Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments

Tag: benefits

The Kingdom of Heaven and Universal Credit

Certainly Not Matthew 20:1-16

Here is something Jesus did NOT say:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and the foreman gave them nothing; and the owner told them ‘I hope you enjoyed working in the vineyard; this was useful work experience for you. The Government will still pay you your benefits – this is called Workfare.’

The foreman then paid out the fraction of a denarius owed to those who had came at nine, noon and three; and the owner said, ‘Fortunately the Government will make up the difference in your salary – this is called Universal Credit.’

The foreman then paid a denarius to those who were hired first; and the owner said ‘Now I realise that this is not enough to live on, but I did not have to grow my vineyard here – this is called Capitalism.’

When they received it, they began to grumble, but not against the landowner; it was much easier to blame each other or the immigrants.

So the last will be last, the first will also be last, but the owner and his friends in the Government will always put themselves first.

Clever Clever Tories

Recently I was asked on Twitter what was the best rebuttal for the Government’s policy of setting a Benefit Cap; this was shortly after watching a Labour leadership candidate back the Benefit Cap when challenged directly by a BBC journalist.

Clever, clever Tories.

If anyone doubts the cleverness of those in power then consider this:

The Government has devastated the income of the poorest, not by the Benefit Cap, but by a whole series of technical changes to how benefits are claimed and calculated. The poorest 10% of families lost 9% of their post-tax income in the last 5 years – down from a mere £100 per week. Yet the policy which the BBC uses as a litmus test for welfare reform is the Benefit Cap – a policy which applies to very few people (0.1% of families) most of whom live in London and where benefits are simply being used to subsidise excessive rents and therefore actually fund landlords.

Clever, clever Tories

There is no doubt indeed that we are dealing with some very intelligent and cunning people.

This Government’s policy can usefully be divided between:

  • Real policy – which is hard to see but which largely functions to impoverish the poor and to pander to the wallets of middle-earners and the truly wealthy.
  • Apparent policy – which is easy to see and which panders to social prejudices, the need for simplification demanded by journalists and which puts social justice on the back foot.

Of course one of the advantages of Government is that you can instruct your civil service to do most of the work of designing and defending these disgraceful policies. It is hard to compete with the billions invested in defending injustice.

However, perhaps we should think like Sir Frances Drake, when faced by the Spanish Armada: small and sprightly ships, connected by strategy, but attacking from different directions may be what we need.

Taxing Love

You can’t redistribute love. 

Love is the most important thing in life. It is what keeps us strong, makes great children and build good citizens.

The government cannot take away someone else’s love and use it on other people. Love is bound up with real human relationships, commitments and families.

However, while the government cannot redistribute love it can tax love and often does so in ways that are highly damaging. In the UK system we find love taxed in many ways:

  • If you are in poverty and live together then you lose benefits
  • A family where one partner is working loses the tax allowances of the non-working partner
  • If you need care or support you are often deemed ineligible if you have family in your life

So we punish people for love, impose taxes on families, means-test family strength. For example, disabled people have sometimes found social workers encouraging them to get a divorce in order to be entitled to higher levels of benefits or social care.

The design of the current tax-benefit system is anti-love – it punishes and penalises people for being in relationships and it incentivises family breakdown. The answer is not to reduce benefits but to design a system that does not punish love.

© 2017 Simon Duffy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑