It is a worrying state of affairs that only those who work possess moral virtue and those who cannot are classed as 'scum', 'feckless' or 'idlers'. It is true that amongst those on IB - as there is amongst all levels of society - some fiddle the system. Such cases have been highlighted and many fraudulent claimants have been given a criminal record. But for those who genuinely cannot work, such labels are an affront and insult to dignity. Human beings cannot and should not be judged in terms of financial worth. A life is worthless, monetarily: it is infinitely more precious than the ignoble dollar. And those who suffer from humiliating, depressing illnesses such as CFS should not be penalised for the fact that they are unwell. How on earth can an individual who may find it impossible to get out of bed or walk unassisted participate in manual labour? Simply, they cannot.
Linking IB with JSA creates an ever-more invidious system whereby all of those claiming benefits (be they the incapacitated, the job-seeking or the shirkers) are lumped together in one amorphous mass. Consider this: if we had curbed our immigration policy, many manual jobs carried out by those who send their wages back to their home country could be carried out by those on JSA. The country is losing out twice: the £60.15 paid to those on JSA and the money paid out to migrant workers. Now multiply that by several hundred thousand and calculate the net loss.
The benefits system is so appallingly managed at present that all recipients are condemned for being in the ignominious position of being dependent on the State. Moreover, as several commentators have pointed out most articulately, the money paid out by the State is, since Thatcher removed the linkage of cost of living and inflation with benefits, pitifully small. What the country must understand, genuinely, is that those on the Dole are often fated to remain there because they simply cannot feed, clothe and educate themselves further. They have become the ‘underclass’, the ‘lumpenproletariat’: social lepers, despised and shunned, lacking in hope, required to live in poor conditions on poor diets. They cannot afford their ‘five-a-day’: a healthy diet is available only for the affluent, and socialism only for the rich.
‘Getting people back to work’ is all very well and good: and, indeed, it should be a priority for those who are Able to work. I wonder how this is going to work in the coming months, however, as the international financial crisis worsens and more and more people are forced to join the Dole queue. Are they going to be made to feel responsible for the economic situation? Labour’s claim seems as ill-judged as it is ill-timed. And penalising those suffering from debilitating condition merely exposes, once again, their absolute lack of concern for the well-being of a country ever-more burdened by authoritarian, ill-conceived legislation.