Friday, July 17, 2009

The 'Deserving' And The 'Undeserving' Poor

It's not PC to say it but there are 'undeserving poor'. There are people who abuse the system, sub-let their Council houses, claim benefits they are not entitled to, won't work because they are too lazy, have plenty money to cover all their needs or are plain criminals.

They get the 'deserving' poor a bad name. But they are protected as much as the deserving poor - because nobody has called them out. They skew the statistics; they make the budgets bigger; they are having a laugh frankly, at all our expense, but mostly at the expense of those who can least afford it.

It is somehow not allowable to question the credentials of anyone who claims to have needs - whether or not they actually have needs or not. There are a lot of half-truths told and a lot of spinning goes on making the subject almost untouchable.

This is a destructive position to be in - as destructive in my opinion as those who are so far removed from reality that they really believe that there aren't any 'real' poor at all. That's why they can countenance taking away 5% of their income and think it's not going to make any real difference.

Now if you take away 5, 10 or even 25% of the income of someone who is earning a cool quarter of a mil a year (as, say the authors of the An Bord Snip Nua most likely are, I'm sure) then losing that proportion of your income is not real pain. Maybe you can't change the Merc this year; maybe you book one less treatment at the spa this weekend; maybe you'll skip the champagne at dinner and stick to just the wine!

But if you take away €10 from someone who is living for the entire week, on the cost of a dinner and wine for six in many Irish Restaurants, then you're talking about that making a real, actual difference.

But people who claims benefits to which they are not really entitled, or houses for which they have no real need are stealing that money from the real, deserving poor. Not from the rich.

Anecdotally, everyone you meet will have a story about someone they know who is working and claiming, or illegally renting out their council house. I, for one, don't know what the proportion would be, but again, anecdotally, it seems to be a significant number.

This means that the Social Welfare budget is significantly higher than it would otherwise be, making it a target now for cuts across the board. Cutting from those who are barely making ends meet. Cutting from those who couldn't afford to run a car; have never seen the inside of a Spa or have never bought a bottle of Champagne.

I think it is right and proper that the 'undeserving poor' are called out. Are taken out of the system and are prevented from 'stealing' from the people who really need it.

Having said that, I think it is a very dangerous game to cut the income of the many people who are, in reality, living on the breadline - or below it. Yes there are poor people in Ireland. Yes there are people who can't buy themselves a warm winter coat, children who go hungry, those who can't afford any social life. There are people who will be excluded from 3rd Level if fee's are re-introduced. There are people who will not be able to afford to pay €5 for every prescription - making them poorer, the sicker they are! This is a crazy situation.

And I know - I KNOW - about the balance of income versus expenditure and that we're simply spending more than we can afford. I just think it's pretty obvious that An Bord Snip Nua was written by an urban based, Dublin-centric, wealthy elite who are not exposed to any needs, awareness or reality other than their own.

Lets hope the policy makers (ah me!) will be more aware of the need for social justice and for being very careful about cutting the incomes of the poor, the needy, the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled.

I blame Fianna Fail or all of this. For either deliberately, or stupidly (only two options really) leading us to this pass where we are living on money we don't and never really had.

Why do I not feel hopeful?


Aine said...

how can you lump people experiencing poverty with those affected by the return of third level fees?
Have you any qualifications in economics, politics or social science? It shows, your gerneralisation of 'countless' people who milk the system is infuriating and poorly qualified.

Anonymous said...

if work paid well i think people would be more willing to go to work than live off benefits, because minimum wage is still too low even if people work they are still living in poverty and are only a little better of than they would be if they stayed at home on benefits. The ywhole system is a mess and its quite clear that the system is easy to manipulate as people are able to claim benefits that they shouldnt really have