Time to change the story on benefits

A recurring issue in the news throughout this government’s time in office, and to be fair, in the last one too , is what welfare benefits we pay and  to whom. There’s a repeated theme reflected not only in government but to a largeBenefits extent in the wider community  that somehow we are paying far too much to far too many people. This argument has gathered pace to the extent that the word “benefits” has become associated with “scroungers” and people who aren’t quite pulling their weight.

I, as much as anyone else, think we all have a  responsibility to contribute and pay our own way if we can. It’s part of being a responsible citizen. If we can, we should contribute, not only in terms of paying tax, but also in terms of being a positive member of our community. Society just wouldn’t work otherwise.

However I have a real problem with the increasing overlay of negative spin. Somehow over the last few years, we’ve got to a position where instead of being proud of they way we have chosen to operate as a society and the fact that we think it’s important to  support vulnerable people ,  there is a perception that people in receipt of benefits are in some way lazy, not trying hard enough, or  not contributing.

In actual fact, the statistics are vastly different from what most people think. A report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies in late 2012 reveals only 2.57% of the benefits budget goes on out of work benefits, and 15.55% goes on disability and sickness benefits. For 2011-12 it is estimated that  only 0.8% of total benefit expenditure a result of fraudulent claims.

The misconceptions and stigmatization, for the vast majority of people, this does them, and their contribution to society, a huge disservice.

In a time of recession it’s difficult for anyone to get a job, and even more so for those with a disability or caring responsibility. And people who are carers are of course contributing massively – although Carers Allowance, even for those able to claim it, is sadly inadequate and there are many more with significant caring roles  who can’t claim it.

Many people don’t even claim the benefits they are actually entitled to – either because they don’t know they are entitled, because the process is too complicated, or they feel they shouldn’t. No-one should feel embarrassed to claim a benefit they are entitled to, in the same way as no-one  should feel embarrassed for using an NHS service or sending their child to the local school.  We all contribute so that everyone can have a decent quality of life . That’s what our post-war settlement was all about. William Beveridge, in 1942 suggested that those of us who can, should pay national insurance so that people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed could have a minimum standard of living “below which no one should be allowed to fall”.

This was forward thinking for its time. The principles, 70 years later , should remain exactly  the same.

Carers Trust has joined a campaign called Who Benefits?  because we need to change the debate and challenge this negative narrative that paints people as indolent for claiming what is rightly due to them, if their circumstances  are such that they need it. I have always been proud to live in a society which believes you can make your contribution in many ways, and that we should never leave  anyone who is doing the best they can without the means to a decent  quality of  life.  I hope you the same. Over the next year, in the run up to the election, write to your MP and tell them that we  ALL  benefit from fit-for-purpose benefits system.


October 21, 2013 - Posted by | Benefits


  1. I have been a CARER for over 26 years and nowadays I have been made to feel as the government and press have put it “a burden on the taxpayer ”
    I am now 55 years old I have diabetes and am suffering from ” clinical depression”, for which I have had counselling and I am on medication to help.
    To be honest I feel tired – fed up and that somehow this country and its leaders feel that they and the nation would be better off if they did not have to pay any benefits at all.

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | October 21, 2013 | Reply

  2. I have been a carer for 26 years and now aged 54 years-diabetic – clinically depressed and on medication. Now the government and the nation think I and my disabled wife a ” burden on the taxpayer” .
    This Christmas while the rest of this country celebrates I will not have any money to buy any presents for any one.

    Tomorrow November 1st is our 34 wedding anniversary, I have just about scrapped together to buy my wife a gift and take her out for a meal.

    I do not know what the future hold for us, but I am depressed anxious and fearful about what lays ahead for me and my wife , and all other disabled people and there unpaid CARERS.

    Comment by Taras kurylak | October 31, 2013 | Reply

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