I don't like to discuss my points of view on things like the benefit system in this country too much for two reasons.
1) I tend to get very angry when I talk about....and being angry gives you wrinkles!
and 2) I don't like to get in to arguments with people if I can help it...
and 2) I don't like to get in to arguments with people if I can help it...
But over the recent weeks, various things have been popping up in newspaper headlines, magazine articles and TV segments which have been poking at my "Rage" button and now I feel the need to vent.
There are many things about the way things work in this country which defy all logic to me....here are a few of them:
1) Paying Woman To Breastfeed
I did so want to try to avoid blogging about this as it feels like its becoming very over-discussed, but I just have to put my opinion forward after reading so many other peoples.
I understand that the logic behind this idea is to encourage women in areas with extremely low breast feeding rates to partake in it - but how is this really the best approach?
If a woman really doesn't want to breastfeed, she has already chosen to give up the free feeding option in favour of the £10-a-pop cartons of formula - is a monetary incentive going to make any difference to her?!
If a woman is not breast feeding because she is unable to for whatever medical or health reason, isn't this just going to add to the already extremely present guilt she's going to feel? (I fall into this category and can honestly say that I have been made to feel guilty on many occasions by many people..and yes, if the voucher system was in place at the time I had given birth I WOULD have felt that it was just yet another kick in the teeth for people like me....)
If a woman wants to breast feed, then she is surely going to give it her best try and will most likely only stop if she feels it best for her or her baby. Should we really be trying to make mothers go against their gut instincts to try and earn a few shopping vouchers? Can that really be the healthy approach?
I appreciate the good intentions behind this scheme, but I feel that it is flawed (For instance I would LOVE to know how they plan on verifying that a woman has breast fed for the qualifying period?!) - and that perhaps instead of throwing money at the problem in this way and assuming that all women are going to be so vacuous that they will be swayed by the mention of a voucher, their money would be better spent on improving the education of women on the benefits of breastfeeding and putting more funding into providing lactation consultants in hospitals to assist those who wish to breast feed.
2) Benefits For Mothers
I recently read on a Facebook group for mothers that there is such a thing as money-off vouchers for mothers who are formula feeding their children and are on benefits.
I clicked on the link to read more about this scheme, and found that to receive these vouchers you had to be either under the age of 18 or in receipt of certain benefits.
Fair enough - but this is one MAJOR problem that I have with the benefits system.
If you find yourself out of work and in need of claiming Jobseekers allowance, you will fall into one of two categories.
Either you will be eligible for contribution-based jobseekers allowance or you will be eligible for income-based jobseekers allowance.
This goes for most other kinds of benefits too, such as employment support allowance etc.
In very basic terms - this means that if you have worked throughout your life and paid taxes, then you will be entitled to contribution-based benefits - because your previous wages have contributed toward them.
If you have not paid enough tax to have earned this, then you will be given income-based benefits.
What bugs me is this....when I first became pregnant I had to leave my job for medical reasons. I then had to claim employment support allowance for a short time.
Because I had worked since the age of 16, I was given contribution based ESA.
I then heard of a Sure Start grant which gave first time mothers a grant of £500 toward the cost of new baby items such as prams, cots, etc.
I was quite excited about this as I was out of work and worried about money.
So I applied for it - and was appalled when the advisor told me, in these exact words: "I'm sorry, you are not eligible for the grant because you have worked too much in the past, paid too much tax and are on contribution based benefits. Only people who have not worked much and are on income based benefits are eligible for the grant".
I was stunned.
I was basically losing out because, throughout my life, I have bothered to get off my arse and work.
And before anybody attacks me for that and tells me how hard it is to find a job, I call bullshit....I do not come from a privileged area, I do not have a degree, I have average GCSEs and qualifications and I have always managed to find work.
Jobs ARE there if you look for them, and you CAN get them if you try - yes it may take a few months but it does not take years if you are actively seeking work every day, applying for jobs every day and trying hard at interviews. Not unless you are aiming too high and thinking yourself above certain jobs.
And so that £500 that I have paid tax toward from working hard was going to line the pockets of somebody who had never lifted a finger to pay anything towards it.
Since then I have also learned that this is the case for many government schemes - including the healthy start vouchers I referred to earlier. Only those who have not worked much and not paid much in the way of taxes would be entitled to assistance in buying formula.
Is that really the right approach?!
Surely it would be far more worthwhile to give MORE assistance to the people who have bothered to try and work in their lives and have contributed something, and are using the benefits in the way that they are supposed to be used - as a bit of help when they are temporarily out of work.
And those who have not contributed should surely be the ones to receive the minimum amount needed to live on and no encouragement to stay on benefits in the long term?!
3) Misguided Good Intentions
I realise that charities are set up with the best of intentions to help those in need, and I fully appreciate the great work that they do.
However, recently I have heard a lot about a particular charity campaign which I feel is somewhat misguided....
I'm referring to the Give A Child A Breakfast campaign from Kelloggs...
Now don't get me wrong, of course I absolutely agree that no child should have to go through the day without a breakfast!
It is very important and when I first heard about it, I very nearly offered up my money to help out....
But when I stopped and thought about it, something rubbed me up the wrong way...
IF the campaign was aiming to provide breakfasts to homeless children whose parents are absolutely desolate, then I would be behind it 100%.
But instead I remembered the various schools I have worked in, where parents in under-privileged areas were sending their children to school everyday without a breakfast - and so the schools began breakfast clubs where parents could advise the staff that the child hadn't eaten that morning, and they would be taken to the breakfast club table and allowed to help themselves to toast or cereal before starting lessons.
Of course if the child hasn't had breakfast then that's great - but if services like this are so readily available, how does it encourage parents to provide for their own children?
The parents that used these breakfast clubs were usually on benefits yes - but with benefits paid at around £70.00 per week and a loaf of bread costing a little over £1 - can they honestly not afford to provide their child with just a slice of toast before school?
9 times out of 10, the people who dropped their children off for breakfast club would walk off into the playground puffing away on cigarettes or chatting on their phones - none of which are free activities. If they can afford to do these things, can they genuinely not afford a loaf of bread? Or is it just too easy to expect other people to feed their children for them?!
I genuinely feel that being too quick to donate things such as breakfasts to families in the UK is not encouraging them to do their best for their children. Again, I feel that the money used to do this would be better spent on encouraging parents back in to work where possible or educating them on how to manage their household budgets to stretch their money as far as possible.
Yes there may be some genuine situations whereby a family absolutely cannot afford to provide a breakfast, but I do fear that in the majority of cases it is more likely that the money that could be used to buy breakfast is being used for other, less important things.
How do you feel about these issues? As always, I'd love to hear from you!