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naath: There are good reasons for needing assisstance (sickness… - Sally's Journal
June 1st, 2005
09:48 am

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naath:There are good reasons for needing assisstance (sickness is one) and there are bad (laziness). With a good test you ought be able to tell the difference so that only the deserving (rather than the lazy and incidentally the fraudulent) get the money.



It's a neat, naive idea. I'm not sure it's possible. It also stunningly misses the point that even if the parents are completely undeserving the child they're about to bring in the world is pretty much an innocent who shouldn't be allowed to starve just because we hate its parents. (And the country is too short of fostercareers at the moment anyway, and I'm half convinced by the "bad parents better than good orphanage", and the type 2 errors in this case where kids get taken away from perfectly decent parents have very large repucussions. Which in this day and age probably involve suing the government for lots of money my utipia can't afford, but that's another rant ;-) that I think the "take the kids away from the undeserving ones" idea, while it's one that I'm very tempted by, just can't work. )

Also, you get the same old medical states problems. If you impliment a really hardcore "benifits should only go to the deserving" policy, then your type 1 errors rocket right up, and you make life hell for lots of good deserving people, which I generally regard as a Bad Thing. Increasing the probabilty of rejecting the bad people means statistically that you have to increase the risk of rejecting the good people. I mean, bad people are quite good at lying. Also, it is generally considered a Good Thing we live in a nice trusting state (hence the id card outrage) and that people should be treated as honest good citizens until proven guilty. This makes the world a much nicer place (although yes, like most nice things it's more expensive to maintain) Also, policies inforced from the top, by the government clamping down on fraud, are never going to have the same effect as policies imposed in peoples hearts and minds (gah, I'm back to meta sticks and meta carrots again)

Anyway, this was just the preamble *raises eyebrows* before a poll

But if we had a magic deserving detector, even then I wouldn't know who to point it at...

Is it the circumstances in which you get pregnant that determine if you deserve money ? Or the circumstances you're in when you get pregnant? You can hypothesise none of these believe in the morning after pill/abortion... Or the circumstances in which you live?

Deserving?

Using pill, and condoms, genuinely incredably unlucky with contraception
0(0.0%)
Using pill and condoms, didn't realise that the antibiotics would stop the pill working, condom broke
0(0.0%)
Using pill, forgot first pill after pill free week
0(0.0%)
Using pill, was sick, didn't think about this
0(0.0%)
Using condom, it broke
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception because was raped
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception because didn't have sex but had lots of fun and wasn't too careful where she got sticky
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception because didn't plan to have sex, but was pressured into it by boyfriend who went too far too fast
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception, had sex when blind drunk after someone spiked her drink with vodka
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception, had sex when blind drunk after wanting to drink a lot
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception, had sex not thinking about preganacy
0(0.0%)
Used no contraception, had sex thinking she would like to be pregnant
0(0.0%)

Deserving?

Single. Under the age where can legally earn money, no qualifications
0(0.0%)
Single. Over the age where can legally earn money, no hope of job that would cover the cost of childcare
0(0.0%)
Single. Over the age where can legally earn money, could get job that would cover cost of childcare
0(0.0%)
Single. Over the age where can legally earn money, could get job that would cover cost of childcare several times over
0(0.0%)
With partner, who has job and can afford to raise child
0(0.0%)
With partner, who has little chance of getting a good job and affording to raise a child
0(0.0%)


Anyway, I don't think that proves very much, or says anything very interesting, except it's fiendishly difficult to say anything about "deservingness" even in this streamlined example, and although it's very valid and important to judge things on a case by case basis it's also very important to have general guidelines overreaching that, so you don't get condemned by some petty council official who believes that depressed people should just pull themselves together and go and work. I think we really are in very little position to judge people, because we know so little about people, and while we can point and say "he's blind and has no limbs" we can't point at people and understand their mental state or the coincidences that have lead their lives the way it has done. And if people come to the state asking for help, we shouldn't turn them away... maybe a better system is to try and give them help, instead of just giving them money. But then you get the question of independance again... if benifit came as vouchers for certain food and cloths shops etc with a small amount of pocket money on top wouldn't that too be horribly humiliating? And how would you cope delivering actual help, without inventing an army of busy bodies who'd just go round and say "lets go to the doctors. Let's cook a healthy and nutritious meal. You should apply for this job". Although the whole idea of some sort of mentor isn't a bad idea... Doh, I've just invented social workers. Ah well, there is no new idea under the sun. Does everyone on benifit automatically get a social worker?

Gah, late for work.

Update Yes, I know "deserving" is a crap and ambiguous term. And I know it's an impossi-poll. For the purpose of this poll, the word deserving is being used in the same way naath used it in the original comment. That should be enough context...

(106 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:02 am (UTC)
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'Deserving' is really the wrong word for what I think. So I've been much harsher in my answers than I probably am IRL, it's the wording that's made it trickier. From some perspectives, no one is deserving because all of those situations (bar 'wanting to get pregnant') could be avoided by Morning After Pill or a contraceptive that works in different ways (e.g. IUD or injection) - and I say this as someone who experienced a contraceptive failure with one of the supposedly infallible methods. However, that isn't really how life works.

Vouchers already exist, for milk and occasional other foodstuffs. I don't think I'd consider it humiliating if offered it (in a previous phase of life, I wouldn't qualify now). In the context of some kind of sheltered housing for single mothers (which, again, already exists) it could work very well.
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From:enismirdal
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:51 am (UTC)
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I would argue that 'wanting to get pregnant' also does not necessarily make someone deserving and in some cases ought to be discouraged more than the other ones.

I believe all my recent cousins have 'wanted' to get pregnant when they did so, yet I am sure they did not properly (or even at all) consider the repercussions of having a baby/child/teenager to bring up for the next 18 years (or in the case of one cousin, three such progeny, one of whom has so far been one health problem after another). It does seem to be something a lot of people do because they get bored and find the idea of a pretty little baby appealing. 'Unfortunately' for them, there is no convenient baby version of the local RSPCA for when children stop being cute and adorable.
From:neonchameleon
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:03 am (UTC)
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Deserving: The child, irrespective of the actions of the mother.
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From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:07 am (UTC)
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The child's needs are surprisingly low (and cheap) in the first year of life - much MUCH lower than you'd think. As are the mother's at root, it's the minor things like wanting to live on her own and buy stuff with her own cash that are the sticking point.
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From:beckyc
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
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Does everyone on benifit automatically get a social worker?

Once upon a time, many years ago, I was on benefits* for three months, and I got visited an entire once, allegedly to see if I was deserving, but what that really means is that they could sit there and tell me (and my parents) about the way the system works, what I was entitled to, what hoops I had to jump through and so on. They were nice, if a little patronising (they described IS as "pocket money".). Maybe I'd have got more visits if it wasn't for the fact that right from the start, I gave a definite end date of when I was coming off benefits, and what I was going to be doing after that point.

(*Income support, not JSA - I was actually deserving using your definitions ;-))
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:20 am (UTC)
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Oh, a different point: the country is short of foster carers and adoptive parents because some of the rules are very arbitrary in application. Yes, most of them are there for very good reason, arrived at over a long period of time and some major mistakes made in the past, but the fact remains that there are plenty of people theoretically very capable (by way of age/income) of becoming natural parents (but unable to for biological/medical reasons) who are barred from becoming foster/adoptive parents by way of age/sexuality/other factors, despite checking out in all other desired ways. Which sucks.
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From:pjc50
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:35 am (UTC)
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Your poll is making my head spin. I have a huge urge to write "IRRELEVANT" over it in red marker :)

I'd say that "makes a bona fide effort to raise the child as well as possible in the circumstances" is "deserving", and "spends the child support on heroin" is "undeserving". In the middle is a huge gray area, but it's at least clear to everyone what they should aim for.

The vouchers scheme has been tried before for asylum seekers. I was once behind someone at a supermarket who was paying with them - they had to be individually signed and were of very low denomination (50p), like tiny traveller's cheques.
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From:atreic
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:03 am (UTC)
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Your poll is making my head spin. I have a huge urge to write "IRRELEVANT" over it in red marker :)

Oh good, I'm glad someone worked it out... ptc24s comment had me worried for a while... M got annoyed because he wanted to mindlessly tick boxes, and he couldn't work out which boxes to tick... :-)

Just out of interest, do you think vouchers are a good or bad idea? All your comment says is that they exist.
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From:ptc24
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:37 am (UTC)
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You've missed a few scenarios:

Partner ran off after news of pregnancy.
Partner broke off relationship for non-pregnancy related reasons.
Partner died.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:01 am (UTC)
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Only a few? I think claiming to have an exhaustive list would be a little arrogant... ;-)
From:nlj21
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:42 am (UTC)
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Ok, here's a random idea, which I think might actually be original as I haven't heard it anywhere else, but that probably means it has numerous fatal flaws i haven't considered.

How about instead of taking the kid away from the mother, taking the mother and the kid, together, away from the society (or lack of society) they find themselves in and placing them in a more supportive one?

My rational is that one of the strongest variables correlated with teenage pregnancy is a lack of social capital (I think this is an even stronger indicator that financial poverty). People who grow up in sub-sections of society where there are not strong social networks are those which are most at risk, and these sub-societies are self perpetuating.

So how about taking single mothers and their children and putting them together in a social network where they can mutually support each other. e.g. take turns baby-sitting for each other so they can have a break every now and then, and other such helping of each other which wouldn't necessairly be available to them in the areas of low social capital they came from.

Just a random thought. Feel free to rip to shreds.
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:52 am (UTC)
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It's in my first comment. :) There are schemes out there, which work well. I think they're pretty much all run by Housing Associations - the one I used to work for had a very good scheme, with nice housing. There are still women who abuse it, but the majority of them do very well - they socialise, they support each other, they get their lives in order and move on and out.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 1st, 2005 09:54 am (UTC)
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I'd like to speak up in favour of laziness. When all the politicians at the recent election were saying they would speak up for 'hard-working people' I felt disenfranchised; who will speak up for the worthless layabouts who only go to work because they have to?

(S)
[User Picture]
From:edith_the_hutt
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:21 am (UTC)
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I have a principle: Don't moralise over need. If the child is in geniuine danger then have it removed from the parents, otherwise support them. Determining who deserves support on a basis of morality is a fine way of ensuring that the deserving don't get any.

This entire discussion reminds me of Thomas Malthus and his peverted notions of population control, only our population is predicted to fall in the next 20 years. Are we next going to be asking if the child was born in wedlock before we hand out child support?

How and why someone got to be in a situation is irrelevant, the effort should go to providing them with support and a path for getting out it.

Living on benifit is not preferable to getting out and working, either for the person on benifit or society as a whole. The basic living costs which benifit provides are a safety net and nothing more, if you want to get people off the safety net then effort should go into providing them with decent jobs and oppertunities to become productive members of society not to looking about to see who "deserves" to be there. People who live on benefits long term (I'm lumping together all state support as benefit, despite the technical distinctions) don't need to be threatened with poverty to get them into a crappy job with an exploititive wage, they need decent oppertunities to train and get some decent skils or at least the oppertunity to get a crappy job which pays a decent wage so they can do something interesting in their leisure time. As you've noted, laziness is often a symptom of much deeper problems with a person, these are the problems which need to be addressed and helped, rather than a simple series of threats and overbaering morality.
[User Picture]
From:edith_the_hutt
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:24 am (UTC)
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And one day I will learn to spellcheck my comments before posting...
From:yrieithydd
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:59 am (UTC)
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Living on benefit is not preferable to getting out and working, either for the person on benefit or society as a whole.

As a general case, I probably agree with this. But given that I think it is preferable* for mothers not to be working full-time outside the home because bringing up children is a socially valuable thing to do, I am not convinced that your statement holds in the case of child-care. Although, ISTR, a study which showed that childcare from a young age was beneficial for those from `worse' background and detrimental for those from `better' backgrounds. That is, if the parents' idea of childcare was to stick child in front of TV, being at nursery helped because the child got more individual attention and stimulation, but if the parents had a clue about stimulating and engaging the child, nursery was worse because got less individual attention and simulation.

However, there is not an absolute correlation between being on benefits and cluelessness about parenting even if there is a tendency. I.e. whilst many people who are on benefits have had a deprived background themselves and therefore haven't seen good ways of bringing up children and so probably won't manage it, this is not universally the case. I am thinking particularly of the person whose house I used to go to after school on a Thursday (from 9-14ish) as mum was working late. She was a single mum on benefits bringing up two kids (there was an older daughter who was also a single mum). I was never quite sure what the story about dad was, I think he was abusive and so she'd got out and got a divorce. The girl (who is a couple of months older than me) is now married with at least one child (who must be about 3 by now!).

*Certainly, I'm glad my mother didn't work from just before my brother was born until I was about 9 and then only part-time until after I'd gone to Uni. Thus I prefer this scenario!
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:June 1st, 2005 11:02 am (UTC)
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Living on benifit is not preferable to getting out and working
It is if you don't stick to the benefit rules but commit fraud (and/or various other non-legal activities). And there are so many ways to do that.
[User Picture]
From:enismirdal
Date:June 1st, 2005 10:59 am (UTC)
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This debate almost brings me to the point of suggesting that all newly-pregnant women should be expected to argue/prove in court why they should not be forced to have an abortion by the state. Which is a Bad and Wrong and Immoral situation for more reasons than I could list, but would certainly result in fewer undeserving parents having children and expecting the government to pay for them.
[User Picture]
From:king_of_wrong
Date:June 1st, 2005 01:43 pm (UTC)
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Meh. Just televise it. "Who wants to be a mother?"
[User Picture]
From:ixwin
Date:June 1st, 2005 11:12 am (UTC)
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I agree with the commenters who've said that the circumstances of the pregnancy shouldn't be a factor in 'deservingness' partly because the baby is just as deserving however it was conceived, and partly because it'd be completely unworkable as part of any actual benefit system - there's no way to tell whether someone is telling the truth (and even if there were, there are huge complexities and grey areas between 'planned' and 'unplanned' pregnancies).

I do rather like the idea that people (whatever their salary expectations)ought to have the option of staying at home for the first couple of years of their child's life if they choose, and not be forced to put the child in any available daycare to be able to survive. I don't know how you offer that without breeding resentment about 'feckless mothers living off the state' though.

Perhaps there could be some sort of parenting classes that were required to get beyond a minimum level of benefit (no exam, just a requirement to turn up to, say, five sessions a year, tailored to the age of your child/children). I haven't thought through the ramifications of this at all, but the times I've seen TV programs like 'Supernanny', it seems that a comparatively small amount of training and advice can make a huge difference to people's parenting skills.
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From:libellum
Date:June 1st, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
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the times I've seen TV programs like 'Supernanny', it seems that a comparatively small amount of training and advice can make a huge difference to people's parenting skills.

Yeah. I saw a documentary last year about a little girl - 7, I think - who was a "problem child". Constant tantrums and trouble-making to the extent that she'd been labelled with a learning disability and was on the verge of being sent to a different school. They got a child psychologist on the phone to the parents every night and it turned out that the mother was depressed, rather fucked-up, and basically started most of the fights by being bullying, irrational, violent and sarcastic. I really really felt for the poor girl, but by the end of the program things seemed to be getting better.

If only that sort of thing were compulsory. Problem is, though, how much would people really listen? Would it just seem like an irrelevant chore?
[User Picture]
From:king_of_wrong
Date:June 1st, 2005 01:37 pm (UTC)
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How about "none of the above"?

Should the state really be paying people for being pregnant? Or any other self-inflicted state (Statutory Hangover Pay, perhaps)? If they can't afford to be pregnant, they should be 'encouraged' to have abortions - or at least the kids given to someone who can raise them.

(No, I don't have anything against the kids themselves. I don't have anything for them, either, as I simply don't consider them to be people until at least a few months after birth.)
[User Picture]
From:lnr
Date:June 1st, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC)
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"I'm sorry you're poor we're taking your kids away"?
[User Picture]
From:flats
Date:June 1st, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
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Don't believe that some should be given money to breed (and others denied it) at all. That'd be social engineering too far and too overtly. (I'm guessing this grant idea of yours is separate to current payments of maternity leave paid by employers and child benefit from the govt.) I'm also very wary of the division constructed here between good people, deserving of benefits, and 'bad' people who aren't. Judge not, lest ye and all that, and besides - shades of grey, damn it!

I'm currently working for AQA, checking the adding up of the marking on exam papers. We get some bundles of 30-odd papers from a school in which all the marks are shit, under 30% or so. Ok, this is geography and music and psychology papers so far, and there's a chance (remote, but possible) that clever kids don't do those subjects - but what it suggests to me is that even the bright kids in shit schools (of which there must be some) are not getting good grades, they're not getting what's needed to succeed in this world. What do you do when you've got 2 grade Es at GCSE and school's failed you so you don't believe it's an option? If you've never seen anyone like you do well in life, for a 16 yr-old child to be able to get out of the poverty trap takes a sort of strength I can't imagine. They've got to make all these big decisions (do well at school, not get pregnant, not join your mates in drugs or gangs) when they're still very young. Our brains aren't properly developed until 23 or so, after all: being bad at making decisions isn't just fecklessness.
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From:robert_jones
Date:June 3rd, 2005 08:26 am (UTC)
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I've just invented social workers.

My brother once invented the toast rack.
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