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Sunday 27 January 2013

Super Soaraway Benefit Silliness

Last week’s excursion by Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sunday Sun into exposing what it claimed to be people “scrounging” on benefits was clearly not an isolated occurrence, as there is another supposed exclusive today, this time highlighting a young couple who have a six-month old child and apparently no desire to go out and get a job.

At first this looks an open and shut case, and that is where the agenda of the Murdoch press directs its readers, but as with last week’s “single mother on benefits” expose, all is not as it seems. Quite apart from the young woman being sneered at by the paper for trying to look her best for the photo – “flaunting fake tan and perfectly manicured nails” – the story doesn’t add up.

And what leaps off the page first is the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) payment of £110 per week. Quite apart from the figures having been rounded – hacks apparently can’t understand money if it’s in smaller amounts than £10 – this benefit is not paid out ad infinitum. Claimants have to demonstrate that they are looking for work, and there are a variety of “sanctions” that can be applied if they do not.

Those sanctions include being directed to attend training courses or the much-discussed Work Programme on pain of benefit removal. JSA removal can be for 13 weeks in the first instance and for as much as three years for more serious transgressions – like not applying for suitable jobs or not accepting job offers. And one of the couple has been offered jobs.

If, as the Sun claims, the couple “didn’t even bother looking for work”, that JSA would be for the chop pronto. And the rest of what they get from child tax credits and child benefits would – at £320 a month – not cover their admitted outgoings of £360, plus whatever they spend on their child and any luxuries or extras on top of that. Which leaves us with one general conclusion.

And that is that either this couple have been staggeringly stupid in putting their heads above the parapet, the Sun’s hacks have significantly exaggerated what they were actually told, or more likely a combination of the two. Housing benefit, for instance, is still paid to those in work although there is some deduction made as income increases. This, too, does not get mentioned.

Nor does the fact that child tax credit is also paid up to an income level over £40,000 per annum, and that child benefit would not be affected by either or both parents going out to work. So both contentions in the article – that the couple are somehow trapped on benefits, and that the payment of those benefits would reach a full stop if they went out to work – are demonstrably false.

But it gets the audience ranting and frothing, so that’s all right, then.

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