From Michael Blastland’s BBC column……..

Are the pips squeaking yet?


But I see no volunteers. Instead, the one collective effort on view is to duck
– and point elsewhere. The “middle” points at the “scroungers” at the ‘bottom’. The
“bottom” points to the broader shoulders higher up. Both point to the “top”. And
the “top” says it pays for everything already and should get something back.

I would certainly agree with the point that people (including me) invariably
direct their index fingers at others claiming that they should be penalised more but,
harking back to one of my previous posts, I genuinely do not see why people who
are ill (and more or less deemed ‘unemployable’ by many, many employers) should have
some if not all of their £5,000 per year or thereabouts being taken away whilst people
who earn over £44,000 by virtue of being healthy and in work get £20+ per week
for what is usually a lifestyle choice and a choice that many who are not in that position
would love to have, do not have a proportionally meagre sum taken away.

They will still be banking far more money than those on sickness benefits in the vast
majority of cases.

Genuinely ill people do not choose to be ill, Gideon.
Although I understand that it is always more convenient to make cuts when
the people you are cutting against are demonised, of course.

The, and in many ways deliberately, ignorant views of many that those on sickness
benefits are scroungers (views quite often held by the so-called “middle classes”
as Mr. Blastland has indicated), has at least led in part to flawed policy and certainly
fatally flawed execution of policy in welfare by successive governments obsessed with
capturing “middle England”; you lose middle England, you lose power.

I use the word “ignorant” because, and I’d bet you an awful lot of money on this
(if I had it), most of the residents of middle England have never had to undergo
any DWP ‘fit for work’ tests.

Well I have.
A few times.

The testing that the DWP use to determine whether somebody is capable of working
or not is fatally and *deliberately* flawed. It is, and never was, designed to sort out
the wheat from the proverbial chaff. It is designed in such a way that you almost have
to be at death’s door to be deemed unfit for work. As a result, the many who are
ill but who are deemed well enough to go back to work either win their appeal
or are pushed back into a workplace in which no sane employer will employ

They end up back on sickness benefits, sometimes even more unhealthy than they
were before the nonsense started, probably increasing their reliance on…you’ve
guessed it.

What the current, ridiculous system certainly does do is to keep some who are
already in employment in their jobs – DWP staff and “doctors” (I really will use the term
rather loosely here) employed to carry out these self-serving tests are particular
winners in this farce.

What successive governments have been very good at is increasing, quite frankly,
the crapness quotient of sickness benefit testing. Nobody is saying that people on
sickness benefits shouldn’t be tested to see if they are able or unable to go back to
work but the deliberate low-bar setting and lack of medicine in the tests
(yes, good old fashioned “science” – remember that?) that the DWP has used for one
and a half decades has, I strongly believe, created a false economy.

*If* on the other hand a far more intelligent, discriminating test was to be devised, it
wouldn’t surprise me at all that there would be winners all round.

Unless you work for the DWP or are a doctor, of course.

No politician is going to say “we’ve got it all wrong” because it would be political suicide
if one did so I fear a further forced attempt at fitting a square peg into a round hole.
What you do get from politicians however is the totally disingenuous talk of them trying
to help people on benefit out of poverty. That sounds so much better than taking away
money from people who are ill and sending them back into the dole queue where
nobody in their right mind will employ them.

New Labour were appalling when it came to sickness benefits, he said modestly,
and I don’t think that Ed with his unphotogenic face and speech impediment
is going to do any better (he’s already bleating about “middle incomes” being
hit – sound familiar?).

Things would probably be a touch better if governments listened a bit less to
groups of people that have them by the balls.

Let’s see what this new lot do.
My hopes are not high.


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