Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Benefits Culture?

As it is Budget Day, I listened in to Radio 4 (working on a spreadsheet tends to numb the mind).

They had a piece on Child Benefit, and how it would affect those at the top end of the scale.

Appropriately, Tatton - the Chancellor's constituency - was chosen as the area to speak to locals. The area can be considered very affluent in comparison to others.

As we now know, Child Benefit stops at earnings over £60k, with a sliding scale of reduction over £50k. That's the basic situation. So, there will be quite a number of people affected.

One lady who was interviewed was rather annoyed that she and her partner were going to lose out. She left what she described as a "high earning sales job" to start a family. She has three children. Nothing wrong with that. However, she admitted that hers was a wealthy family. By that, you can safely assume that her husband earns in excess of £50k, possibly greatly in excess of that figure. She thought it was "wrong" that she had given up work and was now being penalised for it.

Welcome to the real world, madam.

The general impression about the "Benefits Culture" in the UK is that it is the low paid, unemployed and terminally unemployable who feel it is their right to get benefits. But the lady in Tatton has shown that this feeling of entitlement has spread towards the middle and upper classes of society. Or to be more accurate, the higher earners of society. This is worrying.

I'm married and have two children. My wife receives Child Benefit, and to be perfectly honest any extra income is always welcome. However, I've always run my finances (ok, my wife does!) based on my salary alone. I earn a decent salary, but nothing even close to £50k. Why this lady in Tatton feels she needs £400 per month more will attract a fair bit of criticism, especially those people who are at the bottom end of the salary ladder.

Benefits should be there as a safety net for the disadvantaged in society, be it for the low paid, unemployed or those who are on long term sick. I've experienced all three in the past twelve years. That safety net was very welcome and was most certainly needed.

But now with my job, I don't need the extra benefits of Child Benefit and Tax Credits. Yes, I'm happy to accept them, but if they disappear tomorrow I would have to accept this.

Others won't.

Society needs to get away from the demands of the Benefit Culture. Child Benefit could have the threshold reduced right down to say £30k. How much money would that save? Money that could perhaps be used in better ways.

It would be good to see the SNP proposing that benefits are there for those genuinely in need, rather that a giveaway in order to buy votes.

Reform is never easy, but it must happen.

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