Following the Philpott case, politicians of all parties have been trying to make political capital out of the benefits system. The Chancellor, George Osborne implied that Philpott was a product of the benefits system which of course was decried by Labour as using the dead children to make a political point. Personally, I take the view that Philpott isn't a product of the system, but that he is a type that has always existed. He was simply able to use a failing system, and vulnerable women, to his own personal advantage.
This tends to be a problem with any bureaucratic system, it works according to rules which can never be perfect and rarely allow discretion to those administering them. And of course, there are always the cries of "think of the poor children" from all the liberal softies the moment that any cuts are suggested. Well the system "thought of the children" in the Philpott case, but from many reports it seems that they they were half starved at the time of their deaths.
Politicians seem to avoid looking at the past, which I think is a great mistake. Originally alms were given by the Church to the poor and needy, and in due course this was made a parish responsibility with relief provided by the "overseers of the poor". They provided it according to need, but one basic rule was that "no person shall receive more in relief than the lowest paid working man in the parish". Being administered on a local level, the overseers would know who were the genuine needy and who were the idlers, and so could act accordingly. The minutes of the overseers in some parishes (where they still exist) can make interesting reading; rarely was cash given, but arrangements were made for the claimant "to be provided with one pair of good working boots" with the overseers paying the village bootmaker directly. Clearly they wanted to ensure that the boots were bought, rather than the money being spent at the local hostelry! Hence my support for food coupons and the like.
One further twist in the present saga is that many Labour supporting working class adults are apparently strongly in favour of the proposed Tory clamp-down on benefits, something that has taken the party hierarchy by surprise. But why should this be so? It is far more likely that working Labour supporters will come into contact with benefit scroungers than someone in my position living in a middle-class home owning area. These Labour supporters can see their money being wasted, most of us only read about it!
And of course the Trade Unions, as usual, are trying to face two ways at once. On one hand, since the Tories came to power they have been arguing for "Work not Dole", now they find that they are also arguing against any restrictions on the dole.
For once, I suspect, the public are broadly on the side of the Tories as far as benefits are concerned, although many, like myself, would argue that they "could do better".
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