Who are we trying to help?

Here in the UK, it seems to me that we design our social structures, systems and paperwork in exactly the wrong way. To give an example – I’ve been married twice. Ahead of marriage you are asked questions to establish that you are allowed to marry – not related, too young, here illegally and suchlike. There is nothing in this about your legal consequences. There is nothing for people who are entitled to marry, really. Pre-marriage bureaucracy is about stopping people who aren’t allowed to marry.

Moving to the UK to marry has similar issues – the paperwork and process takes a long time and is incredibly stressful. The whole system revolves around keeping out those deemed not entitled, or marrying under false pretences. The system has not been designed to serve people who are apart and want to be together.

Welfare systems are designed in the same way – the emphasis is on keeping out those who aren’t entitled, not helping those who are. These are systems that leave people hungry for weeks – and that apparently is less of a problem than the idea that a few people get a pittance they weren’t supposed to have.

We build our systems to try and keep people out. We build our systems with more eye to fraud than to need. As a consequence, we have systems that are unkind and that do not help the people they are ostensibly there to help. It is a case of priority. Our leaders, and certainly some percentage of our population is more interested in punishing than helping. We pile stress and misery onto people who are in trouble and we treat them like we assume they are faking it. This is neither good nor kind, and I do not believe it is in any way necessary.

Imagine how different the world would look if we all organised differently. Imagine systems whose priority is to get help to people who need it, with as much speed and inherent dignity as possible.

Imagine a world in which we did not obsess over the small scale frauds that might be possible for the poor and instead cared more about massive scale tax avoidance and the crimes and abuses of power carried out by the rich. In terms of cost to the economy, benefit fraud and things of that ilk are tiny considerations. Tax avoidance is massive. However, poor people with no power are much easier to go after for crimes of any sort, and they are seldom the people responsible for creating the systems and priorities in the first place.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “Who are we trying to help?

  • Thomas White

    My wife has both fibulae dislocated at the ankles and is in excruciating pain 24/7. By law she was ordered to apply for social disability aid here even though she didn’t want anything to do with the government (after a long and traumatic ordeal that proved to her just as you said here: they aren’t there to HELP people who need it but discourage those who don’t). The federal ‘doctor’ assigned to evaluate her was so set in his stubborn and burnt out ways that when she tried to show him the swollen and bruised ankles, he snapped “what’s to say you didn’t hit yourself before coming in to see me?”. He put her through such a humiliating series of unbelievably painful exercises (hopping on one foot!) and measuring her flexibility of every articulation EXCEPT HER ANKLES and having her sit in her undies on the cold floor while he filled out his evaluation forms (refusing to help her up). Needless to sat she left there in such a state as I’ve never seen before and wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemies. We can’t attack him (a ‘federal’ doctor, versus two poor people… who’s gonna win?) and we received his evaluation: she is 100% able to work and just ‘unwilling’. She was branded a fraud. And now she’s destroyed. Utterly destroyed. It’s disgusting.

    • Nimue Brown

      that is appalling. thank you for sharing this experience because people need to be informed about what’s going on out there. I hope things improve for your wife, and that she’s able to find a way back from this.

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