February 2023
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Has our benefits system become a massive scam for the idle and feckless?

As the Coalition makes a few feeble efforts to slow the rise in benefits spending, we’re getting all the predictable howls of protest from the professional handwringers at the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent. So, who is right? Are all benefits claimants good, honest, highly-educated people who would like nothing other than a job? Or are there at least a million lazy, pig-ignorant, idle skivers amongst the benefits-supported masses?

Almost a quarter of all government spending goes on benefits – £166bn a year. Of this around £74bn is for paying the state pension. The rest – £92bn – goes on various benefits to the unemployed and the low paid. But how can we tell whether these benefits are going to people who deserve them?

Well, here’s a first clue. In the years from 1997 (New Labour being elected) till the 2007/8 financial crash, benefits spending went up at the same time as GDP. This meant that during the Brown Boom, ever more people were claiming ever more in benefits (click on chart to see more clearly)

Of course, the opposite should have happened. As the economy grew, benefits spending should have fallen. But the problem was that of the 2 million or so new jobs created during the Brown Boom, at least 1.77 million went to foreigners, because 1.77 million Brits couldn’t be bothered to work or couldn’t be bothered to get the education that would make them fit for work.

But there’s a conundrum here. During the Brown Boom, according to official statistics unemployment fell. So the benefits bill should have also fallen. Why didn’t it? Well, here’s clue as to how our leaders manipulate the figures to lie to us. At the same time as unemployment seemed (according to our lying leaders) to be falling, the numbers claiming incapacity benefits shot up (click on chart to see more clearly)

Yup. To hide rising levels of unemployment, both Conservative and New Labour governments pushed about 1,500,000 people, many of whom were capable of work, onto incapacity benefits so they would not show up on the unemployment figures. When Brown claimed there were more people in work than ever before, he wasn’t exactly lying, but he wasn’t telling the truth either. Too many new jobs went to foreigners, while the real levels of unemployment amongst British people were hidden by allowing so many to sign on as being unable to work.

While we should feel every sympathy for those who have lost their jobs since the 2007/8 crash, these two charts suggest that we might be justified in thinking that many of those who didn’t find jobs during the Brown Boom were just ignorant or lazy scroungers.

(click on title to leave a comment or see comments)

2 comments to Has our benefits system become a massive scam for the idle and feckless?

  • John Fields

    If you have a system that is open to abuse then people will take advantage.
    A shining example is M.P’s expenses. They fought tooth and nail to stop the
    Disclosure Act. So ordinary citizens will have a go at the Benefit System.

  • shortchanged

    I see you have lumped in the pensioners to the s/s bill.
    Perhaps it would be more honest to remind your readers that we, the pensioners, have PAID for our pension,it is NOT a benefit. I hope you are not suggesting that we do not deserve the pittance we receive. I would remind you that Winston Churchill collected his pension saying, ‘I have paid for it, so I am entitled to it’.
    That said, I do concur with rest of your analysis.
    Forgive the criticism, I am tired of journalists making us, the pensioners, the villains of the Social Security mess.

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