Letters: Why do we put up with the welfare culture?

These letters are published in the print issue of The Independent, April 4th, 2013


In his rush to absolve our unaffordable welfare system Owen Jones (3 April) does not seem to grasp the most troubling aspect of the Philpott case. He accurately singles the family out as not typical of those receiving welfare. What he misses is the way in which their behaviour was accepted by others.

If your reporting is accurate the family had some form of cult status in the area. Some thought Mick Philpott a bit of a “character”, yet, on his own admission, he saw his children as a source of income. It seems that an excessive lifestyle, for by any measure that is what it was, can be sustained on state handouts with the apparent approval of those living nearby who may be less fortunate.

This exceptional tale does indeed tell a bigger picture: that some people apply no judgement to the way in which welfare money is spent. The dysfunctional way benefits are bestowed has enabled this mentality to thrive.

G Barlow, Wirral

It is a measure of how remote the churches now are from the lives of ordinary people that they could endorse the welfare report The Lies We Tell Ourselves.

These bourgeois institutions fulminate against Iain Duncan Smith, but the poor and the working class, many in receipt of benefits, accept the need for welfare reform. Two thirds think the system doesn’t work while four out of five believe anyone refusing a job should have their benefits cut.

The fact is that on their way to work they pass the blinds-drawn widows of welfare careerists and have seen at first hand the toxic effect of “incapacity” benefits. Having been brought up in a mining village, I know that coaxing people into the all-encompassing bosom of the state inevitably alienates them from their neighbours.

Senior clerics and patrician commentators are still wedded to the concept of welfarism mainly because they have never personally fallen into its fell clutch.

The Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

George Osborne’s attack on the “depressingly predictable outrage” of churches and charities opposed to the Government’s welfare reforms is itself a depressingly predictable manifestation of the opprobrium now being poured on Christians and churches by people who take at face value the criticisms made by militant atheists.

Churches are on the front line of dealing with the effects of economic hardship the world over, be it the Salvation Army in its campaigns or ordinary churchgoers spending extra at the supermarket to supply this nation’s overstretched food banks.

Many churches and Christians make considerable sacrifices of time and money to assist people in need and to pick up the pieces when times are tough, providing an infrastructure of support unparalleled by any other movement. To describe them as “vested interests” is simply fatuous.

Jeremy Legg, Bournemouth

The current debate about the bedroom tax touches on a wider malaise contributing to the benefits culture.

Because renting or buying a roof over one’s head is so expensive as a proportion of income (spending 40 per cent is not uncommon), once people get into social housing, many tend to hang on to it at all costs.

The same applies to transport to and from work; rising petrol prices and the astronomical costs of public transport deter many people from taking work outside their local area.

As a result, many people would rather struggle on paltry benefits than struggle on paltry wages. The costs of accessing the infrastructure necessary for work need to be addressed.

Karl Chads, London SE18

Sure you can survive a week on £53, as Iain Duncan Smith claims; maybe even two or three weeks. It helps, of course, if you’re already well fed, well educated and in good health.

What happens when your children need new shoes for school? When you need to contribute towards the next school trip? When the bailiffs have taken the television and anything else of value in your home? When there’s a family birthday? When all your earnings are eaten up by repayments?

Time for a reality check.

Jane Kelly, Salisbury

The right kind of targets for hospitals

In his article of 28 March, Andreas Whittam Smith says: “The cruelty of Mid Staffordshire was the result of setting a multitude of targets for staff and then chasing them to achieve them.”

Having “targets” is part of the system of management, popular in the 1960s, known then as Management by Objectives (MbO), but with one essential difference. Each such target needs to be agreed with and by those concerned with achieving it, not merely be set by higher management.

From 1973 to 1977 I was Commander-in-Chief of RAF Support Command. It was staffed by 10,000 service people and 12,000 civilian staff, who manned its repair and supply units, communications units, medical and dental units and others.  

I introduced MbO throughout the Command, including the hospitals, but we were careful to discuss and agree each “target” with the management of the unit concerned, both initially and at periodic revisions, when the results achieved were reviewed in situ. 

I hope that our success in getting steadily improved results for all units, including hospitals, by the use of agreed targets, was in no way responsible for the later disastrous adoption of a system for the NHS with targets set by the Ministry. 

Air Marshal Sir Reginald E W Harland, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

‘American’ helicopters

I don’t believe Eileen Noakes and Terence Davidson (letters, 27 March) need worry about the British search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter service being awarded to “an American company”.

The company concerned, Bristow Helicopters Ltd, is based in Aberdeen. Although it now has a Texas-based parent company, it was started in Britain in 1953 by Alan Bristow, and it has a distinguished history of providing SAR services here. It also, separately, provides a significant proportion of military helicopter training for the UK Ministry of Defence.  

When the American company, Offshore Logistics, bought a controlling interest in Bristow in 1996, it chose to change its name to the Bristow Group, because of the worldwide reputation of the Bristow name.

The demise of military SAR services in this country comes as no surprise in aviation circles. The main purpose of military SAR has always been to rescue downed military aircrew  – something that is rarely needed in this country these days. The great bulk of UK SAR work is rescuing civilians, and a cash-strapped military can no longer afford to do that – particularly since its Sea King helicopters urgently need replacing.

Sean Maffett, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire

Fracking: too much guesswork

Jonathan Brown’s article (2 April) reveals that future energy security depends on fracking, which according to the CEO of the energy firm Cuadrilla is behind schedule and progressing slowly, and may provide 0-40 per cent gas return, and that is a guess. 

A more scientific, data-based article in the science journal Nature reveals that the productivity of 65,000 wells in the US declined rapidly, producing 80-95 per cent less gas than in the previous three years. So far from “fuelling homes [after] three years”. there may simply be insufficient gas to fuel anything. 

Gas fracking companies need urgently to solve why gas wells run dry so quickly. Without that, fracking is simply unsustainable.

Professor Martin Menzies, Earth Sciences,  Royal Holloway  University of London

Managing fewer trains

I have just heard the most egregious piece of management-speak I’ve encountered for a long time. Since the improvements to the station at the weekend were not finished on time, the people who run the rail network have decided to “re-evaluate” their service.

This apparently means that they will be running only one train an hour from Oxford to London Paddington.

Jane Gregory, Emsworth,  Hampshire

Setback for Salmond

So much for Alex Salmond’s dreams of becoming the first president of the Republic of Scotland now that Rupert Murdoch has baled out (report, 2 April).

Mr Salmond should have realised that Murdoch’s allegiance is solely to Murdoch, and it’s a sure sign that the ship is going down when the rats begin to leave.

John White, Sidcup,  Kent

How wonderful to have the extra hour of daylight. I hope that Scotland does achieve independence, for then we shall not feel obliged to put the clocks back as winter approaches in order to accommodate our neighbours north of the border.

Peter Fryer, Loughborough,  Leicestershire

Gender bias

If, as Christoper Dawes suggests (letter, 2 April), continuous assessment of educational attainment favours girls and assessment by exam favours boys, obviously the only fair way to decide between these methods is to tilt in favour of girls for the next 500 years and then review the situation.

Julie Harrison, Hertford

Light touch

If Paolo Di Canio admits he is a fascist will Sunderland rename the Stadium of Light as the Stadium of Darkness? It’s currently the Stadium of Opaqueness.

Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich,  West Midlands

Fishy business

So cheaper fish is being passed off as cod and haddock. Sea horse?

Jenny Fowler, Brookwood,  Surrey

React Now

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

Marketing Manager - Central London - £45,000-£55,000 + bonus

£45000 - £55000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: The focus of this is to deve...

Application Support - Enterprise Java, SQL, Oracle, SQL Server

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A well-established financial soft...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Desktop, Surrey)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Graduate, Helpdesk, Deskto...

Day In a Page

Read Next

August catch-up: architecture, suitcases and ‘pathetic figures’

John Rentoul
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US  

Air strikes? Talk of God? Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script after James Foley beheading

Robert Fisk
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape