I read a lot about benefit fraudsters in the mainstream press but there is another cohort of individuals of whom most people have no awareness of and they are those young people that find accessing state benefits to be an almost insurmountable task. Today, I deal with two such individuals.
Gavin, twenty three, is today being evicted, or in the jargon of the supported housing sector ‘having his licence to occupy terminated.’ The reason for Gavin’s eviction is that he has significant rent arrears. He has no valid excuse for this debt and has accrued it due to being too lazy to access state benefits to which he is legally entitled. Whether ethically he should be entitled to these benefits is another matter. He has come to the office to express his indignation and to convey how unjustly he feels he is being treated.
“I really don’t understand why I am being asked to leave here. I paid my rent when I was working so I don’t know what the big deal is,” he remarked.
“Gavin, Gavin,” I sigh with despondent resignation, “ twenty three, and you still don’t know how the real world functions. You haven’t worked for a year and a half and even when you did it was only part-time. During that period you only paid some of your rent some of the time,” I reminded him.
“Yeah, I had a limited income so Housing Benefit should have paid the rest.”
“First of all though Gavin you needed to actually apply for that benefit in order for them to pay it. The money doesn’t just magically appear in our account. The council don’t hire psychics that can tell who is entitled to housing benefit, how much they are entitled to and to whom it has to be paid. You actually have to do something to get it.“
“It’s not really my fault, my keyworker let me down she should have reminded me, besides I did fill in the Housing Benefit form when I was working,”
“Gavin, it was actually your keyworker at the time that filled in the form for you and constantly reminded you to submit it along with all the required documentation. I have evidence of this in your support plan as we are required to write down every mundane detail of assistance and advice we give to you. The issue wasn’t that the Housing Benefit form wasn’t filled in, but that you gave them none of the additional documentation that they needed in order to pay you for that period and without all the required documents your application at that time was never processed. Anyway, since you were sacked you did get your Housing Benefit sorted, but not for the period you were working and this is where a large portion of your arrears comes from. However, more recently you have been accruing arrears in that you haven’t been paying the seven pounds fifty of your rent that isn’t covered by Housing Benefit but should be paid out of your Jobseeker’s Allowance.”
“But Im not getting Jobseeker’s Allowance, they keep messing me around,” he whines, self pityingly.
“Yes, I’m well aware of that you are not in receipt of JSA but remind me why did you lose your Jobseeker’s Allowance again? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s because you constantly failed to turn up to sign on as you prioritized sleeping until the afternoon over getting free money to ensure you had somewhere to live. So, instead of complaining of being messed around by the Job Centre you need to look at what you have failed to do and that is sign your name one morning every two weeks on a piece of paper. ”
“Well, I don’t actually need Jobseeker’s Allowance as my girlfriend comes around to visit every evening and she always brings food so I never go hungry and she buys me cigarettes as well. Besides, Im going to get a job.”
“Gavin, but you need JSA to ensure that all of your rent is paid. What is it about the concept of paying rent that you seem to fail to grasp? I’m also curious as how you will be successful in your quest for and maintaining of employment when you can’t even successfully scrounge from the state. In fact, you are failing to even be on the dole so how you could hold down a job is anyone’s guess. Anyway, all of this is irrelevant now as you are being evicted today. If you could just ensure that your room is clean before you go as we have someone moving in to it next week.”
“I ain’t fu**ing cleaning it, sure that’s what the cleaner is paid for.”
“No, he is hired to clean the communal areas and take out your rubbish but not clean your room.”
Neither of which a cleaner should be doing but I can see why Gavin has this expectancy. The state has fostered this expectation that others are there to serve him whether it be in the form of a keyworker sorting out his benefits or a cleaner charged with clearing up the detritus of his chaotic lifestyle.
Our previous Project Manager, Tessa, now the Area Manager, is in the building and wishes Gavin good luck in his future.I turn to Brendan, my fellow disillusioned colleague and state, “he sure is going to need as much luck as he can get to steer him through life because he won’t be able to rely on self discipline, a strong work ethic or aspiration despite the state spending thousands of pounds trying to instill him with the skills to be independent.”
Five minutes after getting rid of Gavin, Kenny, 21, knocks on the office door. He too is failing to successfully scrounge from the state. I’ve seen slugs with more get up and go. Soon, his ex-girlfriend with whom he has a fractious relationship, will be bearing him a child. There are similar scenarios throughout the project and indeed up and down the country ensuring that Britain has yet another generation of employment and education averse youngsters to take the place of today’s underclass when they go to the great Burberry factory in the sky. He seeks my sage advice in relation to benefits.
“Any chance you could help me think of an excuse to tell the Job Centre why I’ve missed signing on?”
Is being a toe-rag an excuse or is it a reason? I ponder. I’m in no mood for him and I’m not employed to lie for him so I tell him exactly what is on my mind, well with some modification.
“Go away Kenny. I’m not paid to lie for you and besides if you can’t even manage to sign on once every two weeks to get free money without it turning in to a drama what hope is there for you in life,”
Kenny shuffles off swearing under his breath as he goes. He isn’t used to such straight talk, even from me. I was a bit more forthright than usual. In fact, were he to fill in a complaint form I could get in trouble as such direct talking could be interpreted as “oppressive” language, in the terminology of the social sector, and as such could be detrimental to his self-esteem. Well, as far as I’m concerned if you are sitting around on your arse 24/7 and making no efforts to do anything constructive and can’t even manage to draw the dole then you should have very low self-esteem. The only things that Kenny has contributed to society are several bouts of chlamydia and a child he will soon abandon. I know it’s not much in fashion these days but just the smallest amount of shame can be a great motivator to change and regulator of one’s behaviour.