‘AT a time when we have become numbed to the reckless spending of this Conservative Government, it is nonetheless shocking to note that £121.5 million was squandered last year contesting benefit awards to people in Britain (“UK Government admits it spent £121.5m on benefit appeals”, The Herald, April 19). Some of the most vulnerable people in society are routinely denied welfare benefits due to deliberately long-winded and confusing systems and paperwork provided by the Department of Work and Pensions. The appeals system is intimidating and threatening, with the claimant made to feel more like an offender than someone worthy of understanding and support from a Government department. Without support from charities like Citizen’s Advice many would not have the forbearance to attend their own appeal.
The 19th century concept of “deserving poor” has returned with a vengeance under Theresa May‘s heartless administration which would rather see this money wasted than awarded to those they deem “undeserving”. Dickens would have termed them Gradgrindian in that their philosophy will endeavour to stop those who depend on benefits, either as their sole source of income or to top up their low wages, from feasting on ” turtle soup and venison.”
In Dickens’s novel Hard Times, Mr Gradgrind maintained that facts alone were needed in life. By our Minister for Work and Pensions’ recent own admission, it is a fact that the mismanagement of benefits such as Universal Credit has seen a significant spiralling in the use of food banks. It is also a fact that our welfare system is not fit for purpose, and though some of the powers and responsibilities have been devolved to the Scottish Government, it will take a great deal of time and expenditure to rectify this.
Attempts to apply a business model to social security ignores the human element. Bureaucratic indifference to people’s lives fosters a society lacking in empathy and compassion. Mrs May and her Government would do well to remember that, in a true welfare state, redistribution of wealth and protection from cradle to grave are to be cherished and celebrated.