Being on benefits is the most demoralising experience a human being can have, I should know, I’ve been on benefits a few times in my life. It’s not a happy place to be.
I was grateful that the safety net was there to catch me, but I always felt I was going around in circles. I found work quite quickly but often the work was generally temporary and low payed.
This was made more acute when I started work at 18 years old, as there wasn’t a minimum wage in place at that time. But even today there isn’t a living wage in place to allow people the freedom to do what they need to live their lives.
For many years it can be argued that it has been of more benefit to be on benefits rather than to earn money through employment.
Being on benefits isn’t all sunshine and unicorns. You find yourself cutting back on essentials like food or the gas and electric, or having to choose between one or the other as the money you get just isn’t quite enough.
I’ve been there, got the t-shirt and any other paraphernalia you can think of. When you have young kids looking up at you telling you they’re hungry or that they’re cold knowing full well there’s not enough food in the fridge or cupboards or the heating won’t come on until your next payment comes in, there’s nothing more heart breaking.
I’ve had to ask family and friends for handouts, the odd tenner here and there, but most the time they were in the same boat as me.
It feels like there are obstacles in your way, in any direction you turn, and your sense of self-worth is knocked on it behind.
This is the Benefit Trap.
No Way Out
Once you’re in, you are really in and it’s an incredibly difficult situation to get out of
However, the benefits system does offer some positives in that it gives breathing space and a sense of stability to a certain extent, but any options available are limited.
Most people on benefits want to get on in life. I don’t buy the argument that those on benefits are nothing more than scroungers. I certainly wasn’t a scrounger looking for an easy life relying on others to pay my way for me.
But we must be realistic and say there is a minority of people who are scroungers, who have no intentions of finding a way out and who are quite happy for the rest of society to pay for their lifestyle.
This isn’t acceptable, but it’s not really their fault as they’re victims of being stuck in that vicious cycle.
The Way Out
There’s an idea that has been around for a while now that could be the way out for us here in Wales. It could be the answer to many of our problems, especially for those on benefits and indeed for the rest of society who want to get on in life.
The idea has many different names, but we in Ein GWLAD use the term Citizens Income and it is one of our core policies other than the chief goal of independence. It’s the one policy idea that attracted me to Ein GWLAD in the first place.
The http://citizensincome.org/ website explains Citizens Income as an unconditional income for every citizen.
When I first looked in to Citizens income, my first thoughts were that it would be money to do nothing, a freebie or a hand out that would just make things worse and harder for people.
But it’s the opposite that is the reality as the numerous studies that have been conducted around the world have shown.
Money to Do Anything
Trials and studies have been conducted from Canada to Finland, India, Uganda, Namibia and Brazil.
The results have been mixed in all honesty but that is mainly due to the differing nature and context of each trial and their desired outcomes.
These trials and studies found a common thread in that the stability that comes with CI, helped people who are really in abject poverty better their lives for themselves. CI was the catalyst for a better life.
So, the idea that a CI is money to do nothing doesn’t really stack up. It’s money to do anything rather than nothing.
A CI would give a hand up, not a hand out to the majority I mentioned earlier.
It would eliminate benefit fraud, provide a solid financial platform to build on, encourage personal freedom, creativity, and voluntary activity and quite importantly a CI would make it easier to start new businesses or become self-employed.
Entrepreneurship is crucial as small businesses are the backbone to any economy.
A CI would open many opportunities that would otherwise be closed off to people under the current system.
Wales is ripe for a CI to replace the current welfare system. Wages are generally lower than the living wage and benefits don’t pay enough to live a life on. And it’s no secret that there are far too many people in Wales below the bread line.
I see it daily where people want to take that step into self-employment or start their own little business but don’t want to take the risk of ending up back on benefits.
I’ve been down that route too, trying to get myself and family out of the benefit trap. Ultimately, I failed. Not through lack effort on my part but through a lack of a solid base on which I could grow my business.
I’m a firm believer that Wales has a strong entrepreneurial spirit but not the opportunity to do anything with it.
A CI would be the base on which thousands in Wales to grow and develop, which means Wales grows and develops which is what I think everyone wants to see.
Ein GWLAD is the only political party in Wales offering the CI as a real alternative. Other parties have flirted with the idea and say it could be a possibility.
Put your faith in Ein GWLAD when it counts, and we’ll make a CI a reality.
Or even better, why not join us as a member and help us make a CI reality? Follow the link below to join today.
My name is Lee Felton, I’m one of the editors on Ein GWALD’s News Portal, National Secretary and Graphics Officer. I have a Valley’s working class background, I say what I think. If i’m wrong, I’ll be the first to put my hand up.