Firstly, I’m an Economic Liberal. I’m not a big advocate of welfare being much more than a vital safety net and a lot of people who know much about my political beliefs might cheekily assume that I’d support David Cameron’s proposed £26K benefits cap. I know that we’re in hard economic times and that cuts need to be made and I know that we can ill afford to dish out cash to all and sundry that request it. That said, I’m afraid that I am strongly opposed to the cap and, given the chance to seriously consider its implications, I imagine that all but the most hard-core Daily Mail readers would be as well.
Firstly, let’s have a look at what £26K actually is. Paxo explained tonight that £26K is the equivalent of a £35,000 wage after tax. That’s a fair amount of money and I’d be quite happy on that kind of wage! However, my partner and I have a combined wage that doesn’t fall too much short of that figure and I know how much disposable income we have after the bills have been paid (not a lot!) and we have the luxury of being a two-person household with no children to feed and a fairly modest mortgage to pay. We also live in a very affordable part of the UK where we pay a fairly low council tax (in which our water rates are included) and get free prescriptions and cheap dental care from the Scottish Government. On top of that we have our travel costs covered by our employers so, overall, we’ve got it quite easy up here.
If you were to put us in, say, Manchester for example, I think we’d then start to struggle on our income. And if we did decide to procreate we’d certainly fall into financial crisis quite quickly. I can’t even imagine trying to afford a family somewhere further south on the kind of money that we have at the moment.
So, maybe that’s the answer then: don’t have children if you can’t afford them and don’t live anywhere that’s a bit too posh for your budget. That seems simple enough. But what if we were earning £40K between us? What if we had our debts paid off and had stable careers that we knew would see us through? Would it be ok for us to have children then? Yes, I imagine that would be acceptable in the eyes of most people. After all, what are the chances of a global economic crisis hitting, causing both of us to lose our jobs and be forced to claim benefits? Furthermore, exactly how likely is it that the cost of heating our home would rise 110% in just a decade and council tax would rise by almost 70%? Sadly, that’s the reality of the situation as it stands. Many hardworking families are in a position where they need to claim benefits and, as I’ve already explained, £26K might not be quite enough, especially for those with children.
Even if you don’t care about the circumstances that lead to somebody needing to claim benefits and simply agree with Mr. Cameron that we can’t afford to pay £26,000 a year to a single household, do you really think that capping benefits will save all that much money? There’s genuine concern amongst local authorities that this cap could force a lot of families to become homeless and if you’re purely economically minded then perhaps you might consider the bill we’ll be faced with once these people become homeless and need emergency housing. Not to mention the strain on the NHS of a sudden increase in homeless, cold families living well below the breadline.
What happens to the worst affected families once the economy starts to improve? It’s one thing to expect an unemployed couple to get back into the work place but exactly how easy do you imagine it is to get a homeless family contributing to the economy? The result is simply a prolongation of the original problem as people find it even more difficult to get back into work and get stuck in benefits cycles.
The Guardian predicts that some families will be left to survive on just 64p each per day under the proposals. In 2012, should we really be forcing that kind of poverty on anybody? There are already people that have to choose between being cold and being hungry and that’s not a kind of world that I want to live in. Surely we, as a society, have come on further than to allow people to end up in that position. Surely the whole idea of the benefits system is to make sure that those who need help will be given a roof, warmth and food. If we can’t even do that for people then I really despair.
So, why should my taxes pay for benefits claimants to receive over £26,000 a year? Because some people need that. Some people, through no fault of their own, need more money than Mr. Cameron deems necessary for them to live on. Because, one day, I might be in a position where I need the state to provide for me and I would hope that, if that day comes, they wouldn’t help out so begrudgingly.
I’m happy for my taxes to provide support for those that need it.