Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Eve of Destruction

Call her Eve.

She phones my office in where I do the bidding of the Department of Hurt and Awful Nuisances and I take the call. She’s ringing to report some minor change in her circumstances that she fears may affect her Social Security benefits. She’s wrong – it doesn’t affect her at all.

She’s on Income Support which means that she’s exempt from even thinking about looking for work and is only interviewed occasionally about her circumstances.

She sounds like a nice woman: friendly; polite; articulate; and our distinctive local accent is smoothed in her voice by intelligence and (I would guess) education. She sounds in fact as switched-on, bright, self-controlled and worthy of trust and as capable of employment as any of scores of women I’ve worked with over the years: teachers, corporate trainers, university and college lecturers, HR managers and entrepreneurs. In short, given my chequered (varied, diverse, disastrous) career, she sounded as if I would be working for her if only the Fates had spun their cloth a thread or too differently.

But she’s exempt from even thinking about looking for work.

I reassure her that she need not worry about her change of circumstances, and she thanks me. In passing, she mentions she’s expecting another baby in the next few weeks. She sounds very happy, and I offer her my congratulations for which she thanks me again and she promises to call us as soon as she can after the baby’s born so we can advise her about any changes in her benefits. We say goodbye, and she’s off the line.

In anticipation of the happy day when that call comes, and in case missed something and need to call her back, I check her background files to see what, if any effect this will have on her income stream.

Here’s the bio.

Born in 1976, she had her first child sixteen years later and then one at seventeen and then another at nineteen. Now all these kids have the same surname (not the same as hers, so let’s call it Anonymous) so she may just about have been married to or cohabiting with Mister Anonymous for a few years and the both of them trying to make their way in life and make a living the old-fashioned way.

Somehow I doubt it. Living together would jeopardize the Income Support unless one or both of them can prove they are ‘disabled’. We’re not talking white stick and Labrador here or a wheelchair. We can be talking ‘depression’ or ‘panic attacks’ with the right care worker and the right doctor working together for the good of us all.

Income Support means an income for a single parent in addition to the following goodies: free dental care, prescriptions, school meals, Housing Benefits, and Council Tax Benefits. The latter two meaning she gets paid 100% of whatever proportion of a private rent that the Rent Service has allowed for her particular family in her particular dwelling (roughly, the more children there are, the more rooms she’ll ‘need’) and all her Council Tax bill. If she rents from her Council Housing Department then she’ll get 100% of her rent as council housing is assumed not to be overpriced, and the same for Housing Association lettings. God only knows how much taxation – local and national – goes to keeping this ‘social housing’ ‘affordable.’

Child Benefit is £20 per week for the first child plus £13.20 for each of the next up until sixteen, or up to twenty if they are in further education or training.

And because she is a single ‘mum’ she doesn’t have to look for work [ i.e., go onto the same amount of income but Income Support is replaced with Job Seeker’s Allowance and you have to sign on fortnightly and show that you’ve been looking at the jobs papers, visiting the library, etc] until her youngest reaches twelve years old. That’s changing to seven years old from October 2010. No rush. It’ll not affect her even when Septimus is born. Let’s assume that goes to plan and calls to delay this ‘cut ‘don’t succeed. Oh, and enterprising single mums can work up to 16 hours without loss of benefits, so there can even be a rewarding extra income on the side, if you can be bothered. But it looks like she may not have been too bothered as it happens because…

Did I mention the three other kids, surnamed, um, Beneficiary, born 2001, 2002, and 2004? No? Three lots of more of all of the above. And guess who’s paying to have them all ‘educated?’ Guess whose children are putting up with, and losing valuable learning time to their disruptive behaviour assuming that Eve isn't always effective as a cross between Maria and Baron Von Trapp

So let’s tot that up, shall we?

As things stand now, Eve has been exempt from the rat race; from listening to any boss at all tell her to bloody well get on with it - but has been housed and provided for and at all times taking into account and adding ever more income for the growing size of her ‘family’ - all her legal cigarette-buying life. And this will go on until 2021.

That’s 1992 to 2121.

A thirty-one year holiday, on your credit card, with no work-seeking requirement at all.

Am I repeating myself about that dull old not-needing-to work thing?

Sorry, but if someone was having a go at you in a thoroughly Spartan way with a Napoleonic Age ramrod and a hedgehog you might feel the need to repeat yourself too.

Today her Child Benefit alone amounts to £99.20 per week, every week. That’s £5158.40 per year. (Call it half a classroom attendant in the provinces.) Plus Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, NHS dentistry, lunches for the kids on schooldays and all the prescriptions she’ll need, poor lamb, and Job Seeker’s Allowance at the same rate until 2029 when Septimus’ Child Benefit finally ends and all she’s left with is her wages or her Jobseekers’ Allowance if by some ill turn of Fate she doesn’t find a job that makes benefits unnecessary. And she’ll be pretty much near the top of the Council’s housing list due to the large size of her ‘family.’ So that’s a home for life.

On your tab.

By 2021 she’ll be 54 and expected to fend entirely for herself in a rugged, get-up-and-go frontierswoman Thatcherite sort of way until 2041, by which time, after maybe twenty years of exhausting labour (that’s the waged kind of labour, not the ’Push, push, you’re doing fine I can see the head’ paid-for-from-general-taxation kind) the State will step in to help this particular hard-working family to the State Pension and maybe Pension Credit as well to top up any retirement income shortfalls due to, oh I don’t know, temporary absences from the workforce? and hence gaps in paying her national Insurance payments and occupational pension contributions.

Do not, under any circumstances, get me started on people who say ‘I can’t afford to pay into a pension.’

Just don’t.

As I said, she’s a sweet-sounding girl, and I’m pro-life, and my suggestion is going to have to take both factors into account.

How about we stop paying benefits for further children after her third child? Make her work or seek work part-time after the last child’s reached five – say 9.30 am to 2.30 PM between the two school rushes? And no more child-related tax credits, premiums, allowances or payments after that third child has been taken into account. Ever.

Mrs. Northwester, a hippy-type Lefty, feels much the same about what needs to be done, but she thinks that it is a right-wing myth that women have children just to get welfare benefits.

It makes no difference if a bad thing's happening for right-wing reasons or for not right-wing reasons. It doesn't really matter if you're being hurt by the Dialectic of the Dodo or on the orders of Sir Rupert, King of the Pixies; when a Bad Man's waist-deep in another chap’s alimentary canal it's still going to sting like hell and make the chap want to use the cubicles and sit down to do Number Ones for the rest of his life.

But make her responsible for funding her life choices after that third child – and what politician seeking re-election would dare to stand on anything ‘meaner’ than help up to replacement-plus-one? – and maybe her life choices won’t include Quartus, Quintus, Sextus and Septimus.

Maybe she won’t take the decisions that lead to the lifestyles and drinking at the tax-wells that gave us the sylvan peace of Biff Malcolm‘s rich family life or the almost idealised tranquillity of Karen Matthews’ Walton’s Mountain-style home.

She might even choose Mister Anonymous a little more carefully in the first place. She might choose one she thinks will stay around, and try and make it work. She might insist on getting married, or something. She might just control her fertility.

This is not a right-wing myth, nor is it a rare exception. Without even trying to I encountered a couple more bios for two more ‘mums’ in the next day after this call, as colleagues mentioned them or paperwork crossed my desk.


Born 1980, issue 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 (twins).


Born 1975, issue 1992, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2006, 2008 and 2008 (more twins).

I meet hundreds of ‘families’ like this per year.

Now if I was, say, a British Prime Minister hoping to do some lasting good for Britain that would temper history’s otherwise unanimous verdict of ‘The biggest Number Twos at Number Ten ever,’ and if I therefore wanted to find some money to help reduce the national debt in order to do so because I had, for example, put the whole economy on the nose of a horse who came in second, I might think of something like the above modest suggestion.

Except that Labour’s political culture will never allow ‘targetting the most vulnerable in society who need the most help.’

That’s why Frank Field is out.

Pity, really.



Sue said...

I find this "breeding cycle" very strange..

I had my two children as close together as was bearable (16 months apart), so I could get back to work as quickly as possible.

It wasn't that we necessarily needed the money (although it came in handy), it was just that I felt so trapped at home with just children to speak to.

I actually think it's harder to stay at home and look after a few kids than go to work. Going to work is much easier. You get paid, have a social life, get appreciated and feel like you have achieved something with your life!

James Higham said...

"But she’s exempt from even thinking about looking for work."

Once again, another fabulous post.

North Northwester said...

Sue; the choice and the power were yours, taken and used for your own purposes and within the plan of your life and it contained work, for whatever reasons.
If you had help from the state, then it was soon over - or most of it was.

To these people it's a career; you do exactly what Mum did and why not? There's never any hint of shame that they are imposing on anyone else, when they tell us about this.

To be fair, some are surprised, caught by the stork, as it were, but it's no big deal.

And as for the casual way they inform us that child's Surname Number Three has walked out on them, well; 'I'm not bothered about HIM. I can do without HIM...' They just haven't lost anything much, and the children will have to await their next 'Daddy.'

I really don't think we can afford as a country to go on allowing this, and it's not just the money. The kids' lives are awful - even the non-abused ones are like something out of Dickens. not a book, nor an ornament in any of these social housing 'homes.'

The safety net has become a man-trap.
And I should know, I'm part of the trap.

North Northwester said...

Thank you James. All this praise will be missed when the government takes my works internet connection away and I have to read a book at lunch-time.

Hey, ho.

The galling thing about this is that it would be a vote-winner for anyone who proposed it if we had anything like unbiased media in this country.

Truly 'hard-working families' resent subsidising the fast-breeders; others on the dole who have no children or small families envy the fabulous amounts of cash available to the tribes - and childless couples and singles and working families all lose out.

Wait for the BBC, Sky, Guardian et al to describe such measures as 'genocide' - even if it was only applied say ten months in advance and so to only the as yet unconceived.

Still, I'd like to put a pro-life argument up against a welfare junkie saying this kills kids who don't even exist yet..

North Northwester said...

That should have been "not a book, nor an ornament in many of these social housing 'homes.'"

A leettle different, I think. :-(

JuliaM said...

"..our distinctive local accent is smoothed in her voice by intelligence.."

That assessment is somewhat belied by the details of her life, though, isn't it?

Who would choose to be, in effect, a broodmare? And for a succession of what I'm sure aren't 'alpha males'?

I mean, yes, ok, bills paid for, etc. But if she's really intelligent, is she never to look back at her life, and think 'This?
This is what I amount to..?'

Sue said...

It's a difficult dilemma. I would be interested to hear if you had a solution in mind as you are so involved in this area.

If marriage were still an important factor in family relationships, I think it would make a difference.

At the very least, it would stop those who were genuinely committed to a relationship in the first place, suffering from the restrictions that we would place on "broodmares".

JuliaM said...

"It's a difficult dilemma. I would be interested to hear if you had a solution in mind..."

Solutions are likely to be elusive, at least for many of these people. If they've been brought up to belive this lifestyle to be normal, no amount of hectoring from authority figures is likely to change it.

Marriage would make a difference if it wasn't so easy to scrub a marriage and 'start again'.

North Northwester said...

"Who would choose to be, in effect, a broodmare? And for a succession of what I'm sure aren't 'alpha males'?
I mean, yes, ok, bills paid for, etc. But if she's really intelligent, is she never to look back at her life, and think 'This?
This is what I amount to..?'"

I think it's a difference of values.

This was a bright chirpy mind - lots of them are slow talking and slow thinking, so I'm guessing she was what my suburban snobbery would call 'a nice girl' who got pregnant around her GCEs and never went back to school. The point is that there was NO NEED - by your standards and mine - for her to continue this way, but maybe she just felt that this was OK a few years later. Time heals all wounds, and maybe ambitions, too.

Or, she had promises, kids and not much else out of Mister Absent and then was so used to her brood-mare life that when Beneficiary came along more kids seemed OK - she wasn't losing anything financial. Maybe she loved him and he wanted kids.

I don't know, but if this is what some bright women do, no wonder the undereducated ones go off the rails and into the nation's chequebooks.

North Northwester said...

"If marriage were still an important factor in family relationships, I think it would make a difference."

I think so a bit - tax advantages, that kind of thing. The problem is that marriage has been so long social-engineered around by now that it's even hard for me as a social conservative to guess how to get its importance back, because sex is no longer mysterious and a sacrament.

Maybe stronger contractual law? I don't know.

But making a woman responsible for her deeds - with some wriggle room for accidents/bad luck - does seem like a starting-point.

Sue said...

A very loud, unattractive, mean-acting woman walked into Asda with her two kids, yelling obscenities at them all the way through the entrance.

The Asda greeter said pleasantly, 'Good morning, and welcome to Asda. Nice children you have there. Are they twins?' The fat ugly woman stopped yelling long enough to say, 'Hell no they ain't twins. The oldest one's 9 and the other one's 7. Why the hell would you think they're twins? Are you blind, or just stupid?'

'I'm neither blind nor stupid, Madam,' replied the greeter. 'I just couldn't believe someone would shag you twice. Have a good day and thank you for shopping at Asda.'

North Northwester said...

Ah, yes. I know the type.

They only have rights.

wildgoose said...

How'a about a one-off payment on the birth of the first child only, scrap child allowance but instigate free school meals for all children along with a child tax allowance for those in work.

That way those who work, (i.e. are responsible), get help with having children. Let's face it - they are the kind of children we need.

Those who don't, don't.

North Northwester said...

Hi Wild Goose; welcome and thanks for your comment.
Yep - that's another way to skin the cat of reducing benefits to fast breeders, though replacement birthrate should be a little over 2 per couple, so I'd be inclined to point slightly less 'generous' benefits to the first 2 kids, or even three.

The important thing to do as lobbyists/letter writers/bloggers is to push that there should be a numerical limit on tax-subsidized children.

RIght now, it's more profitable for a would-be jihadist, to pick a Mark Steyn obssession, to incarcerate his wife (wives) at home breeding benfitts magnets who themselves will not integrate, than send her out to work to learn English and maybe get a life. Likewise, the Karen Matthews gravy train has to stop.

This is a vote winner, will irritate the hellout of the Guardain and enrage the BBC.

Naturally, therefore, neither wing of our national fascist party will propose it.



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