What do the words Welfare State mean? It’s a system in which the government provides free social services such as health; education and gives people money who are unable to work, for example because they are out of work or because they are too ill to work.

What do you think of when you hear of benefit fraud?

What do you think of when, if you are fortunate enough to work, of someone you are close to or friends with has to go onto benefits?

Do you think everyone should be entitled to Welfare Support?

Ok, that makes me sound like the Spanish Inquisition a bit but I will give you my answers to the 3 questions above. My answers are of the view of someone in receipt of sickness benefits but has worked in the past and does intend to work in the future once her health is stable.

When I hear or read about benefit fraud, I get angry. It is because of fraudulent activity that it is getting increasingly more difficult for people to claim benefits such as Disability Living Allowance. However, it upsets me that the media makes it seem that every person in receipt of sickness (and other benefits) gets a huge wad of cash and is a fraudster. I can assure you that I do not receive wads of cash and I definitely am not a fraudster. I receive 88% support housing and council tax benefit, my housing benefit goes directly to my landlord. I therefore have to top up my rent and council tax as well as pay my bills; buy food and fork out for travel to any hospital appointments. I also am responsible for paying dental and optical costs, prescription wise I do not pay as a medical condition I have makes me exempt. I certainly do not have a plasma television or an Iphone, mind you if anyone would like to donate one (only joking).

If I was working I would support any friend who was having to go onto benefits, for some people going onto benefits is a last resort whilst they recover from say illness or whilst they look for work. Benefits are a safety net. You don’t, unless you are dodgy, live comfortably on the small amount given every fortnight – YOU EXIST!

In terms of anyone receiving welfare support, no not everyone should receive it. For example, prisoners and immigrants but this is merely my opinion. I also think that the Child Benefit rules of an income cap is fair but then it should not be paid to a parent under 18 if they are unmarried, again this is my view. Child Benefit should be paid until the last day of a child’s education, am not saying all the way through a degree but perhaps until the child reaches 19? Maybe this happens already, I am not a mother!

The history of the Welfare System in this country is fascinating, and I am not being sarcastic here.

The beginning of the modern Welfare State was in 1911 when the Liberal Party, and David Lloyd George, put through the National Insurance Act (1911). It was around this time National Insurance started to be taken from pay packets. At present National Insurance is 12% of your earnings up to £817 per week, any earnings above £817 per week you pay an extra 2%. You are issued with a National Insurance number shortly before your 16th birthday. Your entitlement to benefits, and pensions, is based on your National Insurance contributions.

I digress. In 1942 Sir William Beveridge encouraged the government at the time to start proper assistance to those in need of help, or those in dire poverty. Child Support was started to help people feed their children and support their growth.

Beveridge recommended to the government that they tackled 5 key areas (or 5 giants as he called them) WANT; DISEASE; IGNORANCE; SQUALOR and IDLENESS by providing adequate income to people; adequate health care; adequate education; adequate housing and adequate employment. All of the ‘giants’ still seem very appropriate today in 2011.

When he had approached them it was around this time the National Health Service, now fondly referred to as the NHS, was started. People were concerned that the National Health Service wouldn’t work, yes there were teething problems but the NHS does well today considering all the issues faced.

Benefits are paid, mostly, by the Department of Work and Pensions. Some are paid by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Apparently there are over 50 different unemployment benefits including Jobseekers Allowance; Child Benefit; Employment and Support Allowance. In order to receive such benefits you will need to apply for them, some take longer than others to process and you may even be rejected. You have the right to appeal such negative decisions and you may even be faced with having to go to Tribunal. I had to go all the way to Tribunal for Disability Living Allowance last year, fortunately the decision was changed in my favour.

There are massive changes ahead for the Welfare System.

Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions minister, feels that too many people are actually trapped on benefits. There are actually way too many benefits on offer so replacing the majority with one simplified benefit (with different levels of payment according to circumstances) is actually a good idea. He is quoted as saying that he would like people to better off working than on benefits.

The changes will be in place, apparently, for new claimants from October 2013 with all existing claimants transferring over to the Universal Credit by 2017. The aim is to reduce poverty and give people the confidence to find work. The sanctions they are proposing are a little harsh in my honest opinion and they could probably do with looking at them again.

Also, Disability Living Allowance will be replaced in 2013. It will be called Personal Independence Payment, or PIP. PIP applicants will have more assessments on a face to face basis to discuss how their condition/s affect their day-to-day life. It will still have two components, Personal Care and Mobility, but more support will be given on the grounds claimants will be seen more frequently so the DWP have a greater understanding of the conditions.

You do not receive millions of pounds on benefits. You do exist on them but it is incredibly hard to manage life on them. At present, before any deductions for Social Fund (crisis loans), on Jobseekers Allowance you receive £67.50 per week or £135 a fortnight. This may seem like a lot to some but actually when you consider that out of this you have to pay bills, buy food and other necessities as well as fork out for travel to interviews it really isn’t a lot.

The job situation is appalling. More and more people are losing their jobs thus meaning more people are having to claim benefits. Too many cuts are being made and as a result more vulnerable people are losing out. Fingers crossed that the economy starts to pick up soon!

Before I sign this off and get it published on my blog, please remember that being on benefits is nothing to be ashamed of if you are claiming them legitimately. Beveridge intended to help those in need, our government (in some ways) is not actually looking at what he wanted to be looked at!