That’s what British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote at the end of the First World War, one hundred years ago (in The Economic Consequences of the Peace).
“England still stands outside Europe. Europe’s voiceless tremors do not reach her. Europe is apart and England is not of her flesh and body. But Europe is solid with herself. France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Holland, Russia and Roumania and Poland throb together, and their structure and civilisation are essentially one.”
Now, one hundred years later, Britain’s inequality is staggering, so bad that it pulls down the measure for equality for the entire EU, yet Brits have been told that the EU is to blame for their misery, along with lots of other lies.
One hundred years ago, Keynes wrote about how odd it was for him, an Englishman based in Paris for a while, to go back to London for quick visits and find it so distant.
“But it is under the influence of Paris, not London, that this book has been written by one who, though an Englishman, feels himself a European also, and, because of too vivid recent experience, cannot disinterest himself – as opposed to the people in Britain at the time, AS – from the further unfolding of the great historic drama of these days which will destroy great institutions, but may also create a new world.”
Is England, one hundred years later, still as aloof, and still as deaf and blind to what is going on in the world?
And does the EU, in order to flourish, really need a Britain that loves to be proud of how it isolates itself from the rest of the world and how it milks its poor to balance its books?
I worry more about the negative influence that this may have on other countries than that I “worry” about the boost foreigners provide to the British economy year after year after year and what they do for people’s outlook on life.
When you hear Brits in southern England say, angrily, “What’s he got to be smiling about?” – and perhaps even with suspicion – about a young Polish man with a positive outlook on life, meaning that he won’t let the rain in his life bring him down, and when you literally hear Brits curse all day long you realise that Britain’s problem isn’t the EU.
Britain is the fifth richest nation in the world. This means that it could do so much better for its own people, but its government refuses to, and fights its own people, the EU and UN on these points, spending quite a bit of money on it, too:
Yes, I too feel that some European regulations are getting out of hand. It seems ridiculous that you literally can’t serve coffee or tea with cookies without needing to go on a course first. But if I then think of the two recent deaths that occurred in Britain because two young women with severe allergies were served food (in a commercial setting) that was supposed to be free from allergens but wasn’t, I see the point.
The other America
You can find her Sunday
Sitting by a stream
On her own
The other America
Might show up on Tuesday
At your kitchen door
She will ask politely
“Is anybody home?
Or did they all lay down
To sleep through the now?
And if they all lay down
I’ll be waiting for them
At the river bed
Once they wake from their rest”
The other America
Takes herself to night school
To understand the law
She may bring you questions
When she finds the flaw
“Why did they all lay down
To sleep through the now?
And if they all lay down
I’ll be waiting for them
At the river bed
Once they wake from their rest”
We could be opening a doorway
Globally but that’s okay
Once upon a time you had faith
You would not be swayed
By fools untouched by clairvoyance
And you swore that we’d be brave
Well, not today
No, not today
Because we all lay down
To sleep through the now
And if we all lay down
She’ll be waiting for us
Where the rivers cross
Once we wake from our rest
“All the best,” the Other America
It may also shatter your illusions, however, if you still believe that police are the good ones, the ones (that you pay for through your council tax, in Britain) to help keep you safe and secure and protect your basic rights.
I suspect that police in England and Wales already are using these “kiosks” that hack into people’s phones and laptops, overriding passwords.
I am sure it can be great fun for some officers to play with these “kiosks”. You can almost hear them talk. “I knew it! She’s a lesbian!” and “Does he really think he stands a chance with that woman?” and “Oh my god! Trying to lose weight? Forget it! Never gonna work!”
Yep, very useful.</end of sarcasm>
We need an alternative to police. Because going to or contacting the police has become one of the worst things to do in almost any situation. (Unless your insurance company wants a copy of a report after a burglary or theft, but leave it at that and do not ask police to do anything else other than give you a copy of the report.) How it got to this point? It’s immaterial. It’s what we have in the here and the now.
As Michael Doherty (a former aircraft engineer who made the mistake of reporting something to police and expecting police to follow up on it) says in the video below, you do have the right to investigate on your own, to try to detect and stop crime on your own. If your investigation is successful, you can also prosecute on your own. (I am talking about England and Wales.)
But before you choose this path, as I have stated several times before, look into the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 because police and others can use this against you, assuming that you are unaware of 1(3)(a), which most people probably are. That means that, before you know it, you can already have confessed to a crime that you didn’t actually commit. To prevent this, you need to know what the law says.
I repeat and highlight:
(3) Subsection (1) [F4 or (1A)] does not applyto a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—
(a) that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
(b) that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
(c) that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.
(Whether it says “and” or “or” makes a difference. It means that each of these conditions on its own applies, that they do not have to apply all at once.)
The video below dates back to 2015, is rather academic and particularly in the beginning lacks a logical thread, in my opinion, but does contain useful information.
(Also, if you want to protect yourself from police with a camera, you need to have one that does not have wifi or bluetooth.)
It is possible to resolve many situations or at least make them somewhat liveable without going to police, and much more successfully and/or peacefully. If you try this after you’ve been to police, however, police officers are likely to hold it against you. (This is mean because most people who contacted the police in the past decade will have been told that police wouldn’t investigate and would do nothing with what they told the police owing to a lack of resources and/or will have been referred to their GP and the local civic offices.)
Unfortunately, most of us learn these things the hard way – and you can’t undo having contacted the police.
I discussed that in my book too (and I believe that it is linked to a British-designed approach to life called utilitarianism):
What’s being said in the BBC article about the, well, delusional focus of the ministers is excellently depicted by this photo I took on 29 October. The text in this government poster at a local bus stop contains not a promise but a threat, as wages in Britain aren’t particularly high (to put in an understatement). Universal credit is the new benefits system, by the way.
I found the tone of this poster mean-spirited. That’s why I took the photo.
By definition, you make people dependent if you don’t always give them what they need (because you don’t want them to become dependent on you). If they can count on you, they don’t become dependent on you and their whole life not longer has to revolve on how to get food, the way most wildlife lives.
Instead, they can start to focus on on how to get out of poverty.
Give people the experience of abundance and prosperity. Teach them that prosperity and abundance exist and also possible for them.
The need for food is part of biology. People do not decide to become “dependent on food”. We all are dependent on food.
So either give them enough food or give them enough income.
Living in an economically deprived English neighbourhood sometimes goes like this.
You quickly walk to a local supermarket (for two packets of oat cookies) and on the way, a guy seems to want to stop you to ask for directions. But what he says is “You walk like a young lady.”
He adds “You’ve got youth in your step!”
It emphasises my otherness.
What I have is purpose. What I have is two immediate deadlines on my desk, an online course to make, someone else’s grant proposal about to turn up, and also a research paper in the pipeline. He doesn’t.
In central Oxford, by contrast, most people have my fast pace, many actually walking much faster.
Most of county Hampshire is relatively sleepy to start with. Here where I live, many people have relatively little to do and saving whales is not on their mind when they’re out and about.
I didn’t know what to say back to him, so I simply laughed, taken by surprise.
Because what I also have is the absence of the British notion that people who are over 35 are no longer young. He was trying to make me feel young, but what he did was make me realize that he saw me as someone with one foot in the grave.
I LOL. It doesn’t matter.
Normally, when something like this happens, I’ll say something along the lines of “thank you” but today, feeling flabbergasted dominated too much for that.
Sorry dude. I know you meant well.
This is probably pretty hilarious (read: embarrassing) considering that I just wrote an article on LinkedIn about how we all share more than makes us different but that there is a lot more diversity among human beings than we’ve thought for a long time.
It enriches our lives.
I am sorry that I didn’t thank the guy. It was his awareness of his own mortality that made him say what he said and he saw that as a similarity. He was right.
Thich Nhat Hanh might have said that I didn’t give the guy my presence and that I had not been walking in awareness. He would have been right too.
This morning, I received an e-mail from Jacq who is part of the Campaigns team at The Children’s Society. As a result, I contacted my local council. (Council = local government.) Apparently, roughly half of Britain’s council’s are helping so-called “care leavers” with their council tax bills, whether Labour-led, Lib-Dem-led, Green-led or Conservative-led.
My council does not do that yet. It means that the roughly 230 care leavers in Portsmouth are worse off than care leavers in, for example North-Somerset, which has the same number of care leavers.
When young people who have been in a care home or in foster care are thrust into society on the basis of their age, they have had almost no financial education, apparently, and little or no preparation for what it means to live on your own.
Particularly council tax bills tend to get them into trouble. I think that makes sense. These so-called care leavers may never have heard of council tax, and they’re not seeing anything tangible in return for paying these bills. It makes sense for young people to ignore them. You pay water bills for water, electricity bills in return for electricity, council tax bills because you use… eh, what?
Since my move to Britain, I have tried to explain council tax to educated adults in other countries a few times and they too are flabbergasted by the idea of “council tax”. In response, I was even told once that I was paying someone else’s taxes, was paying bills I should not have to pay – by someone who’s probably never paid a bill late even once throughout his entire life.
If the concept of council tax is that incomprehensible to educated adults in other countries, it probably makes even less sense to young care leavers.
Unless councils step in to support these care leavers, council tax ruins these young people’s lives before they’ve even had a chance at a life.
(Of course, the real issue includes the lack of support they’ve obviously had while in care. Fixing that is more complicated and more expensive, however.)
One of the hardest things for me to deal with is the poverty and misery in Britain. These days, that British poverty mindset drags me down on an almost daily basis, this belief and attitude that anything that you consider doing is “daft”, a “waste of time” or “above your station”, this pervasive conviction that you have to be obedient and patient, that you have no choice.
That is me there, in the middle, emigrating to Florida at the age of 33. I used to believe that emigrating to Florida was something that “other people” did. (I did that after having quit my full-time job in my mid-twenties to go to university.)
That’s what a poverty mindset is about. Believe you can’t and you can’t. Believe you can and you can. The poverty mindset is NOT the cause of poverty, but it can be the result and then it can become a cause of getting trapped in poverty.
It did not used to be like that for me at first in Britain. If it affects me this badly after my years in Britain, you can imagine how it impacts people who have been living here all their lives and may never have set foot in another country.
In my home country too, there used to be this idea “wie als dubbeltje is geboren wordt nooit een kwartje” en “iedereen die met zijn kop boven het maaiveld uitsteekt wordt genadeloos afgehakt”. It is one of the reasons why I didn’t like my home country, this idea that everyone has to stick to a mould and not dare to be different, or excel. It’s not the same, but there are similarities.
Apparently, most Brits don’t like it when someone is very confident and enthusiastic, but confidence and enthusiasm are nothing to be embarrassed about. To the contrary. Maybe confidence and enthusiasm sometimes get confused with snobbery and arrogance?
Tuurlijk, “de” Brit bestaat niet. En er zijn ook massa’s Britten die ons helemaal niet haten. Maar Britten die ons wel haten, waar komt dat door? Ik heb het eens op een rijtje gezet.
Een rotsvast geloof dat andere EU landen arme lage-lonenlanden zijn waar productie naartoe is verhuisd waardoor Britse fabrieken moesten sluiten. (Men denkt ook dat uit de EU stappen betekent dat die fabrieken terugkeren.)
De overtuiging dat EU burgers naar het VK komen omdat ze denken dat ze daar meer kunnen verdienen maar er de lonen laag houden omdat ze voor minder geld werken dan Britten. (Men concludeert dus dat uit de EU stappen tot hogere lonen in het VK gaat leiden.)
Het idee dat de meeste EU burgers laag zijn opgeleid en hier banen inpikken die laag opgeleide Britten zouden moeten hebben. (Men concludeert dus dat uit de EU stappen betekent dat er in het VK meer banen vrij komen voor laag opgeleide Britten. In werkelijkheid is het niveau van de Britten zelf niet zo hoog en draaien veel faciliteiten hier op buitenlanders omdat de Britten het zonder die buitenlanders simpelweg niet zouden redden. Een vaak genoemd voorbeeld is de Britse gezondheidszorg. Zonder buitenlanders zou de National Health Service instorten en de uittocht van de nu al door Brexit verdreven buitenlanders heeft de problemen binnen de Britse gezondheidszorg nog veel groter gemaakt.)
Het idee dat de Britse gezondheidszorg van een dermate hoog niveau is dat buitenlanders in drommen naar het VK toe stromen omdat ze in het VK niet voor gezondheidszorg hoeven te betalen en dat dit de reden is dat de NHS in grote problemen verkeert. Health tourism. (Het gaat in werkelijkheid om 0.3% van het budget van de NHS. Het bestrijden van dit vermeende enorme misbruik kost veel meer dan het kan opleveren en leidt er soms ook toe dat Britse kankerpatiënten, zwangere vrouwen etc. de deur wordt gewezen. Dat lossen de Britten dan op met crowdfunding.)
Het in oktober 2017 en februari 2018 door James O’Shaughnessy (Health Minister) heel geniepig gesuggereerde idee dat buitenlanders in het VK geen belasting betalen. Helaas namen de media deze uitspraken klakkeloos over en gaven ze geen tegengas.
Het idee dat het onderwijs in alle andere landen veel slechter is dan in het VK.
De overtuiging dat buitenlanders er altijd op uit zijn om je een loer te draaien. (De Brit Richard Lewis, in When Cultures Collide, noemt dit “British insularity”.)
De overtuiging dat EU burgers naar het VK komen om hier te luieren en van uitkeringen te genieten. (Dit gaat volkomen voorbij aan het feit dat EU burgers niet meteen aanspraak kunnen maken op uitkeringen; je moet daarvoor al een tijd in het VK hebben gewoond en gewerkt en ook dan kun je minder rechten hebben dan Britten. In werkelijkheid dragen EU burgers bovendien gemiddeld 2 miljard per jaar bij aan het VK, en dat is netto.)
Soms ook de overtuiging dat sommige landen in het midden Oosten deel uitmaken van de EU en/of dat buitenlanders vaker terroristen zijn.
Omdat Theresa May mensen doet geloven dat dat is wat goede Britten doen. (Donald Trump gaat in de praktijk minder ver dan de Britse regering. Hij respecteert bovendien, voorzover mij bekend, de Amerikaanse wetten en de rechtbanken. De Britse regering doet dat beslist niet en lapt zowel de rechters als de wetten nogal eens aan de laars.)
Politici, de Britse overheid en media liegen hier aantoonbaar over en worden desondanks geloofd. Het is namelijk de emotionele respons die de overtoon speelt, niet de rationele.
Er is veel diepe armoede in het VK, dus veel angst, stress, onmacht en wanhoop.
Er is dus hoop nodig.
Het is voor veel Britten makkelijker om te geloven dat hun ellende door buitenlanders komt dan te accepteren dat hun eigen regering hen voortdurend uitmelkt en een poot uitdraait.
Dat leidt namelijk tot de hoop dat het ooit beter wordt.
Daar ligt dus de oplossing. Hoe voeg je hoop toe op een manier die de haat juist minder maakt? Niet door het rationeel aan te pakken maar door de emoties aan te spreken.
Dat zou bijvoorbeeld kunnen doordat buitenlanders met genoeg geld in de arme wijken Britse steden structureel (een keer per maand?) briefjes geld gaan verspreiden en er publiciteit aan wijden zodat de associatie tussen narigheid en buitenlanders wordt doorbroken.
Er is al iemand geweest die zoiets heeft gedaan, die in een stadsdeel her en der geld had verstopt.
Je zou vliegtuigjes kunnen laten overvliegen met een lange banner (“Holland/The EU/Poland/France/Italy/Spain/Germany/Denmark/… loves you!”) en van waaruit briefjes van 5, 10, 20 en 50 naar beneden dwarrelen.
Je kan ook vanuit het buitenland enveloppen met bijvoorbeeld een briefje van 20 pond erin anoniem gaan sturen aan adressen in arme Britse wijken met daarin bijvoorbeeld ook de tekst “The EU loves you!”.
Voedselpakketjes sturen mag natuurlijk ook.
(Voedsel vanuit vliegtuigjes droppen raad ik niet aan vanwege de eventuele schade.)
Het trieste van het bovenstaande is dat het Britse regeringsbeleid de mythes in realiteit aan het omzetten is. Door rijbewijzen en paspoorten in te nemen, mensen te pas en onpas op te pakken en voor onbepaalde tijd vast te zetten (en na vrijlating identiteitsbewijzen in beslag genomen te houden), het vinden van werk en woonruimte te blokkeren en Britten zeer hoge boetes te geven voor collaboratie met verdacht gemaakte buitenlanders (zoals het verhuren van kamers) en buitenlands gedrag te criminaliseren worden buitenlanders (maar ook soms ethnische Britten evenals Britten die een vreemde achternaam hebben of met een buitenlander zijn getrouwd) de ellende in gedreven.
No wonder Rees-Mogg is an ardent brexiter. If the UK is still in the EU after 2019, firms like his investment management vehicle with £9.6b under management which has dealings with companies with "tax haven status" will become subject to the new EU clampdown on tax avoidance
Who he is, you ask? UK Government Health Minister.
Last year in October, he said, as reported by the Evening Standard, that the “British taxpayer” funds the NHS, which suggests that foreigners in the UK do not pay taxes. That could have been plain sloppy. Unfortunately, the Standard did not correct him. Continue reading →
1. Poverty – worry about debts, about how to acquire necessities such as food for one’s children, and what to pay for first – can cause a drop in IQ of up to 15 points. This indicates how much stress debts can cause for a child’s parents, creating a stressful environment for the child, not to mention various forms of deprivation (for which forced adoption is definitely not the appropriate solution, but I shouldn’t have to explain that).
Poverty is also linked to lower physical health, as you know from various studies conducted in Britain. Merely think of the combination of black moulds and cold homes. Tens of thousands of people die in Britain every winter as the result of being unable to afford to heat their homes properly. In insufficiently heated or insufficiently insulated homes, the probability of mould growth due to condensation against cold walls is higher as well. Then add lack of proper nutrition.
2. “Economic inequality harms societies”
Richard Wilkinson and other researchers, in various papers and presentations
3. “IMF research has shown that excessive inequality hinders growth and hollows out the country’s economic foundation. It erodes trust within society and fuels political tension.”
Christine Lagarde in a public speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, October 2017
4. Low wages are a major cause of poverty hence of debt in Britain. Parents have no control over this.
5. Problems with benefits are another major cause of severe poverty in Britain. Parents have no control over this either, but these issues can aggravate stress immensely, particularly debt-related stress.
6. All humans have human rights and human needs (such as the need for food and shelter), not just a few lucky people for whom fate decided that they were born and are growing up in lucky circumstances. Continue reading →
Interview with Mark Easton, BBC. Date unknown, but near the end of Tony Blair’s premiership.
Keep in mind that “hooliganism” and “anti-social behaviour” are often labels used to indicate (and reject) people from a lower socioeconomic class in Britain and that this “hooliganism” for example gets expressed in graffiti.
Of course, causing (increased) financial hardship for parents by taking any benefits away is most definitely not “in the best interest of the child”.
Tony Blair did consider graffiti “anti-social behaviour”. During a photo-op as part of his crusade, he hosed down graffiti and said that older generations of his family would have abhorred such behaviour. It then turned out that his own grandmother had been a “commie” graffiti vandal.
There probably is a work by Banksy somewhere in response to all of this.
Tony Blair also criminalized a lot of behavior that is essentially merely human behavior. That too was in nobody’s best interest and probably did nothing toward decreasing inequality in Britain.
The UK has a consumer debt crisis and it is young people, aged 18 to 34, who are most vulnerable. National unsecured debt – which includes credit cards, overdrafts and car loans – has topped £200 billion for the first time since the global financial crisis struck in 2008. But the concentration of debt, and the experiences of vulnerability, are not shared out equally.
Andrew Bailey, the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has warned that there is a “pronounced build-up of indebtedness amongst the younger age group”. He was responding to the FCA’s Financial Lives Survey which showed that 55% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 63% of 25- to 34-year-olds are in debt, owing on average over £8,000.
These numbers alone are cause for alarm, and that’s before even considering the harms and vulnerability that over-indebtedness brings. Any debt organisation will tell you about the damage which debt causes to mental and physical health. And yet so many young people are forced into debt, often before they start any meaningful form of work.
This problem should not be seen as a product of “binge” culture, and young people should not just be told to rein in their spending. Rather, this is a problem of affordability.
Rising housing costs; an increase in zero-hours contracts; inflation outstripping wages; the rapid rise in student loans – all of these issues are creating a cage of debt around young people. While the older generation retains financial security through assets (usually in the form of housing) and enjoys greater security in work, the younger generation is more likely to be exposed to the risks of private renting and job insecurity.
How did it come to this?
Amid the global panic arising from the 2008 financial crisis, the UK government propped up a failing banking sector with £1,162 billion in support. At this moment, the private financial crisis turned into a public state crisis.
Crises are usually defined by change, signalling an end to the unstable conditions of the past. Yet the enduring legacy of the financial crisis has been a transformation of the role of the state and public finances, which has left young people in an even more precarious position.
Ten years on from the financial crisis, and eight years after the introduction of the welfare-stripping austerity agenda, one thing still holds true: it is the people who contributed the least towards the crisis who are paying the highest price.
A raw deal
As the UK government continues to pay back its own debts by cutting costs and squeezing out savings, it is really young people who are carrying the burden of debt. What’s worse is, they don’t really have a choice.
In the years since the crisis, fiscal responsibility has been transferred from the state onto the individual. In other words, rather than the state providing services to ensure a basic level of well-being for everyone, it’s increasingly up to individuals to pay the price for their own education, housing and health care.
Nowhere is this clearer than in higher education; whereas the state once invested in the futures of the young, it now saddles university graduates with an average debt of £25,505 each.
Even the government’s flagship apprenticeship scheme uses young people for cheap labour, with 18-year-olds paid as little as £3.40 an hour.
All this means that, unless young people have the financial support of a parent, they are forced to rely on an increasingly punitive and complex benefit system or (more likely) be pushed down the pathway to debt. In these circumstances, it’s unsurprising that debt has become a “lifeline” for so many.
Debt is a major political instrument of control, and it should be seen as such. Individuals shoulder the burden of debt, but it is not an individual problem; it is a problem of society. It is no accident that the young are indebted in the way that they are: it is the product of years of neglect and a lack of investment by the state. The political choices of the UK government got young people into this mess. Now, political action should be used to help them out.
And what do we do about that? (See this for more info.)
I don’t know. British government is utterly useless in this respect. Everybody knows that.
Could local government be better? Instead of city councils sending out e-mails that encourage people to buy lottery tickets (!!), could they include a list of potential benefits people may qualify for? It might even stop those people from getting into arrears with their council tax, for example.
Other than that, I have no solutions. Anyone?
I got that in response to this:
Some time ago, the tone of your council tax payment reminders changed considerably. The letters can now be seen as condescending toward socioeconomic minorities.
Most people do not choose to ignore their council tax bills, after all. They are forced to.
You know as well as I do that people who are on any kind of benefit to do with the DWP often suffer from delays, sanctions and errors in their payments. Their income is not such that it can bridge those income gaps and the income gaps usually mean that people are not able to carry out bill payments.
This situation is going to get worse as a result of the roll-out of the universal credit system which currently results in payment gaps of 6 to 8 weeks.
May I suggest that instead of chiding people for being of the wrong class, you offer support and solutions?
One solution for bridging income gaps caused by the DWP could be to set up small local networks that offer peer-to-peer interest-free lending. Each individual might for example lend £5 or £10 to the person left in the lurch by the DWP, which would limit each individual’s risk. This could enable people to continue paying their bills instead of getting in arrears. When the delayed DWP payment finally arrives, they would have to return the loaned money. If they don’t, they’d be kicked out of the network. Any new delays would have to be covered through a new loan.
I know that Britain distinguishes between lesser and higher human beings, but that is against the law, even in Britain, and your letters could be perceived as discriminatory in nature.
Thank you for your consideration.
Of course, the above also holds for other situations, such as cleaners whose get their wages late or whose paid wage amount was incorrect. Benefit payments have been in the news a lot lately, however.
As most people in Britain know by now, the roll-out of universal credit leaves recipients without income for 6 to 8 weeks. Recipients of universal credit are not able to bridge such gaps, which means they develop arrears, often for the first time in their lives, and sometimes lose their homes as a result.
One solution for bridging these income gaps could be to set up local peer-to-peer interest-free lending networks. To be able to bridge the gap left by universal credit, such networks would have to include people with higher incomes (whereas smaller loans of, say, £50 to £100 can be provided by small networks of people who each lend a fiver or a tenner).
As soon as the delayed payment comes in, the recipient would have to pay off that loan.
This could be a solution that empowers people and prevents arrears.
I am aware that this would be a highly thoroughly un-British solution, but the usual endless whining of so many lone individuals – regardless of whether they write in the Guardian or not – does not help anyone bridge that monstrous income gap either.
And even if the gap were to be reduced to 4 weeks, this would still be too much to bridge.
The main motivation for universal credit appears to be a concealed benefit cut (without calling it that). “We want to make sure people who work get more money than people who depend on benefits”, the government has said. In a low-wage country, that is very bad news.
Iain Duncan Smith – he who laughed loudly when he heard of suicides and other forms of suffering among particularly disabled and chronically ill people as a result of benefit cuts – has said that the 6-to-8 weeks wait is actually a Treasury thing, not a DWP thing. If that is true, then the only reason that I can think of for the delay is the interest the government can make on the delayed UC payments. (This – interest – is the reason why many big corporations pay all their bills late.)
(I realize that UC is only still being piloted and running behind big time, but it’s about to push into its next phase and there are no signs that the government is going to remedy the mess.)
Up to £12.4 billion of means-tested benefits – including pension credit, housing benefit and jobseekers and employment support allowance – were left unclaimed in 2015-16, according to new data released by the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions.
Means-tested benefits are designed to ensure a minimum standard of living for Britain’s poorest families. But not all those people eligible are claiming them – in comparison to the near universal take-up rate of the basic state pension and widespread take-up of child benefit (which is taxable only for high earners).
Annual average amounts unclaimed by eligible families vary from an estimated £5,000 per year for those eligible for employment support allowance (for those with a disability or long-term illness), to £2,000 per year for those eligible for pension credit. In a parallel data series HM Revenue & Customs estimates take-up rates for tax credits – which are paid directly to qualifying low paid workers.
The latest data for 2014-15 adds further to the scale of unclaimed entitlements. The central estimate is that £2.3 billion of child tax credit and £3 billion of working tax credit went unclaimed by 640,000 families and 1.2m families respectively.
Improving take-up rates of means-tested benefits directly reduces poverty. Research also suggests that families who top up their income with benefits also have higher levels of health, family well-being, and employment participation and retention.
Why people don’t claim
The failure to claim benefits stems from a mix of social and economic circumstances, administrative structures, and complex eligibility rules. It may, for example, reflect a lack of awareness about the availability of the benefit or a potential claimant’s expectation that the costs involved in applying for the benefit outweigh the value of any payment.
But there is much evidence that a key factor undermining take-up is the poor design and delivery of the benefits system. Take-up has also been implicitly discouraged by policy changes targeted at some working age groups, especially the short-term unemployed. An increase in conditions and related sanctions are designed to get people into work as quickly as possible and, as a result, make their claims to benefits relatively short-lived.
Plus, the tenor of contemporary media narratives on welfare dependency has increased the stigma attached to claimants, especially people of working age. Research suggests this stigmatisation is linked to reductions in take-up and a reluctance to claim among potential beneficiaries, notably among pensioners.
The British government is unique in Europe in publishing robust annual estimates of benefit and tax credit take-up. The data for 2015-16 gives an insight into which families are at risk of poverty and claim the help from the state that they are entitled to, as the graph below shows.
Take-up rates vary depending on the type of household. For example, while the overall take-up of housing benefit was 77%, it ranged from over 90% for singles with children to only 64% for those eligible in private rented accommodation. And while the main estimate for working tax credit was 65%, only 33% of eligible households without children were claiming it.
The data implies that those with greater entitlements are more likely to claim. A significant change since 2012-13 was a decrease of 11% in means-tested jobseekers allowance caseload take-up – people who are entitled to a benefit but who do not claim it. This may have been due to high employment rates, more stringent conditions attached to claiming unemployment benefit and the early impact of the new universal credit, which for working age people rolls most means-tested benefit entitlements into a single monthly payment.
Universal credit take-up must be measured
There are no estimates or commitment yet given to publish take-up data for universal credit, even though it is now claimed by 1.5m people and will, it is estimated, be claimed by nearly 6m households in 2021. One of the supposed principal benefits of universal credit is that it will improve take-up rates by making the system less complicated and easier to deliver.
The evidence on take-up suggests these assumptions are over optimistic. It will take time for awareness to develop about the new rules and regulations involved.
It is unlikely that public and voluntary sector organisations will be able to invest in the additional effort needed to inform potential claimants, front line delivery staff, and related intermediary organisations that assist more disadvantaged groups and communities. There is also a risk that the “default digital delivery” (which means that most universal credit claimants must apply and self-manage their claims online) may reduce and deter take-up among people without access to computers or the skills to navigate digital channels.
Means-tested entitlements will likely remain at the centre of the British welfare system, including for many pensioners. And measures to improve take-up will remain central to national and local poverty-reduction strategies. It’s therefore vital to continue publishing take-up data to gauge the future impact of universal credit and related welfare and pension reforms.
If universal credit take-up rates do not improve as anticipated, the government should establish and state what percentage of eligible people eligible it expects to take it up. Measuring take-up rates would provide an important way to assess the impact of universal credit and help establish a transparent benchmark to measure whether the new system is achieving its objectives of reducing poverty and incentivising work. The government might also consider investing some of the £12.4 billion unspent means-tested benefits to develop new ways to increase take-up.
The cost of energy in the UK is once again a hot topic. During the party conference season, Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, announced that the Scottish government will set up a publicly owned, not for profit energy company. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn restated his wish to nationalise utility companies to “stop the public being ripped off”. And the Conservative prime minister Theresa May promised to fix the “broken” energy market, in part by imposing a cap on some domestic energy prices.
The UK government swiftly followed this season of rhetoric with two supporting policy announcements. It has drawn up draft legislation to set an energy price cap, although this may take until the winter of 2018/19 to be enacted. Second, it has published a clean growth strategy, which promises “cleaner air, lower energy bills, greater economic security and a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future”.
It’s not easy to address the social, environmental and economic dimensions of domestic energy in one go, as these different goals interact with each other. For example, a price cap clearly makes energy more affordable, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of energy needed or used. While the sheer price of energy is problematic for many people, so too is inefficient housing which increases bills and associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The clean growth strategy addresses this by reconfirming a commitment to require large energy companies to install efficiency measures such as insulation and heating systems. This scheme, the energy company obligation (ECO), now has £3.6 billion in funding through to 2028. It aims to help 2.5m fuel-poor households. Alongside stricter regulations within the private rented sector, the ECO is intended to upgrade all fuel-poor homes to a decent standard by 2030.
But it’s worth putting the rhetoric and promises of these policy announcements into context. Help for people in fuel poverty has decreased since 2010, largely due to the coalition government abandoning publicly funded schemes in England in favour of privately funded energy supplier obligations like ECO. Though social and environmental policies do add to fuel bills, policymakers assume that this increase is more than offset by people using less energy thanks to efficiency savings.
In our research we are currently looking at whether ECO is an effective way to address affordability and energy efficiency in vulnerable people’s homes. England is the only one of the four UK nations that relies solely on this market-driven scheme, so it’s important to evaluate its impact. We recently highlighted a number of potential problems, and solutions. To begin with, only certain people are eligible. Proxies such as welfare benefits, demographics and postcodes are used, but they can arbitrarily exclude households on the margins of these measures who may indeed be vulnerable.
People also struggle to upgrade their homes if the work does not enable a certain amount of carbon savings at a certain price. In other words, private companies are likely to prioritise meeting their statutory obligations rather than findings and helping the most vulnerable households. Even for those that do secure funding, it’s at best a long and complicated process. Some upgrades are never completed because installers are not equipped to manage the needs of people with, for example, disabilities or mental health conditions.
What is clear from our comparative research of the UK nations is that state funded schemes, such as nest in Wales and home energy efficiency programmes in Scotland, are better able to target, and respond to the needs of, vulnerable households. Market driven schemes are different as they will, by definition, seek out the most cost effective work. But this ceases to be an asset once the low-hanging fruit has all been picked, and those with the greatest need (and potentially higher costs) are left subsidising other people’s housing upgrades.
An energy price cap will certainly provide some initial relief. But unless it is continually ratcheted down or extended to more customers it will not provide long-term savings or wider benefits. Increasing investment in energy efficiency ticks more social and environmental boxes, but the regressive approach to funding such a scheme in England means it will continue prioritising cost-effective carbon savings over helping those most in need.
“IMF research has shown that excessive inequality hinders growth and hollows out the country’s economic foundation. It erodes trust within society and fuels political tensions.”
In the past three decades, economic inequality between countries has declined sharply, said Christine Lagarde at her recent public speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
“But if we look at inequality within countries, especially some advanced economies, we see widening gaps and an increased concentration of wealth among the top earners.”
There are no lesser human beings and higher human beings. That idea is a fallacy. Greater equality brings greater happiness, particularly if it lifts everyone who is in deep poverty out of it, and even benefits those at the top.
In 1981, the average top marginal tax rate in advanced economies was 62%. In 2015, it was 35%. New IMF research (which will be published next week) suggests that some advanced economies could raise their top tax rates without slowing growth. “Worth considering.”
“What is not yet done is only what we have not yet attempted to do.” – Alexis de Tocqueville
It is exposing flaws. It is shining a very bright light on all areas in which there has been room for a lot of improvement for a long time.
That improvement is only possible through major changes, and the halting of Brexit.
There is nothing new about the “mess” that Brexit has turned into. This situation, of British politicians making an ass of themselves, of the UK government thinking in “us” and “them” terms, and being unable to conduct negotiations at the international level has been in existence for many years. David Cameron was no better at it than Theresa May.
Want to recite another poem, Mr Johnson, and talk about a few more dead bodies that need to be moved out of the way?
The EU is the “enemy”, Mr Hammond? Really?
The Brexit mess shows very clearly that most British politicians lie all the time, that they are not striving to unite, but to divide and how they use humans to get what they want.
Most British voters believe the lies their politicians tell them. Because why else would they deliberately have voted for the destruction of their own future? (Okay, some did that because they thought they would have no influence on what would happen next as the referendum was a non-binding one.)
The poorer and more powerless the masses are, the more power governments have.
In other countries too, many people are appalled about how the British government is currently using the three million Europeans – and other foreigners – in Britain as bargaining chip. But Britain doesn’t treat its own citizens any different.
The root cause of all the misery in the UK is a whopping degree of inequality, coupled to the fact that upward mobility is very limited here.
Class thinking lies at the base of all of this. The idea that there are “lesser” and “higher” humans – and the idea that your degree of humanity is measured as “net worth”.
How do we turn this class nonsense upside down?
Probably through a mass movement that consistently ridicules and devalues it.
By the way, where does Theresa May get her ill-fitting jackets from? This one seems to be missing one or more buttons. Did she dig it out of a tip somewhere?
Oh wait, the British have already been doing that for many years too…
Okay, I may have a better idea.
If you believe people are worthless, you make them worthless. If you believe someone cannot be trusted, you make that person untrustworthy. If you believe some people are powerful, you make them powerful.
Start every day with one thought. “Today, I am going to do at least one thing that will make someone else happy.” Regardless of who or what he or she is.
You won’t know what that one thing is until it happens.
Farage:”Down with the elite”
Rees-Mogg:”Down with the elite”
Brexiters:”Yes, down with the elite!’
Farage&RM:”They fall for it every time!” pic.twitter.com/VEcRudtuMM