Again, this is from the perspective of an outsider living in the UK. I am shocked and dismayed at the level of social services offered to people here in the UK. Compared to North America the United Kingdom is a vast communist/socialist state. I am stunned at how much my tax goes towards things which would stun most in Canada.
Apparently you can get a housing allowance, the value of which flutuates depending on where you live. So you could be living in North London and get more benefits than someone living in Hampshire – because the cost of housing is higher in London. So the local council/social services will pay your rent (effectively) and then you get a weekly stipend, all calculated using some mystical formulae no one understands. The formulae consider factors such as where you live, how many children you have, what your savings are/were, how much rent you pay, your heating etc. It shocks me, as in Canada there was huge welfare reform about 15 years ago which tightened up the social support payments. I am not completely happy at how Mike Harris on Ontario did it, don’t get me wrong.
In Canada you get a certain amount of welfare/benefits. If you are a single mother with 2 children when you start collecting welfare and whilst on welfare you manage to produce another sprog you still only get enough welfare one adult + 2 children. The idea is that welfare is suppose to be a temporary stop-gap, not a lifestyle for people to increase their welfare payments with each sprog they produce. Said welfare payment does not vary where you live – if you live in Toronto you get the same as you would if you lived in Timmins or Sudbury or Barrie. The idea is that you get a payment, once a month, and it is up to you to budget and find the appropriate accomodations that your welfare dollars can pay for. When I was recovering from surgery 5 years ago and was contemplating going on welfare I was eligible for $620.00; I lived in Toronto and my rent was $1000 but it didn’t matter I was only eligible for a certain amount.
And the latest stunned moment for me was the Tory Government putting through legislation that would allow a dual-income family or single income (if a single parent family) to claim childcare expenses up to a maximum of 20% of £6000 or £1200.00. The limitation is that neither individual can earn more than £150,000 per year – so effectively you could have a family income of £300,000 and be able to get £1200 per child. I’d rather see government funded daycare or subsidised daycare and have people apply, with first preference being to those at most need. But there’s been an uproar from stay at home mothers who are whinging that they are being excluded – to which I say bullshit. My taxes go towards supporting those stay at home mothers, whilst atleast I can see the reasoning behind helping working mothers with childcare costs – as they are in effect getting a portion of the PAYE that they pay back — basically, atleast they are paying taxes.
I look around me and there are so many areas where I can easily see services that could be streamlined and made more efficient so that the support needed for those truly in need would get it, while the rest of us can live with the assurance that the necessary resources will be available when we need them.
People seem to forget there is a finite amount of resources which our taxes can pay for. So instead of trying to suckle at the public teat maybe people should view the social support as a safety net when needed, but while still able continue on contributing towards society.
So, I still firmly believe in means-testing. It can be done and efficiently and cheaply, but there needs to be political will – which is sadly lacking in the UK at the moment. And review the services the NHS pays for – not everything can be funded as yet again, there is a finite amount of resources – so don’t pay for IVF for anyone. I am sorry, but it is not a medical necessity to get pregnant. Breast enlargements because you feel sad/depressed should also not be funded. And increase the number of children per child-minder in the creches/daycare centres.