Sunday, 19 April 2009

Demoralisation: The True Cost of Poverty

Frank Field's often represented as a sterling chap, one who has a bit of integrity, dontcha know and who, in following Blair's orders to 'think the unthinkable', addressed seriously the huge problem we have with welfare in this country. Blair's policy - and Field's response to it - is as stupid and misguided as any policy can be: you can't cure poverty by cutting off people's money. You can't 'cure' poverty full-stop. But you can alleviate it to a certain extent by fostering independence, which is precisely the opposite of NuLab's ambitions to control everyone and everything in every place at every time.
Firstly, it's important to realise that there's such a thing as the 'deserving poor', those who because of poor education, lack of training and the removal of, say, a manufacturing base (or pre-WWII a servant 'place') can't get jobs. They become demoralised through lack of prospects; the more depressed they get, the less likely they are to work - were there the jobs available in the first place, which there often aren't. The following 'big ideas' could provide opportunities for a proportion of the artisan classes to return or get into work:
1) ensuring that locals get first dibs at a job; ensuring that local jobs aren't passed out to immigrants because natives think they're too 'good' for it by removing benefits; providing on-the-job training for new starters rather than demanding experience that it would be impossible for them to obtain;
2) cutting overseas aid to India and China. In effect, we're handing them a hefty percentage of our GDP on a platter. A massive proportion of our manufacturing industry has been relocated to these countries, thus taking jobs away from Britain. Our miners and steel workers and ship builders are a fast-vanishing breed. Paying Indian and Chinese manufacturers to do the work we should be doing at home is an insult to our workforce;
3) offer substantially better business taxation rates to locate factories/manufacturing bases in the UK rather than overseas. Running a nation as a service economy is a hiding to nothing for, when the overseas manufacturing bases go bottom up, there's nothing left for us to provide a service for.
The 'deserving poor' get a pretty bad time of it. They've been badly educated in large classes which can't take the time to teach them properly and exposed to all kinds of experimental teaching methods. Small wonder that 25% of the population can't even write its own name. Many can't apply for jobs because they don't have any educational qualifications or the ones they do have aren't good enough. We need to buck up the education system seriously so that the vast majority of children are taught the 3Rs and little else until they've mastered them.
The amount on which the 'deserving poor' is supposed to live is scandalous. Beneath contempt. One simply cannot make ends meet on £60 a week. There is almost nothing one can do on £60 a week. Being given this little when one has no prospects of anything better fosters huge dependency and depression. A system of food stamps that would provide enough nutrients for a family would be a good start: if you have enough to eat (which most benefit claimants and the elderly alike don't, or have to live on the cheapest ready meals so impregnated with E numbers it's surprising they don't glow in the dark) you're a little less desperate. Soap and clothing ditto. Looking and feeling clean and presentable automatically changes you in the eyes of the world. If you smell of poverty and appear full of despair you become invisible. Society turns its back. You might as well not exist.
The poor will always be with us. There will always be those who are intellectually subnormal or retarded in some way. In the 'old' days, monasteries or parishes used to take them in and give them little jobs to do. Now they're put in over-priced facilities or into prisons after committing crimes. There will always be the undeserving poor: those who don't want to work; those who would rather turn to thieving, drug-running and scams. They've existed throughout history. What we don't want is for the deserving to turn into the undeserving poor because 'society' doesn't care if they're alive or dead: that they're damned if they try and damned if they don't.
These are the people who have been beaten through circumstance, poor aspirations, lack of opportunity, abysmal education, wretched housing, disjointed and fragmented upbringing and a Nanny State that doesn't care. To deal with our Welfare crisis, we need to deal with people, rather than statistics or stereotypes: because at present we've got an awful lot of people who have the potential to be very useful to themselves, society and the economy, but are all being treated and called 'scum'. We need to create the kind of Britain which permits free industry on home ground employing local people.

9 comments:

  1. Any first hand experiences of not eating for three days while sleeping rough?I got into Cambridge.Christs Church College.Got in over the back wall & done for trespass.

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  2. When I was getting divorced and the ex cut the alimony off, I didn't eat for four days straight: I had an elderly cat to look after so she got the food. (You can't deny an animal: they don't understand.) One of the worst times of my life: never felt so helpless. So if we multiply that over 365/6 days for pensioners/benefit claimants who can't afford to heat and eat, it's a wonder that the majority haven't topped themselves.

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  3. Divorced? Oh. Well, bene factum regarding the feline!

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  4. Mara, re Point one..I'm beginning to feel that we ought to be thinking about a direction of labour. That is probably at 180 degrees to your thoughts but it's getting to the point now where people just will not work. They are going to have to be told that they will work or they will not get any benefits.
    Point two.. Force UK companies that have moved call centres et al out to Delhi High Street to move them back to the UK. This could be done vide your Point three...lower taxes.

    This all sounds extremely right wing..in fact it's so right wing that it's probably extremely left wing too.

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  5. You're right, Cato: small wonder that belatedly in hindsight the government's insisting that children have to aspire to five aims, including economic well-being, in order to be judged as 'rounded'. (PAH!) The problem is that you can't yank the rug out from under people overnight: imagine the robberies, homelessness, rioting. Would be Awful. Everything has to be done in stages: would take 5 years to reform the existent system. But how, exactly? Social engineering - affirmation advertising? Cut benefit off for those able to work AFTER retraining/re-education after 6 months, maybe? Government crisis loan instead of benefits payments? Insist that unmarried mothers have to live at home except if there's a real - and I mean really real, valid - risk that she'll come to harm? Forcibly requisition buildings left empty for more than 6 months and convert into housing? Would provide jobs and stop any more greenbelt land being covered in nasty little crackerboxes.
    But above all, we'd HAVE to ban the Human Rights Act. Otherwise people will find all kinds of reasons not to work; get rid of Working Tax Credits and up the personal allowance to £11.5k so that it's not more cost-effective to stay on the dole etc.
    I think it is more right than left wing - I hope so at any rate; because it's a right wing trait, is it not, to reform things gradually rather than causing chaos by turning them upside down overnight?

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  6. Here's an idea - why not ask folks what help they need to get themselves sorted?

    But really, our modern systems of production mean we don't need everybody toiling away producing ever more widgets. If we put everybody to work in manufacturing we'd have an inventory recession in no time flat.

    For this global system to work properly we need an army of unemployed consumers. Problem is how to maintain them in idleness - and at what level - without pissing off the hard grafters that are only squeaking by thanks to debt? This whole system of free market capitalism doesn't work for the vast majority of people but no one's offering an alternative.

    BTW - "retarded" is considered pejorative - the accepted term is developmental disability, or intellectual disability.

    Wee Todd

    I is wee Todd did
    I is sofa king
    Wee Todd did

    Must be recited quickly.

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  7. Actually... I've lived on the dole for many years, and, it's quite good money.

    But, you have to learn how to scavenge and cook and have the ability to plan your life and be disciplined. Then again, if you can't do that, as we know and have seen, even thousands of pounds per week can not be enough!

    If you want nice clothes, there is the charity shop and a needle and thread is also cheap if you need to customise them to fit.

    You talk of 'no opportunities'. I however see a network of libraries where free knowledge can be found, if one decides to seek it... people make their own opportunities if they want them!

    Your 'demoralisation' term is true, it is the absence of basic morals and principes that dogs these people, not the absence of money or opportunity. We don't have poverty in this country either, our 'poor' are much wealthier than the rich in many countries, there is nothing lacking at all, other than knowledge and the will to live well. In other words, it is not money that is needed, but spirit!

    The commenter with the cat food was merely inexperienced as to where to organise their basics, but that is because they were a beginner at being poor, not because the lot is too hard.

    As for food stamps -- that brings many problems of it's own, and it's also quite nannyish to boot, how can people learn responsibility if you don't give them freedom to mess up? Besides that, you can live quite well without money, there is heaps of free stuff about, even rich people scavenge, check on the 'freegans' and friends. All you do with foodstamps is to create yet another 'get-rich-quick' cottage industry that will tax the stupid!

    The only good thing you can do against poverty is to stop poor people from breeding more poor people -- the very thing we're not doing, in fact, we're paying them to breed prolifically and our productive classes have been priced (and hassled) out of parenthood.

    But that is a whole other can of worms that will morph into dragons the moment you open it ;-D

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  8. "What we don't want is for the deserving to turn into the undeserving poor because 'society' doesn't care if they're alive or dead"

    The problem is that it's too comfortable to be on the dole for some - and not just stupid or ill-educated people, either. It's not meant to be too comfortable for the able-bodied, but with large industrial surpluses and low commodity prices it's quite possible to have a lot of fun without working.

    The deserving become the undeserving with the merest drop of one expectation, or two.

    Workfare is my partial and imperfect answer, because subsistence and child-related welfare for the able bodied isn't working right now.

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Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison