Friday, November 27, 2009

DeusExMacintosh's "I am not an underclass"

DeusExMacintosh is one of the three skepticlawyer bloggers. She is disabled, something I had not known. Her post, I am not an underclass, provides a very personal perspective on what it is like forced to live on UK disability benefits.

The problems that she refers to are not limited to the UK. We find them in Australia where structures and attitudes are not disimilar.

For reasons I won't bore you with except that they are professional rather than personal, I know the Australian benefits structure quite well.

In the absence of access to social housing or some personal income or assets, it is pretty well nigh impossible for a person outside a very low rent area to live on benefits at other than a most basic subsistence level. And I mean basic.

We then create a benefits structure that works against advancement. In social housing, for example, if you earn above a certain and low figure that varies with household type you may lose your house. If you are a single person and go off benefits, then you lose your Commonwealth Rent Assistance as well.

Of course there are people who rip the system off. However, we spend far more time chasing them, a very small minority, than we do in trying to fix the system up.

Our Federal Government has acquired the NSW habit of attaching labels to changes that confuse if not mislead.

Recent old age pension changes were announced under the mantra Secure and Sustainable Pensions. Do you know what this means?

I accept that the problems involved - technical and financial - in designing a more effective system of social services are complex.They are going to get more complicated as the population ages.

The concept of "underclass" that DeusExMacintosh refers to is, I think, relatively new so far as Australia is concerned. Until quite recently, underclass was seen as something that existed in other places, not here.

I will write further on this one in my We need to reform Australia's approach to public policy series.  


Please do browse the discussion on DEM's post. There are some thoughtful comments there that I plan to use in later posts. 

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