The three great lies.
Of course I’ll still love you in the morning.
The cheque is in the post.
I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.
There’s been a bit of a fuss about food banks and why people have to rely on them. But two figures interested me. 34% of food bank clients are ‘experiencing benefits delay’ and 19% need help because they are ‘experiencing changes to their benefits.’
Now I talked to a professional who has to deal with people who are struggling to cope with the benefit system and she just sighed. When I gave her the 34% figure she just said, “They’ll have been ‘sanctioned’.” I asked what that meant and apparently the normal situation is that someone misses an appointment and they are ‘sanctioned’. They don’t get two weeks money. But actually when they turn up to ‘sign on’ or whatever they call it now in two weeks time, they still don’t get money for another fortnight, so a fortnight’s sanction means that you have a month without money. The problem was that even for a professional like her there seems to be no way of getting anything changed, even if the appointment was missed for good reason. Indeed she was talking to a lad who was homeless and looking for accommodation. His landlord had asked him to leave because the rent hadn’t been paid for the last two weeks. Now he has no money, and no one in the office that would pay the rent was available to talk to him. Basically the suspicion is that he’d been asked for more information, hadn’t understood the form and not filled it in properly so they’d just stopped his money. My friend did comment that she picks up a lot of those forms and fills them in for people and she finds them difficult.
Let’s get this straight. We have a bureaucratic system that sends out complicated documentation to people who have complex and chaotic lifestyles and if they don’t cross every t and dot every i just so, then the money is stopped.
Now there’s a lot of fuss about lack of ‘care’ in hospitals. But people are incensed about this because respectable and well paid middle ranking members of the bureaucracy do end up in hospital.
But neither our chattering classes nor our bureaucrats ever expect to end up at the bottom of the heap on benefit, so the total lack of care shown at that level worries them not at all.
I was talking to people, round and about, and it strikes me that a little bit of care would in fact go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just someone sort of guiding their hands a bit. I remember that one local firm used to have a system where you could put so much a week out of your pay packet into a saving fund. Once it reached a maximum amount, the company paid it out, but you could draw it out at any time. You got building society interest rate and the company borrowed money cheaper than going to the banks so everyone gained. I know a lot of lads who bought their first motorbike or car with cash because of this policy. It’s hardly new, even the Roman army used to keep a proportion of soldiers’ pay back in a compulsory savings account which they got when they were discharged.
But who does help these young people? I know one chap who farmed on the edge of town and a lot of lads would turn up to ‘help’. Once they got useful he used to pay them a nominal amount, which would grow into a proper sum when they actually earned it. Because they were lads who weren’t afraid of work, they pretty soon got real jobs working for highways maintenance firms and suchlike, but would still drop in to help at weekends.
Anyway, initially he’d just given the lads money, but they would ask him to look after it for them. As one said, “If my mother knows I’ve got this, she’ll just spend it on the pop.” So on their kitchen window there was a row of biscuit tins, each with a name on, and the lad could put his money in his jar if he wanted.
Now then, on Friday night he and his wife had been working late, and it was about 9pm when they finished and still hadn’t had their evening meal. So quite literally he emptied his wallet onto the kitchen table, she emptied her purse, and when they added the contents of the kiddies piggybank there was enough for a couple of takeaway pizzas. Agricultural was pretty grim back in the decade between 1995 and 2005.
Next day one of the lads dropped round and after chatting said, “Oh I thought I’d get some money out of my tin.” He had counted out over £200 before they stopped him. “How much have you got there?”
“Oh,” he said. “About £1200.” He’d been putting his pay packets in from his day job, not just his weekend farm work!
Three days later the lady of the house had corralled the owners of the biscuit tins and had taken them, and their tins, into town. She marched them into the building society and stood over them as they started accounts and put the money into them.
Young people always tend to have chaotic lives. It’s part of what being young is about. They don’t need bureaucracy, just someone who will care for them a bit when they need it and stand over them with a stick when they need that.