his obligations and scuttle off into the Army and away from this madness. What could we say?

At this point his father had to step in and sort him out some employment. My Mother was instrumental in much of this additionally. It cost my brother about £625 to send him on a course to 'train him' to the standard required (certificated) by the agency (sigh) who were handling the sub-contracts for a well known retail giant. To be fair (if we must) another person was included on this course, the price being the same either way. My brother has to keep attending them too and he's running a company himself (in partnership) and has 29 years experience in the trade, including one of the last formal apprenticeships. Of course the partners have to additionally attend. New contract, new course, new invoice. A large one. Somebody has to pay for all these administrators.

Once one gets to December one can generally wind down and consider it Christmas. Certainly aged nineteen one can in many cases. My nephew camped at my Mother's house and stayed the duration. He likes it there. My brother did give him about 30 days work, at a decent rate, over the remainder of the year.

On the 12th January he reported to the Army and there he is now. And it's a good job too. There's nothing here for him. He would of course be accommodated by the family but not everyone has that possibility. Last week he was running over big hills in a remote location and texted me later to say he was soaked to the bone, including all clothing - and weapon! It sounds far better than the recycling plant.

He found out, about two weeks after he resigned that job that a young chap (he remembered him) working there had an accident which included breaking both legs and a hip (and maybe more). There was also something about the ownership of the company suddenly (or surprisingly) being transfered to somewhere Oriental. This is surely another story.

Sorry for the length and the rambling style.
Paul
 
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Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Gavin » 30 Mar 2014, 11:05

I am late to this topic, but here's a post I feel I should make.

Is there not the possibility that long term (or short term) benefits claimants can fall into the trap of blaming "the system", when in fact they should ignore "the system" as much as possible, and they have a duty to show industriousness in finding or making work to cover their own costs?

It is possible that taxpayers who do work (many not enjoying their jobs) might resent funding people who deliberately deceive the authorities and use the money they are given to fund their own interests, whatever they may be. The money is surely given on the understanding that, aside from eating, it's used 100% to fund an effort to be employable in any way whatsoever. As readers probably know, I've done dozens of jobs, from digging gardens to cheque processing (through the night), to cycling miles to mend people's computers. If people will just do a job or try to find one, it's funny how one thing can lead to another.

I can remember times being hard when I left school. Nobody knew what they were going to do - I had no idea. I changed my mind a few times. I thought I'd go into advertising because it was supposedly creative and lucrative, but then I found it to be superficial and ethically repellent (and of course it was difficult to get into). I'm still in it, in a way, but I found truth in programming, by way of a degree in philosophy. Anyway, I signed on too for a few months in the early days, but it was strategic to fill a gap and I felt quite ashamed about it.

Admittedly there are fewer shop jobs now, but there are presumably more warehouse jobs in Amazon's massive warehouses, and I know for a fact there is strong demand for programmers - for people who are interested in working with computers.

I know society has changed and people are facing different odds due to mass unskilled, low-wage, immigration. I know people can fall into a particular mindset, too, but I still believe in ultimate personal responsibility and that the attitude to life must be standing on one's own two feet and trying to make oneself of value to society in virtually any way possible, as much as possible. In my opinion that's the moral course and the most healthy course for both individuals and society as a whole.

I always ignored "the system", finding it quite useless, and I continue to do that as much as possible today. Good luck to any out there, anyway.
Gavin
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Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 26 Apr 2014, 23:00

I've been busy and doing a fair bit of pondering too, so apologies for the late reply on this ......... presuming I was expected to reply.

Is there not the possibility that long term (or short term) benefits claimants can fall into the trap of blaming "the system", when in fact they should ignore "the system" as much as possible, and they have a duty to show industriousness in finding or making work to cover their own costs?


I tend to agree with that for the most part but in the story of my nephew, above, he didn't do anything wrong in what was asked of him. In fact he shunned claiming any benefits despite being legally entitled to them, for months after that entitlement began. I know you could say 'legally entitled' is not the same as 'morally entitled', but that argument could be applied to everyone working who attempts to legally avoid taxation, or take advantage of other schemes and methods in an attempt to live easier. It's hardly likely that anyone is without sin enough to be casting stones on this basis.

It was only the enforced wait (eleven months) in joining the Army that caused my nephew to become penniless. If the military could have enlisted him a day after he passed selection, he would have been there and the issue of benefits would never have arisen. As it was, and as I explained, he needed some money of his own, but in addition he expected to avail himself of the Job Centre's facilities for getting a job in any case.

And so they did, eventually, and he took the job and signed off benefits. This was not before they had twice penalised him by stopping his benefit, and as I also explained, because he had attended two Army selection procedures that were necessary to his application. The way the authorities did this was both incompetent and underhand, and in no way would he be the worst and so deserving case - deserving of punishment. There are specific conditions that are accepted as a reason for non-attendance and of course going for an interview is one of them - the paramount exception one would think and with a military application even more so.

Would the authorities stop the benefits to a Muslim if he claimed he was unable to sign-on or attend an interview because of some praying requirement or religious festival - or even a 'duty' to visit a leafy English town in order to call for jihad against British soldiers? Well maybe they would with the latter (though one cannot be sure) but I very much doubt with the former.

Of course two wrongs don't make a right but I'm sure you can see my point.

The authorities set the rules, expect compliance and then fail to comply with those rules themselves. This may be all very well and we may smile secretly at this approach, but in fact it is ignoble and corrupt and is only likely to foment deeper rebellion and intransigence among claimants.

The job he took turned out to be a zero-hours contract job (not the fault of the benefit authorities I know) and he ended up sat at home as virtually penniless as he was originally. After about three weeks of this he resigned and found some employment with the family.

Not everyone can do this, not everyone has an escape clause (the military) as he did and some people are far less moral under duress than he would have been. That's the point I was trying to make. The economy and the labour market is seriously broken. I can't see that it will repair. There is trouble ahead.

It is possible that taxpayers who do work (many not enjoying their jobs) might resent funding people who deliberately deceive the authorities and use the money they are given to fund their own interests, whatever they may be. The money is surely given on the understanding that, aside from eating, it's used 100% to fund an effort to be employable in any way whatsoever.


I'm not sure it's correct to say that claimants are deceiving the authorities by using the money as they see fit. There is nothing in law that compels them to spend money in a certain way. I'm not sure it would be a wholesome law to have should such measures be taken. One can easily see where that line of legality might lead.

Of course we expect claimants to purchase food and essentials and pay their bills foremost. I'm not sure how they do achieve that, even if they have no further purchases at all. But of course we do know that benefit claimants do such things as smoke tobacco (and other things), eat and drink junk and worse. It's correct and natural to comment upon this.

In the event you were replying specifically to the case I mentioned, then what is wrong with having a driving lesson once a week and funding it via a benefit receipt? It's self-improvement and a definite mechanism for assisting with employment prospects. In addition it is trade for the driving instructor. My nephew was lucky in that he still had a rent-free home and was supplied with the essentials - but it is his family after all. He wasn't claiming any housing benefit, child support or any of the other 'add-ons' common to claimants. I think he got about sixty-odd pounds per week (because he's under 21) and ploughed it all back into the economy one could say.

Anyway enough of all that. It's over. My nephew 'passed out', after fourteen weeks basic training, on Good Friday last week and is now officially a soldier. He has had nine days leave and must report back to barracks tomorrow for phase two of training. This week he signed the papers for the 'Queen's Shilling' for a further twenty-two years - to our astonishment. He really likes it and aims to be a soldier beyond the age of forty.

Which really means in effect that we, the taxpayers, are committed to funding him in excess of two decades and at a rate considerably above benefits. Not that I disagree.
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Nathan » 11 Jun 2014, 22:23

From an article about a single mother and her three children trashing their home, knowing that they had been given a new one and they would never be made to pay for the damage they had caused:

'The thing is that the government pay all their rent for them and the social services provide them with furniture once they have moved in. They haven’t worked hard for anything in the house so they have no respect for it.

'My last tenants smashed up a load of furniture they’d got from social services. It cost me £1,000 to take it to the tip.

'They think nothing of trashing the place because they know the council will provide them with a new house and new furniture'


I actually didn't know that you could claim for furniture. I find that particularly grating, considering I've spent over a thousand pounds on new furniture so far this year. With some of these outrageous claims, however permissible under the law they may be, how it is that the clerks processing them who have to work for a living don't just "lose" the paperwork?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... house.html
Nathan
 
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Joined: 08 Dec 2012, 17:58

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 17 Sep 2014, 00:03

I've mentioned people I know who are jobless and of some of the things they are now experiencing in respect of dealing with the benefit agencies.

I can't find the exact thread in which I mentioned it a few weeks ago, but one chap I know was instructed back then that he had to begin regularly attending a government facility in order to continue claiming. He's a single (by habitation) male of 50 years of age and so is claiming standard Jobseeker's Allowance (or whatever it's now called), housing rent and rebated Council Tax. He's not a complete 'bum' and will have worked the majority percentage of his adult years. I know he worked for long years in a dairy supply depot and has had jobs additionally in the building trade and similar crafts. He has however been unemployed now for about six years and is obviously in somewhat of a rut. He is and always has been very interested in computers and associated technology and has been voluntarily to college for a few (two or three?) years of part-time study in recent years. I think this was as much for something to do and, (when strictures were less), a means of displaying some intent to the authorities as well as being of interest to him.

From what I gather and what he's told me he is more or less flat broke and living daily from hand to mouth. He doesn't own a vehicle any more, though does have a cell phone, and a TV and internet. And a lady friend. It seems to me to be very difficult for him.

I gather he's been required to attend every Friday now for several weeks and for several hours at a time. He gets the travel expenses reimbursed on the day (at the day's end) but must find the travel fares first himself. Then all fare tickets must be kept and produced exactly, otherwise there is no means of reimbursement. Getting a lift off someone (and paying them a nominal amount for fuel) is no good because such 'unofficial' travel won't be reimbursed. It has to be bus or train. I doubt that a taxi would be reimbursed, or at least not in these parts. Maybe if you're a foreigner in a city it would be no problem - except I doubt they are required to attend these schemes anyway.

It all seems a bit pettifogging this travel expense scheme, but I suppose it has to be fairly rigid else the system would be open to abuses. Still, it seems to me that these travel costs for everyone are racking up to a small fortune. The journey he's required to make is about six miles each way and he travels I think by bus.

As of Monday coming (22nd Sept), he has to begin a 30 hour week working in a facility (government run) doing something with computers. Second-hand computers have been mentioned, possibly ex office and ex-school machines. He won't get paid for this work, other than the receipt of the same benefits he currently receives. He will however receive travel expenses daily (or maybe he will be allowed to get a weekly 'saver' ticket and be reimbursed for that).

He seems quite stoical about it and realises it would be disaster for him to refuse. He's hoping there is some silver lining attached by way of a real job somewhere (as an offshoot but not 'down the line' at this place), by way of 'perks' and any hidden extras he can uncover. He tells me there is a free canteen (dining area) on the premises so he will additionally be fed and watered.

Prior to this, at the place he's been going to on Fridays, there has been no facility at all for food. There has also been no facility for making tea or coffee. They aren't allowed a kettle because of ......... Health and Safety!

The first time he attended he spent what little money he had on the bus fares and then when he asked for the money back at lunch-time, he was refused. Reimbursement only occurs at the day's end. People may 'abscond' over the lunch-break if they had no reason to return (except there would be benefit sanction) so bus fares are only reimbursed when the day is done. On this first occasion this resulted in him going without food all day and no cups of tea didn't help matters for him.

I know it's not the end of the world but the whole set-up sounds terrifyingly Orwellian to me. I can just imagine the type of scene and the people with whom one is forced to treat. Oh well.... This 'full-time' place seems better appointed.

I'm not sure how long he has to attend this new 'job'. More than one or two weeks for sure, though surely not ad infinitum. Probably several months, maybe six months. I'm not sure how many people like him will be there. At the same facility there is another section where he seems to think they are involved with building or repairing bicycles. Elsewhere there is something to do with furniture occurring.

One mustn't be cynical. I realise that in some ways there will be positives. It gets people into doing things and 'out of the house'. It may set them on a road to better things. But ...... these are not real jobs. It's all make-work. I would suspect that the entire set-up has cost a great deal of money and will continue to cost in relation to staff, buildings, equipment and supplies. I'm not confident that the positives outweigh the costs and the transitory nature of the thing for each individual concerned.

But, what else to do? The system seems to me to be like putting another finger in another hole in the dyke and hoping to hold on as long as possible. It might not be rapid decline (that's already well apace) but it's no measure of advancement either. It's not any kind of business where any significant (or any) profit will be being made. It's like a vast loss-leader.

It seems that hardly anyone at all in the public sector or in the government has any idea of how to run any kind of business. Why then are they 'running', if such it can be called, the country?
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.

Re: Claiming Benefits

Postby Paul » 17 Sep 2014, 22:50

Nathan wrote:
I actually didn't know that you could claim for furniture. I find that particularly grating, considering I've spent over a thousand pounds on new furniture so far this year. With some of these outrageous claims, however permissible under the law they may be, how it is that the clerks processing them who have to work for a living don't just "lose" the paperwork?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... house.html


Nathan, that's been available and occurring for time immemorial. at least all my adult life and inevitably longer. I turned 18 in 1981.

There is (or has been) an entire sub-industry of seedy second-hand shops which deal almost exclusively in used furniture. They apparently do very well indeed selling 'white goods'. They probably pay next to nothing (or remove for free) used cookers, washing machines, etc. I think many of them are in the house clearance business too and will be removing stuff from the homes of the deceased. Then they sell it on to claimants with their endless new flats, houses and apartments. Some people will have moved home (all freely provided) up to maybe a dozen times in an adult life, mainly because of a turbulent lifestyle. On every occasion you can bet they will have qualified for a furniture grant.

Once upon a time people also qualified for decorating grants, although only for Council properties and the money was paid by the Council to the tenant in the form of a cheque. Not a lot, a basic amount per room but every room would count and include hallways and stairways. I think that went by the wayside some years ago by virtue of Council cutbacks.

If you're a foreigner you will qualify for a TV and a telephone and maybe a vehicle too. Probably brand new ones though! When my sister lived near Stroud for several years she knew of a situation where immigrants were receiving vouchers to be used to purchase curtains, bed linen and other soft furnishings. They were for decent quality stores such as Next and Marks & Spencers.

Meanwhile the white underclass do their shopping at a second-hand shop located in a seedy side-street. I'm not sure how much of this second-hand furniture business has been displaced by the likes of eBay and other internet trading. But maybe not where DSS grants are concerned. The benefit agencies always tend to play by certain rules, whereby they can conduct checks. Casual eBay trading may not furnish suitable proof. The old-time second-hand shop is more easily checked and the proprietors will tend to have a long, unspoken agreement with and tacit approval from the DSS.

For their part I tend not to disapprove of the second-hand shops although they always seem dingy and seedy and one would never buy anything there that was to be vaguely linked to foodstuff. Or the bathroom. Or the bedroom. But at least they are trading in a business and turning a profit and paying their way. They are also supplying a demand. They are also now, in addition, one of the last bastions of traditional Britishness in the town centres, along with the charity shops staffed by kindly old ladies with liberal tendencies. The rest are just foreign takeaways or derelict and closed premises.
Paul
 
Posts: 512
Joined: 02 Aug 2011, 11:37
Location: Lancashire, England.


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