Benefits Britain

Benefits Britain

Some of you might have stumbled upon the so-named Channel 4 documentary which attracted a lot of controversy and sparked a debate surrounding the social security system in the UK. I’m also sure that all those who have, are, for one reason or another, outraged by it. Let’s, for a start, set a few facts

2ccef975-baa4-4c48-80c0-68d70c7b2aa9_625x352Some of you might have stumbled upon the so-named Channel 4 documentary which attracted a lot of controversy and sparked a debate surrounding the social security system in the UK. I’m also sure that all those who have, are, for one reason or another, outraged by it.

Let’s, for a start, set a few facts straight. The provisions for the Welfare State in the UK take by far the largest percent of budgetary expenses sitting at 23%. According to the Hansard parliamentary report, that is the equivalent of each taxpayer paying £9.06 a day towards welfare and health which contrasts starkly the £0.08 contribution to the EU budget despite the latter causing much uproar as of recent. Excluding state pensions, biggest expenditure is accrued to housing benefits (11%), disability support (11%) and income support including jobseekers’ allowance/ unemployment benefit (8%). This is not sustainable.

Saying so is not to criticise the concept of the Welfare State altogether. Quite the contrary, a system of social security that is efficient and sustainable would be one that yields the largest advantage to the British population. Unfortunately, any such development can be considered vivid imagination from the viewpoint of what is currently in place. Bluntly put, to bear by fruits we need to cut the slack first. Why?

Firstly, the current framework was designed and put in place in the end of the 19th century when the societal demographic structure was quite different. However given the change in demographics of lower birth rates and higher life expectancy, the reduced tax revenue from the increasingly retired ageing population is no longer sufficient to cover the existing welfare state or sustainable to finance it in the longer term.

That in turn that means that the quality, as well as quantity of services available will continue diminishing into a downward spiral at the extreme end of which the end consumer, the British population in need, will suffer not being able to afford treating illness or retirement or receiving adequate support. Secondly, there is a lack of efficiency and monitoring. The bureaucratic apparatus in charge of assigning benefits slows the process down significantly. This on one hand undoubtedly deters some potential beneficiaries which defeats the purpose of running the Welfare State. On the other hand, it increases the costs of running the system. Moreover, it blurs responsibility and makes for ineffective monitoring. The latter is backed up by data showing a disgusting £1.2bn lost in benefit fraud.

Lastly, the framework is remarkably generous but in a misguided way. The newly introduced benefits cap ensures that a single adult living on their own cannot receive more than £350 a week or £8.75 per hour in comparison to the minimum wage of £6.50 based on a 40-hour long working week. UK benefits adjusted for costs of living substantially exceed what is given out in EU peers as shown in a fairly extensive recent study. More importantly, these circumstances hardly create an incentive to come off the system and find work so we end up in a situation where certain people spend their lifetime living off benefits without contributing a single pound towards it. This is one example among many – like getting breast enlargement on the NHS.

This is madness. And it should stop.


 

Image: Channel 4

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