People on benefits? They’re all scroungers aren’t they?

This article was written for The Broken of Britain.

In spite of all that I have written on my blog about wanting to work, about my efforts to keep working even as my body fails on me, about how my wife (a qualified science teacher) is doing cleaning work that pays less than Job Seekers Allowance and creates havoc with our other benefit claims, I often receive criticism for my views. People think that because I fight against benefit cuts, I support lazy people that simply want handouts and expect a free ride from the state. That could not be further from the truth.

I can’t deny that there are lazy people out there. While visiting the job centre in the past I have talked to people that see having to sign on as the height of inconvenience, that complain about the job searches they are asked to do. And quite honestly, with the attitudes I have seen, I wouldn’t employ some of them either. But they’re a minority. Living on benefits is hell. There is never enough money. You never know when someone might decide that you have been overpaid and start clawing the money back. For Job Seekers Allowance, you have to sign on every fortnight, attend meetings seemingly at random, and take training courses that you could teach. You can be “fined” for being five minutes late to an appointment. You are only allowed to miss an appointment through sickness twice in your whole claim. For sickness benefits it isn’t any better. While on incapacity benefit in previous years I had to attend regular meetings to discuss the possibility of me finding any work at all that I could do with such poor health. Those meetings and travelling to them made me ill for a week each time. The whole system could have been designed with the express intention of utterly destroying your soul. Most people hate claiming benefits, and most people would actually like a standard of living that is not attainable on the meagre amounts that benefits pay.

The infamous “families with 3 generations unemployed” do exist. Perhaps that does affect the attitude and desire to work in the youngest, I couldn’t say. But there is a reason that these people are unemployed. There are no jobs! There are approximately 2.5 million unemployed, and an estimated 0.5 million jobs, most of which are only part time. However you look at it, 2 million people will not find work. Some may argue that they should take responsibility and start their own business, however most people simply don’t have it in them to come up with a business idea, or have the knowledge and perseverance to run their own business.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

The Department of Work and Pensions keeps official statistics on levels of benefit fraud. Here are the figures showing the total amount of expenditure on benefits that is fraudulently claimed.

  • Income support fraud: 2.8%
  • Job Seekers Allowance fraud: 2.5%
  • Housing Benefit fraud: 1.3%
  • Incapacity benefit fraud: 0.5%
  • Disability Living Allowance fraud: 0.5%

Total benefit fraud is estimated to be 0.7%. Total error by claimants is also 0.7%. And error by officials? Another 0.7%. So administration error costs the same as fraud. That’s not to mention the 0.3% error causing underpayments, or the 0.9% (£60 million) that administration errors deprive incapacity claimants of.

Ultimately, the vilification by the tabloids of everyone on benefits and everyone who is sick and disabled is incredibly harmful. Public opinion is shaped by the lies and the twisted numbers put out by the tabloids which cause the public to back the government in cracking down on benefit fraud and in ruthlessly cutting benefits. In the end that causes great hurt and anguish for the vast majority of people that genuinely need the help.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

21 thoughts on “People on benefits? They’re all scroungers aren’t they?”

  1. I said before I think that I used to work in a call centre doing JobSeeker Direct line. And especially on that line you speak to some people who have been on benefits for proper years and are super rude to ye on the phone and those are the people you see in the job centre, I certainly wouldn’t hire them either. I’ve done job searches for people before and found the absolute perfect job for them, and they’ve said no, which is gutting.
    Personally I think they could balance the whole thing out if they just took a bit more care and actually talked to people and assessed their life instead of their paperwork. It is easy to identify the people who are scrounging and the people who are struggling. All the advisors in the jobcentres know who shouldn’t be getting benefits or who should be getting better care but unfortunately they’re chained to archaic policies and processes.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. The entire benefits fraud is a smokescreen for screwing the public out of benefits that they pay for. Job Seekers Allowance is directly funded by National Insurance Contributions and the name itself should give people pause for thought; it’s a State mandated insurance policy not a benefit, it is not something you get for nothing. The attitude and tone of all political parties on this topic is shameful.

  3. I agree with unregulatedMD. I used to work in a jobcentre and the staff know who’s genuine and who’s not. You don’t need government sanctions for that.

    The tabloid press – fed by the likes of IDS – are shameful. It’s a sad state of affairs when the average person thinks a benefit claimant is a scrounger purely because they’re claiming. And worse when disabled people are treated like criminals because they’re tried as guilty before possibly being proven innocent.

  4. People have possibly got the wrong idea about thinking you support the ‘lazy people’ who get a ‘free ride from the state’ as you have often come across as being against change to the system and irregular followers might have missed that you’ve set up a family business and doing what you can to be working.

    My difficulty is knowing that you and a few other friends with similar illnesses are going to be hit by the benefit changes compared to those i meet who are playing the system but not committing fraud. I’m guessing those fraud figures are national average and that central london would be higher, mainly because of the stupidly high rents which have been pushed up partly through the local housing allowance.

    I regularly meet people who think they are entitled to a council house in central london just because they want one or claiming benefits because working would pay them less. The system needs changing but i have no idea how to combat the problems without increasing the fraud teams – our one already gets more work than it has time for but local government are cutting costs so thats not helping!

    I know that tight regulation is probably needed but current system means that genuine cases are more likely to struggle, whereas new system means that central london in particular are going to suffer. Rents will take time to reflect that max housing benefit will be ‘average’ wage, which is a massive drop for some!

  5. I like the idea that work should pay, but not if that means cutting benefits so that any work is better, or if it means the sick are penalised even more for being sick. I like the idea of “slivers of time”. As someone getting better, but not ready for full time work in a vicious job market (or worse, seeking the job in the first place) I’d like to benefit from doing a few hours here and there. I’m doing 4 hrs/week voluntary work. I hope it will be in my favour in the job market.
    The government’s ideas are awful, and not what we voted for. Why time limit ESA? I wish mental health obeyed time limits, but it often worsens with this unnecessary stress, and there are many other long-term illnesses that also don’t obey time-limits and are variable.

  6. There is a good article on the benefits system this week in the New Statesman. Whatever people say about benefits all western economies have one. People need support between jobs, when they are sick and too old to work. Various factors make ours a mess eg the problem with housing benefits is not the amount but that it is a separate benefit. And despite what politicians tell you nobody knows how to reform incapacity benefit which at the moment facilitates both malingering and the persecution of the genuinely sick.

  7. Like the other commentors I also agree, so the question, then, is what does the benefits system need to look like in order to aid those who really need it but discourage the scroungers/cheaters? What would actually work for everyone? Is it possible? I’d not then there will always be people failed by the system.

  8. I like the article. There is some very important points that get missed. Why does no-one question the jobs market? Look even two days at minimum wage a week pays more the JSA. JSA amount is the minimum by law someone needs to live on. The amount of cheats is a smoke screen. Yes there are people cheating and who dont want to work but these are such a minority. Why penalise those doing voluntary by forcing them to get full time work. They are working but with just no pay. Volunteers earn all the money they get on JSA in a matter of two days so why bother them? Someone will have to pay them somehow. The problem to me is the archaic system. Lets face it job centres dont give you jobs they can put you forward but it is the employers that employ you. You still have applications and interviews to go through. This is the problem! Its these processes that put people off. How do you know who are good at jobs or not unless you give them trials. Give them experience badic work etc. Even for the people who did complain at job searches etc offer them a job trial and make them feel part of something and maybe youll see their attitude change. Maybe because they think the system is just stupid and actually what they really want is long term work and money. Maybe so many feel disconnected, thinking searching is just a waste of time as nothing will come of it. They are a product of a very individualistic and uncaring society. They dont feel part of or engaged in society – the answer is not to attack people but to engage with them.

    Then you have so many job seekers are physically and mentally disabled. Indeed so many mentally ill are part of the prisons system too. So many job descriptions require experience and qualifications. Do all these jobs require these things? My mom worked full time and was trained from scratch with no skills and qualifications. So was my dad both in the 50’s. Is there jobs the mentally and physically disabled can do? Well with my experience i cannot see many, many jobs are multitasking now and especially customer based which means most disabled people are on the scrapheap before they start. Why not share the work people are currently stressed out with. There are many tasks the disabled can do. But bosses are more likely to want to save money by getting one person to do the job of 5. There is also ignorance and prejudice of coarse asking more about what the disabled cannot do rather than what they can. Its the structure of work and the jobs market but also there isnt the amount of jobs the unemployed can fill 0.5m vacancies but many millions without work (including the inactive which is more like 9m). Figures dont add up and most vacancies require experience which the unemployed haven’t got. Where is the training? Did all those eastern europeans really go to job interviews and fill in forms and compete with locals on an equal footing? im not so sure. Doing a job search and doing work are different things. Most work you learn on the job anyway if you want to learn. Its getting the work not the wanting to work that is the real problem. I think job centres should be turned more into employment agencies.

  9. I QUOTE: Income support fraud: 2.8%
    Job Seekers Allowance fraud: 2.5%
    Housing Benefit fraud: 1.3%
    Incapacity benefit fraud: 0.5%
    Disability Living Allowance fraud: 0.5%

    THAT THEY KNOW ABOUT. What about all of those pieces of shit teenage whores who get pregnant at 16 so they can get a free ride for the rest of thier lives? At the end of the day, if there was no government, the lazy, the sick & the scroungers would die off leaving the strong & the hard working, you are not “entitled” to take other peoples money to “help you out”. It wouldn’t happen in the wild & it shouldn’t happen in this fucked up society we call “civilisation”, and before you kick off, I am wheelchair boound, don’t claim benefits, and have worked on average 70 hours a week since I was sixteen & left home. If I can do it, the all you other benefits scrounging pieces of shit out there should be thrown out on the street to starve until you pull your finger out and look after yourself.

    1. I would normally delete a comment using language like this, but I am going to leave it as an example of the hatred that the sick and disabled have to deal with. Any further comments using similar language or trolling will result in a ban.

    2. I think that your rhetoric exposes you here. You are so concerned about coming across as a parody of offensive, eugenicist views that you have to name yourself ‘a real person’, as though no-one else who’s commented on this blog, or the blogger himself, are ‘real’ in the way you are.

      This concern with being the sole voice of authenticity leads you to quote the (very low) official fraud figures from the DWP, which demonstrate that benefits for sick and disabled people have the lowest fraud levels, and then question them, based purely on anecdote. Since you are a ‘real person’, your anecdotes (not even based on ‘I know someone who knows someone’, but pure assertion) presumably constitute a truth that the ‘unreal’ people at the DWP cannot possibly see. To this, all I’ll say is that the plural of anecdote is not data, and if you can’t even be bothered to link to a Daily Mail article to ‘justify’ what you say, claiming to be real is hardly convincing.

      To move on to the most offensive part of your post, I’m really glad that you have been able to work 70 hours a week while being wheelchair bound. Genuinely. However, your experience is not that of thousands of other disabled people, and cannot be extrapolated to cover a plethora of conditions. In addition, many people who claim DLA do so to ENABLE themselves to work – it pays for, amongst other things, increased transport costs which allow people to work, and is NOT an out of work benefit.

      Your distinction between ‘the wild’ and ‘civilization’ is also a strange one. What is a society if not a group of people working together? I don’t know if you have any family, or friends, but if you were ‘in the wild’, and someone close to you were to get injured, would you not help them? Or would you just leave them there to die? Beyond this, we don’t live ‘in the wild’, and almost every one of us would die if we did. We depend on artificial advantages which prevent us from dying of exposure, becoming prey to animals we are in no way developed to defend ourselves against. As a wheelchair user, in the wild you would find it far harder to survive than you have done in a civilization which uses tax money to build tarmac roads, and which allows people to buy things like wheelchairs either with money from parents/friends, or the benefit DLA.

      Basically, although you may want to live in a society where those who are less able to work than you are allowed to starve on the streets, justified by one person’s experience and a handful of anecdotes, that’s your prerogative, but it’s not a world in which I wish to live. It’s not entitlement to draw on an insurance service one has paid for, and I for one am happier for my taxes to pay disability benefits than aircraft carriers without planes, or outdated nuclear weapons systems. However, setting yourself up as some kind of moral example because you were lucky enough to have a disability which didn’t totally preclude you from working is perverse, egotistical and, yes, entitled.

    3. You seem to have an attitude problem about the disability and your disability. Sometimes, when people experience being oppressed and they direct their anger on their own group of people with similar challenges. Some oppressed people like to abuse other oppressed people. I am disabled myself. I had some bad experience with my boss who was also disabled. She was really bitter, angry and not so understanding. I have also noticed that you use the words “wheelchair bound”? Most people who use the wheelchair doesn’t like to use this language and they would find this so offensive. Are you really disabled???

  10. I think to a degree, everyone is right. But at the same time Everyone is wrong. “A Real Person” has expressed their views with extremity – but I don’t think you have read their thread fully, they state they are disabled & work full time, I don’t think any thread should be removed because someone is angry at other threads that have been written, otherwise you will only have a select set of views here. Are we not all adults? A bit of swearing wont hurt you. On the flip side, wheelchair bound & working 70 hours a week, thats 10 hours a day, everday, minimum??? I find that hard to swallow.

    My fiance’s brother is “disabled”. He has “ADHD”. He is 21 years old & has never worked a day in his life, he steals from his own grandparents and constantly lies. Without a shadow of a doubt he is the worst person I have ever met, and I hate him, I truly do. He claims around £700 per month in benefits and does nothing to contribute in anyway. I believe that it is not those who are disabled who are at fault for this system, but everyone in the uk, including those that claim for nothing. Including me. We allow this to happen and sit back and do nothing except complain about it on the internet. If millions of people across the uk just said they were not paying there taxes anymore, not giving anymore money to the government to squander, they wouldnt have the funds to pay the troops / police to stop them or enforce taxes being paid. The power would then come back to those that do pay and contribute into the system, and it should be them to make the decisions on how the money is spent. Unfortunately unless drastic action is taken, things will only get worse, and people like my fiance’s brother will continue to drain the system, taking away the benefit of benefits, & creating prejudice amongst the masses.

    If you want to see why people are reluctant to support the benfits culture in the UK, read this article: http://www.walletpop.co.uk/2011/01/09/70-stone-man-sues-the-nhs-for-not-preventing-him-from-eating/2 – this man now wants to Sue the NHS because of his weight problems. The way the justice system in this country operates, and because of stupid previous case-laws, people are so deluded they feel they have the right to do this. This guy got this way due to self abuse, do you not feel that people who have caused their own problems should not recieve the benefits of those that have an affliction that they were born with, or had no control over? Do you not feel betrayed in your own country when they erect Mosque’s, but then demand that their childrens teachers stop wearing the sign of the cross? Why should an alcoholic even be on the list for a liver transplant?

    Everyone has a voice but no-one chooses to use it.

  11. If your Angry & Unemployed get over to the unemploymentmovement.com
    website and join in on building a movement to defend the unemployed.

  12. I dont agree with this, i am very angry with your views. My dad is on benefits because he cant work  because he looks after 5 kids, one of them me. My mom left ages ago. Now, its not his fault that he is on benefits because he is a carer, one of my brothers is disabled. I am extremely angry with this view. My dad wants to work, in fact he is desperate but he cant, he isn’t lazy, he is desperate and had to give up his job to look after us. It was either that, or send us to foster care. I love my dad for what he has done and sometimes i feel so damn guilty for what has happened to him. I understand that some people are lazy and live off the benefit system and i completely understand, but some people really have no choice like my dad. Im sorry if my views are different but i am sick of people looking down on me and my family for being on benefits… its seriously not our fault, and every time somone wants to know why i haven’t got much money… i feel as though i need to explain myself as though it is some kind of punishment. I love my dad for everything he has done and im sorry that he has to live off benefits but the matter of the fact is that this system benefits my family because without it we wouldn’t be able to be together.

  13. Maybe only a small ammount of it is counted as fraud but what about all the people who are refusing to take full time work because they would rather continue to get the benefits from only having part time work. They have a better house, better car and he works the same job as my dad except it is only part time instead of full time. Then he has the nerve to complain about how shit this country is. I dont know if technicaly that thing would be recorded as actual fraud or be put under some other definition but as far as im concerned that guy should not be getting any benefits, he refuses the oppurtunity to work full time because he actually is better off by doing less that is ridiculous and that is the type of behaviour that makes people annoyed with the benefits system. I would like to see more statistics on people like that if it is possible.

  14. Where’s the logic… i look after my son in the daytime 3 days a week, His mum has a good job at a good company…. They are putting me on a two year course to help me find work for up to 8 hours a day.
    OK!!!!! there is no guarantee that i will get a job (there are about 50-60 people going for everyjob)
    But the way things are going she will have to give up her very good job to care for our BABY who cant even talk!! (childcare costs makes it pointless and having someone else look after your child…and we both feel he is too young to be left with strangers)SO IN A NUTSHELL THEY ARE CREATING SOMEONE ELSE WHO WILL BE RELIANT ON BENEFITS
    I am not with the mum but am  a committed dad…. she also has epilepsy and can have several seizures a month,  If she has a Fit she cant function as a person and i have him,  THe stress from this also will no doubt give her more fits.
    BUt as we are not together i am considerd single with no children, i really want to swear

  15. I totally agree with all these comments. I have a 17 year old daughter that would rather get signed off on the sick for depression than get a job. She is lazy, she does nothing around the house to help and to top it all she expects me, a full time working adult to support her. I have tried everything to get her into work, even to the point to get her to do a training day at the company I work for. But no, all she would rather do is sleep all day, up all night smoke weed, drink and have a laugh at our expense, the she wonders why I stress out at her when she says I work too many hours.

    For gods sake, for people that do not need or deserve benefits, they need money stopped and forced into work.

    1. You sound like a really shit parent. Do you actually understand what clinical depression is? Do you understand that when in this state a person CANNOT do some things that seem easy to you? Do you not believe in depression, or are you accusing your daughter of lying?

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