Where’s the benefit?

Why is it so hard to get statutory organisations that pay state benefits – for example, unemployment benefits – to list off for claimants everything that it’s possible for them to claim?

That one has vexed me for more than 20 years.

I remember asking about it back when my sainted mother was working for Age Concern in Bristol, and having to explain the benefits system to the pensioners who attended her day centre – because the authorities wouldn’t.

The simple answer is, they “don’t have a mandate to do that”. In other words, nobody has told them they should.

This isn’t the same as saying that they should not, mind!

It’s really very similar to the logic the banks used when they made all those extravagant loans, with money they didn’t have, that ended up overbalancing the economy. The government had been persuaded not to enact regulations that would prevent the banks from behaving irresponsibly with their depositors’ money, having been told that it wasn’t needed.

Since there was no law telling them to be prudent with our cash, their argument now is that nobody told them not to be as rash as they turned out to be.

Everybody knows how the banks crippled the UK economy, but it seems to me that – on a smaller scale – the benefits providers are also harming it.

Yes, I know they’ll tell you they’re helping.

But look: If a person finds themself going into debt, the effects on their mental (and sometimes physical) health can completely remove them from economic activity, making them a liability rather than an asset to the country, as we’ve seen many times. What I mean by this is that, if someone is on benefits, but they aren’t enough to keep them solvent (because they haven’t been told they can claim other money as well) then the stress can harm their mental and physical health – making them a burden on the NHS as well as the benefits system.

Would it not, therefore, be far better to ensure that these people – if they qualify for extra help – are kept afloat and put in the best possible position to get back on their feet after a setback?

Withholding information on how to do that is a false economy.

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In my opinion.