Mark Steel: All aboard the London Eye, claimants!

You might as well say that some people are exploiting the NHS by being in intensive care

Share

We've come to that point in the lifetime of every Tory government when we're invited to scream about people on benefits. Some people enjoy this activity all the time, but at the moment it's like New Year's Eve for drinking, a time when if you're not doing it to excess, you get sneered at for not taking part in the fun.

So everyone has to tell a story they've heard, such as, "One lot, they haven't worked for 25 years, went down the benefit office, said they needed an aircraft carrier. They filled in a form and the next day it was delivered. Then they sent it back as they didn't like the colour."

Almost every newspaper and minister's interview is packed with stories like this, to justify capping benefits so they can "encourage" claimants back to work. This assumes that the reason unemployment goes up is there's a surge in people deciding not to work. It's true that this seems to have happened at exactly the same time as a global recession but this is probably a coincidence.

So the Government has chosen the amount at which a family's benefits must be capped as £26,000, because no one should be allowed to claim more than the average wage. This would be fair if the way benefit payments were calculated is that you went for an interview, in which you said how much you fancied spending this year and they gave it to you. But the 67,000 households who receive this sum do so because it matches their circumstances. That's why a family of five can claim more than a single person who lives with their parents.

You might as well say that some people exploit the NHS by claiming for dozens of hospital appointments, chemotherapy and nights in intensive care, so we should put a cap on how much they can take, to encourage them to get better. Also, most of this £26,000 doesn't go to claimants, it goes straight to landlords as rent, which could explain why over half of the families who receive this amount are in London, where rents are highest. Or maybe this is another coincidence, and people claim more there because there's so much more to do, such as spend all day going round and round the London Eye and claiming the cost as mobility allowance.

The greed here is from the landlords, who in London can charge £1,000 a month for a squalid two-bedroom flat, knowing it will get paid directly by welfare, and the best bit for them is the people who never see it are the ones who get blamed for swiping it.

So maybe the Government's complaint is that people on benefits aren't greedy enough. Instead of £26,000, they should claim £2m, put the housing benefit in their wife's name in an account in the Cayman Islands, and instead of a cap, the Government will urge restraint and ask them to think twice before claiming a bus pass as well.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor