Benefits system has cheated the likes of Mr Lovatt

I couldn’t help but feel frustrated for self-employed joiner Andrew Lovatt when I read of his plight yesterday.
Surely the welfare state was created for people like Mr Lovatt who, having worked and paid taxes for 23 years, has fallen on hard times through no fault of his own.
But having tried to claim employment and support allowance after suffering a heart attack, the father-of-two from Burslem has been told he has to wait six weeks for his money.
Why? Because of a £7.20 underpayment in National Insurance dating back seven years.
No wonder he has given up on receiving the money.
If the matter wasn’t so serious to Mr Lovatt and his family I suggest it would make a fine comedy sketch involving an incredulous worker and hordes of benefits scroungers wandering away with wads of cash.
Indeed I wonder how he feels when he sees millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money handed out willy-nilly to malingerers who have never done a day’s work in their lives.
Whatever the reason for the National Insurance underpayment you would think that someone from Department for Work and Pensions could pull their fingers out in Mr Lovatt’s case.
Surely it is not beyond the wit of man for an arrangement to be made whereby Mr Lovatt receives his allowance minus the £7.20.
Or do the wheels of the welfare system only turn quickly for those who see claiming benefits as a career in itself?
I, for one, was delighted when Chancellor George Osborne made a series of benefit cuts totalling more than £7 billion the centrepiece of his speech to Parliament on what the tabloids dubbed ‘axe Wednesday’.
Some commentators argue the cuts target the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society.
I disagree.
We are all going to suffer as a result of the Government’s austerity measures but at least the welfare cuts will target the laziest, most apathetic and useless individuals (whom the rest of us are carrying).
Under the changes, the employment and support allowance – brought in to replace incapacity benefit – will be time-limited to a year for those claimants judged able to work in future. About time, too, because for every genuine claimant we all know of someone else who has spent years conning the system.
I live near to one. My friend’s father is one.
Yes, we can blame the system that gives out the money but, essentially we are talking about lazy, workshy and often devious individuals.
These are people who are happy to sit at home all day while the rest of us drag our tired bones out of bed on a cold winter’s morning in order to earn a crust.
It is a national disgrace which previous governments have done nothing to tackle.
Indeed, the last one perpetuated a culture where some families think it is acceptable to spend their whole lives claiming state benefits.
Stoke-on-Trent is among the worst cities in the UK with regards to this plague of apathy.
In September 2009, 24 per cent of the city’s working population were economically inactive. That’s 35,500 people.
Of these, 8,180 were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and a further 17,920 were claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or incapacity benefits.
Even given our city’s unique problems and levels of deprivation, these figures are truly breathtaking and make grim reading when set against the many hundreds of job losses forecast last week by the city council alone.
It is these people, about to be made redundant by the local authority, for whom I feel sorry.
The majority will immediately attempt to find work again but some may be forced to rely on benefits in the short-term.
These vulnerable people should be assured of assistance while they get back on their feet – along with those who, for a variety of reasons, can never hold down a job.
The rest should be subject to the most rigorous testing and, if they refuse to take a job when offered one, they should have their benefits cut.
Never mind if it’s not quite the job of their dreams. It is about making a contribution to the society from which they are happy to take, take, take.
Then maybe the Mr Lovatts of this world will get the help they need when they need it.

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