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Moral welfare

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Mark Easton | 11:54 UK time, Thursday, 21 April 2011

Quiet morning? Banish boredom with some hand-wringing about alcoholics, drug addicts and obesity patients receiving incapacity benefits!

It is one of those hardy perennial stories to be wheeled out on a dull news day, a chronic "scandal" that media and Ministers alike know will press the button marked "moral outrage".

herion addict preparing to inject heroin

 

But hold on. Today's version says 80,000 addicts receive welfare payments and yet in 2006 the story was that 100,000 were on incapacity benefits. In 2008 it was more than 100,000, last August it was nearly 90,000, by November it was more than 100,000 once more.

I haven't seen any stories saying that the latest figures represent a 20% fall in just five months. I wonder why.

I also wonder why this particular group of incapacity benefits claimants is picked out from the data. The suggestion seems to be that people suffering from diseases like alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity are morally culpable for their condition.

John Humphrys articulated just this point on the Today programme
this morning. When Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern suggested alcoholics were often unable to work "through no fault of their own" he was interrupted. "No fault of their own?" he was asked.

One can understand why the question is asked but once society starts introducing the idea of "fault" into the issue of welfare, the debate enters dangerous territory.

Let us assume that the reason for all these stories about drug addicts, alcoholics and obesity sufferers receiving state support is that some people regard them as "undeserving": what about these people?

  1. The smoker who knew the risks and developed lung cancer
  2. The non-smoker who lived with a smoker, knew the risks and developed lung cancer
  3. The horse-rider who knew the risks of the sport and suffered brain injury after a fall
  4. The spinster who ignored her doctor's advice to lay off the sweet sherry and developed debilitating diabetes
  5. The man whose refusal to follow health and safety advice resulted in a disabling industrial accident
  6. The driver who crashed into a tree after three gin and tonics and was never able to work again

To be fair to the government, ministers have always couched the debate in terms of supporting and encouraging people back into work through treatment or other help. There is also a legitimate public discussion to be had about individual responsibility and whether the state should tailor welfare provision to encourage pro-social behaviour.

But let's be honest: this familiar debate is really about providing ammunition for those who insist it is possible to take a moral stance on welfare; that we can divide up potential recipients in terms of deserving and undeserving.

The trouble with this argument is that it would necessitate some kind of "morality officer" charged with deciding whether incapacity was the "fault" of the individual. Who would we recruit for this job? What questions would be asked?

The alcoholic whose condition has led them from well-functioning citizen to welfare-dependency - is it the role of government to investigate the case and apportion blame?

What if it emerged that the individual had suffered serious child abuse which had led to severe mental health problems which in turn had led to the bottle? Should the abuser face sanction rather than the abused? Should the retailer who sold the cheap cider knowing the customer had a drink problem? What about the drinks company promoting sales of high-strength low-cost booze? And do the institutions and politicians who failed to protect the abused child and supported the drinks industry shoulder any responsibility?

A thought for a quiet morning...

PS: My list of incapacity benefit addict stories was an illustration of how this tale gets re-told and re-packaged at regular intervals. The Sun story from November relates to figures obtained under a Freedom of Information request from the previous year and so my 20% fall point should be taken with the stroke-inducing pinch of salt with which it was intended to be consumed. Incapacity benefits closed for new claimants last August of course.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm currently unemployed and looking for work. I am also disabled, having had a stroke 3 years ago. But I was able to return to full-time work, and continued to work until made 'redundant' at the end of 2009. Given the utter uselessness of the Job Centres, the casual indifference shown by the 'advisors' who show no interest and offer neither encouragement nor support to someone who WANTS to work, what chance, in these hard times, have those who are only job-seeking because they are being forced to do so?

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent journalism. Answers are easy without details.

  • Comment number 3.

    The old "personal responsibility" issue. Surely if we do not take a moral stance on this then the situation will not go away. It is not only incapacity benefit, it is also police time spent on "antisocial behaviour", crime, strain on the health service. Alcohol and drug abuse and obesity cost this country a phenomenal amount and it is all very well to say these people are ill but at some point people must take responsibility for their own behaviour. What are their friends and families and family doctors doing to help them? Very easy to blame government but no one forces anyone to drink alcohol, smoke 20 a day or inject themselves with whatever drug addicts use these days or fast feed themselves to 30 stone. Why should those of us who do the right thing, do not abuse our bodies or create social problems continue to pay out through our taxes for this. Sympathy only goes so far.

    My suggestion would be this that if a family doctor or whoever believes someone is an addict they should be offered a treatment programme which they must attend. Lapses mean benefits are lost. Support is given by way of mentoring from previous reformed addicts. Stop offering obesity surgery and make people go on sensible diets and bring back school nurses to detect if children are overweight and offer support. Very often obesity runs in families so the whole family should engage in healthy eating and exercise. Encourage proper cooking in schools, not this Food Technology which is more often than not theory and get kids to walk to school. Benefits for obese people is just wrong.

  • Comment number 4.

    10p tax on all individual items sold by takeaways to go to treatment. It's a start.

  • Comment number 5.

    Its a similar 'slippery slope' to the age old BBC HYS comment of 'people over the limit (ignoring the fact that there is no limit if you're not driving) should be made to pay for their A+E treatment' as its 'their fault' they're in A+E. Apply that and very quickly you're charging people who are overweight for treating cardiac conditions, having DIY accidents for their treatment too. Maybe expecting everyone who does Sunday league football to have medical insurance? You could argue that almost every medical accident or illness is in part self induced.

    The other issue that should be considered: 'is the government seriously suggesting withdrawing benefit from these people'. If not, why raise the issue? If they are do they seriously think society will be better? A heroin addict isn't going to get magically cured if you withdraw their benefits, no one will employ a junkie so they'll just steal & mug more to make ends meet. The responsible thing to do would be to treat the addiction and cure the addict but this costs more than handing out £80 a week and even more than jailing them. I hardly see Cameron funding effective rehab for 100,000 do you?

  • Comment number 6.

    A rseponse to juliet50:
    The problem with compulsion for treatment is that an alcoholic or drug addict may not be in a mental place to respond - someone who is in a vicious cycle of depression and "self-treating" probably needs help to cope with the root cause of the problem, not some "moralist" ordering them give up or else, which will simply make the problem worse.

  • Comment number 7.

    There are people with degrees, PhDs, years of experience and skills all unemployed in the UK just now, unsuccessfully trying to get any job that they can to get by. How on earth are drug addicts, alcoholics and the morbidly obese meant to beat these people in their job search? We need a government that will create jobs, not support the status quo by simply re-branding benefits and talking tough about forcing people into jobs that do not exist.

  • Comment number 8.

    There are some differences between (example) a smoker getting cancer and then receiving sickness related benefits in relation to the cancer and (example) a heroin user.

    Firstly the smoker has not chosen to break the law. We should not use taxpayers money to reward people who choose to break the law.

    Secondly the cancer is an illness, as a result of the smoking: smoking is not an being claimed as illness in itself. We would not allow tens of millions of otherwise healthy smokers to sit at home and claim enhanced benefits purely on the grounds that they can't/won't stop smoking. The heroin user has no illness, they are just chosing to use drugs - why should they be given increased levels of benefits?

    Again it raises the contradiction in our haphazard approach to drugs: is it a crime or is it an illness? Should it be punished or rewarded with a payout?

  • Comment number 9.

    it is such a joy to read such a well balanced article- people may say i would say that anyway as i received residential treatment for alcoholism 20 years ago, went to university, now run my own business and remained sober for 20 years and have not claimed any benefits for 16 years i dont believe it was anyones fault that my grandfather, father, sister and two brothers were alcoholics, my grandfather and father received no treatment and continued to drink until they died, my sister and brothers have received treatment and are in recovery only my sister who also has depression is in receipt of benefits

    jo

  • Comment number 10.

    Another example that sprung to my mind was that of the traumatized british soldier who comes back from war and 'hits the bottle'.

    I'm not so sure how many people in these citied categories could secure a loan from their bank manager in order to become entrepreneurs, so alternatively i'm left wondering how their CVs are looking in relation to available jobs or education? Is there support available for these people, training, voluntary work to 'ease them in' perhaps (possibly providing them with a sufficiently recent reference for a paid employer)? Do they have the pyschological skills and strength to cope in this world? Are they disaffected and could use some help with their emotional reactions, e.g. anger, tearfulness, depression? I struggle with these balance-sheet-morality-the-taxpayer-owns-you statements. I wonder what Kant would make of this world! These dumb statements from the PM are only helpful to those who enjoy judging others from afar that they know nothing of.

  • Comment number 11.

    I suppose on top of the benefits its the large social and economic cost this group of 80-100,000 people cause that needs to be calculted. Simple point, theydrop lots of their litter that has to be cleared up - cider bottles, needles, etc.

  • Comment number 12.

    It would be cheaper to put them all on the Isle of Wright (other islands are available) and care for them all in one place. That way we save money and don't have to see them (unless you go to the Isle of Wright, of course).

  • Comment number 13.

    Are people suffering from diseases like alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity morally culpable for their condition?
    "Morally culpable"? These suffering souls made a moral decision about being socially stigmatized and blamed for their own self-made problems?
    e.g. The smoker who knew the risks and developed lung cancer
    The non-smoker who lived with a smoker, knew the risks and developed lung cancer , etc.
    Don't we all know that life is far more complicated than this? The human brain is far more complicated than this?
    Don't we all have our crutches - some being more socially acceptable than others?
    My personal opinion is that the state of our medical arts is not far enough advanced to be able even to separate those that can be treated from those that can't. What if one of the "faults" is genetic, or even environmental?
    What would you have the state do, terminate these claims, or perhaps more compassionately - terminate the claimant?
    Who do you think we are to decide, judge, the deserving from the undeserving?
    Until the state of psychiatry and brain functioning are much better understood, we are best to err on the side of moral justice. Did you know there is not even a test for depression, bipolar disorder, or even attention-deficit disorder? The decision rests in how a patient answers certain questions or reacts in certain situations. In short, we are ignorant about addictions; what we do know is that there are several people in so much psychological pain that they try and try to self-medicate, and usually get it wrong.

  • Comment number 14.

    There again, we all could leave and leave them to it in peace. Who's got room for 60 million people who are not drunk, drugged or over weight? We could split up and say 20% Canada, 20% USA, 20% Middle East, 20% Aussie and 20% China.

  • Comment number 15.

    Or how about just carrying on and wait for a repeat of this article in 6 to 12 months time? It will give us time to think of sensible solutions to the problems of this great land and its hotch potch of people.

  • Comment number 16.

    When you ask why alcoholics drug addicts and the grossly obese are picked out from amongst the sick Mr Easton, the answer is simple, they are picked out because they are not ill, they are indulgent. Though there are thousands of people who make a very lucrative living telling us otherwise and supposedly caring for such people. When the genuinely sick and disabled are finding it increasingly difficult to get help and or medical attention, then help must be prioritised, and drunks and drug addicts I suspect are a long way down the priorities list in most peoples' minds , and rightly so.

  • Comment number 17.

    Mark, you have fallen into the very common trap of believing that alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity are diseases. They are not.

  • Comment number 18.

    I came to the above article from the related news article which shows the figures for the top ten most common illnesses cited in incapacity claims. Drug and alcohol addiction and obesity are right at the bottom of that list. The top of the list shows a figure of nearly 400,000 who suffer from depression. No doubt, as Mark points out, it is very convenient for politicians to highlight areas which they think will "push our moral buttons". It allows them to hide behind selective information, whilst they ignore the real issues. Chris Graying's attempts to outline government plans for dealing with addiction and supporting addicts back into work on Radio 4's Today programme, were frankly derisory. I am utterly puzzled as to where the £580m, which is apparently going to be made available for rehabilitation, is coming from. I await with interest further information on that one, but I rather suspect Mr Grayling pulled it out of the hat and we will hear no more about these organisations who are fortunate enough to have such funds at their disposal.

    Do Politicians never ask themselves the question why? For example - why are there so many people in the country suffering from depression? Have they had experiences similar to Megan, which have left them feeling totally demoralised? Why do people use drugs and alcohol to escape the realities of their lives? What barriers do those people with a range of other disabilities face in finding work? Uncaring, unsymphathetic so called "advisors", employers who don't have facilities for the disabled, employers who don't have flexible working arrangements to support parents/carers. There may be many reasons people can't get work, including the obvious one that there are not many jobs about right now! In times when competition for jobs is high those with any disability are going to find it harder to get work. What we need the government to do is look seriously and sensibly at these barriers and what can be done to remove them for everyone. Their current rhetoric merely adds to the problems by making those who are already facing difficulties feel even less valued.

  • Comment number 19.

    Those who work in the NHS needs these future customers. Come on get the takeaway open and eaten.

  • Comment number 20.

    I sympathise with the genuinely ill, but malingerers must be rooted out. Perhaps, drug addicts and alcoholics could be paid in food and clothes vouchers instead of cash?

    With a little support many drug addicts could be retrained to do some type of work. Of course, for example, a drug addict who lost his job as a pilot could not return to the skies, but he could do many of the other jobs that are available (500,000 jobs are currently advertised in Job Centres).

  • Comment number 21.

    Give more state money to people with addictions so they can buy more of the stuff that's harming them.

    Utter madness on so many levels.

  • Comment number 22.

    17. At 14:19pm 21st Apr 2011, aries22 wrote:
    Mark, you have fallen into the very common trap of believing that alcoholism, drug dependency and obesity are diseases. They are not.

    Mark thats told you. Now go and tell all the highly educated people in the clinical world that aries22 has made a decision and we must all follow. I'm glad someone knows the facts. We would not want uneducated comments here.

  • Comment number 23.

    Megan (1.) makes a very good point. It is hard enough for those of us who want to work to find jobs. I wish her all the best in her jobseeking.
    The big mystery is why the numbers have fluctuated so much over the last year. Does anyone have any explanation for that?
    John Humphrys was right though to question Don Shenker's assertion that alcoholics were unable to work "through no fault of their own". We can act with compassion while not naively believing that those we help are simply the victims of circumstance.

  • Comment number 24.

    It we offered £580m for treatment or £300m for free drugs, food and booze. Which would the claiments take? It could save us £280 million.

  • Comment number 25.

    20. At 14:24pm 21st Apr 2011, newlach wrote:

    The funniest thing I have read in a long time. Well done.

  • Comment number 26.

    Good article highlighting the irresponsible way in which the media build up negative perceptions of individuals on benefits and attempt to portay them as some homogeneous group who bring on their own misfortune.

  • Comment number 27.

    The double standards and hypocrisy in this country is truley shocking. The smoker, an addict as much as any heroin addict (after all aren't we warned repeatedly that smoking is addictive as heroin?) is reviled, demonised, made to stand outside for doing NOTHING illegal due to the busy-bodies having their day. The poor, poor state sponsored, theiving, intravenious hard drug user though .... well, can't say a bad word about these poor poor vulnerable people. Lets give them more tax money to stuff straight into the nearest dealers grubby mits.

    Do me a lemon. It really is utter madness. Let them drink/shoot themselves up to death, their choice. Oh, cut their benefits to £0 instantly on the way.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm going to give a brief but pertinent resume´ of events leading to my being on long term IB and DLA. For just short of 27 yrs I worked, in a physically arduous job in the motor trade and in the Police Service. My holidays were spent hill walking and mountaineering. I was an outdoor pursuits adviser and helper for the local Scout Association with involvement in the Duke of Edinburghs Award Scheme. All in all, what one would deem a fruitful, healthy lifestyle. One has to be somewhat fit to do mountaineering in summer and winter I'm sure all would agree. Alas in Aug 1999 I virtually collapsed when preparing for yet another mountaineering venture in the Scottish Highlands. To shorten things a bit I was subsequently diagnosed with chronic coronary heart disease. I underwent various emergency treatments having stents put into arteries to open them but was told that there was so much other damage that a 'routine' by-pass operation was out of the question. I was placed on, what can only be described as 'mega doses' of various heart meds and that was it.I initially refused to accept the condition as being so limiting and against doctors advice I returned to work. Sadly on both occasions I tried this I ended up back in hospital having more treatment to stabilise the condition.
    The point of this is, lets not get into 'tarring' everyone with the same brush.My condition, on further investigation by the family, found the condition I have is hereditary.

    I've said before on these type of blogs, I'm in favour of reform of benefits so long as that reform doesn't become just a plain old cost cutting exercise not taking into account all the circumstances of all claimants.

    As for illegal drug addicts, alcoholics and obesity, I'm sorry but I don't see these as being legitimate medical conditions but more to do with poor lifestyle choices. There would be a minority of cases for alcohol related issues say for ex service personnel who have trouble getting back to civillian life but this then surely falls to the MOD to ensure a transition from service to civvy street especially if personel have been on the front line seeing some of the hideous things they go through.These are the exception to the rule and there'll always be exceptions to the norm for others but mostly drug abuse, alcoholism and obesity is down to poor life style choices and not medical conditions warranting being on benefits.

  • Comment number 29.

    In all the cases od drug and alcohol listed there is one common theme.
    Availability and control.
    How does an alcoholic avoid a drink?
    They cant shop in most places including garage shops without being confronted by alcohol?
    They cant socialise with most of their friends as most entertainment places sell or revolve around the sale of alcohol.
    As for Addicts we had a system that treated them beauty moral values took over after abuse was found in one small area of treatment and it was stopped in favour of criminalisation and worthlessness were no one is around to control the habit, possibly one of the most expensive mistakes of our drug policies each addict would cost about £20k a year to treat medically through centres, or we can choose as we do now to spend on average £1.2 million on criminalizing each addict every year. that's £1.180.000.00 more than it costs to treat an addict. If you include benefits into the sum that it would cost to treat an addict you only add £6k pa inc and any housing costs that would be paid regardless of stopping of incapacity and shift to ESA benefit.
    So if you want to complain about a burden to society and overall costs blame the government for having policies that maintain addiction and drug trades.

    Obesity is a strange one as DNA evidence is showing that parents with low cab diets turn on genes which makes their children more susceptible to obesity and other diet related illness. One of natures jokes.. parents bear children in famine mode so the child's DNA alters to make the most of the food available to the parent so which diet is to blame that of the child or that of the parent whose own actions caused the famine gene to activate to increase survival rates.?

  • Comment number 30.

    Great article; very well written and hits the nail on the head with the slippery slope issues raised.

  • Comment number 31.

    Testing_Times
    As for illegal drug addicts, alcoholics and obesity, I'm sorry but I don't see these as being legitimate medical conditions but more to do with poor lifestyle choices.

    I think not most of the addicts i know arrived there through abuse government care abusive parents, a child does not make lifestyle choices the adults around them do that for them and to them.
    I have the same history in my own family so I know the truth of it and make the conscious choice to see the whole picture and not just the blame picture.
    My brother didn't choose to die a heroin addict the lifestyle choices made for him by social care gave him that gave him the good start in life he needed to be a successful addict

    The point of this is, lets not get into 'tarring' everyone with the same brush.My condition, on further investigation by the family, found the condition I have is hereditary.

    As it was with both me and my brother and now my son early onset mental health issues.

    Testing_Times
    "I've said before on these type of blogs, I'm in favour of reform of benefits so long as that reform doesn't become just a plain old cost cutting exercise not taking into account all the circumstances of all claimants."

    Did your lifestyle choices make your condition worse? even after medical advice? did you further aggravate your illness by doing the same as every addict and every alcoholic does and ignored the medical advice and carrying on with your chosen lifestyle?

    We can't play the blame game and we can't say who is and who isn't entitles to benefits as by your own admissions you went against medical advice and made yourself ill a self inflicted compounding of a problem.

  • Comment number 32.

    john ellis @ 31

    "most of the addicts i know arrived there through abuse, government care, abusive parents..."
    Are you saying they were forced into drugs as in part of the abuse involved giving them drugs? I think not. I worked with under-privlidged kids in care and they, despite some severe hardships, didn't turn to drugs or drink. Your argument doesn't hold water, what you're doing is making excuses for someone making a wrong lifestyle choice. No-one as far as I know holds someone down and forces them to take illegal drugs or binge on alcohol.

    As for me, I didn't make my condition worse as such, just triggered it but I've learnt from that and now know what my limitations are. Therein lies the difference. I found it frustrating and difficult to come to terms with but I didn't use it as an excuse to take to drink or illegal drug use.

    As I also said, quite clearly, any reform of benefits should take into account all the circumstances of the claimant and not just be a simple cost cutting exercise. If this government achieve that in the end then reform can only be a good thing. As to whether they will, well, time will tell methinks.

  • Comment number 33.

    John Humphries can ask hard but often does not ask the hard questions showing a lack of serious political analysis. We are facing the greatest threat to the welfare state in our livingmemory, pensions, university fees, local government cuts, health service cuts, privatisation of public services including schools. Not only are they cutting the social wage they are lining the rest up for the corporations to profit from it. The government will very happily let the most vulnerable be scapegoats for their heinous policies while the benefits of the most vulnerable are taken from them. It was not the poor that created the debt. It was the banking bosses and their elite friends. These are the people the government are working for.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Are you saying they were forced into drugs as in part of the abuse involved giving them drugs? I think not. I worked with underprivileged kids in care and they, despite some severe hardships, didn't turn to drugs or drink. Your argument doesn't hold water, what you're doing is making excuses for someone making a wrong lifestyle choice. No-one as far as I know holds someone down and forces them to take illegal drugs or binge on alcohol."

    Erm YES!!!!

    All very rosy who makes your glasses?
    Shows what you do know though about the bottom of the pile Ive seen and dealt with the things you dont know about young girls forced into addiction sexualy abused made to do things through FEAR alone.. that's long before its a lifestyle choice.
    So no its a perfect world good to know this Testing_Times. you deal with the Lucky ones and the rest id just the same it has to be because that how it works with the lucky ones. denial is so easy. or do the NSPCC make up storys? http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/resourcesforprofessionals/sexual_abuse_statistics_wda80204.html

    There is a great deal of difference between young addicts and mature addicts, mature addicts are derived from the 'lifestyle choice' young addicts rarely are the lifestyle choices of the young person.

  • Comment number 35.

    as a teenager growing up on an Essex council estate in the mid 90's many of my friends parents would grow and sell cannabis to pay for their rent and children's cloths. It was a self contained economy that kept people above water and did no discernible harm that I could observe and was a tribute in some ways to working class entrepreneurism, but these were simpler times.

    Some were on benefits but gave them up as their cottage economy grew but never greadilly as to attract suspicion. This kept a lot of people out of the system which I would think would please a lot of right wingers here.

    I am not condoning criminal activity, I am just saying maybe live and let live, many peoples lives are harder than we can imagine, the last thing they need is society beating them with a stick until outwardly they conform to an employable stereotype and this perhaps further cheats them out of ever achieving their potential through encouragement and support over a sustained period.

  • Comment number 36.

    Thank you so much for writing this Mark. It's such a relief to finally see rebuttals of this kind of unpleasant attempt to divide and conquer, to set neighbour against neighbour.

    Here's my article on the subject for Left Foot Forward : http://bit.ly/f9qXNM

  • Comment number 37.

    Well the PM might be playing to the populist gallery and the Daily Mail readers, but surely it's right to question why so many people are receiving so-called "Incapacity Benefit" when perhaps a proportion at least could be helped sufficiently to be able to start looking at life from a different angle and get a job, even part time or voluntary. Yes jobs may be difficult to find right now, but why do the PM's critics think that these 80,000 people should be left where they are, dependent on state handouts and that the current situation for them is acceptable. In the end all adults have responsibility for themselves, and surely the ordinary taxpayer has a right to question the "entitlement" culture for those who have no intention of ever contributing to society and who claim that their predicament is not of their making.

  • Comment number 38.

    18 Caregan

    The highest number of claimants are those suffering with depression. Without wishing to play down the truly awful condition that real "clinical depression" can be, it may also be that there are a lot of people who are finding life tough and doctors put a label of "depression" on people who are unhappy for whatever reason. It is impossible to diagnose definitively.

    Unfortunately it is a tough world out there and many people do end up succombing to "crutches" like drugs, alcohol and overeating. Depression and general unhappiness is part of that cycle and it will take a complete culture change for any progress to be made on that. Proper support programmes, counselling etc would help as would work and support while at work but employers these days are not generally sympathetic as they are always having to run such a tight ship they cannot afford employees who are always needing time off. I work for a university with a high rate of "work induced stress" and actually they have a very good Occupational Therapy department as probably do many other public sector organisations but in the private sector these are few and far between.

    I have to say I do find it difficult to be sympathetic about benefits for conditions that are in the main "self induced" while cancer drugs are being denied and elderly people left neglected due to insufficient nurses. At some point we need to accept our powers to assist people are limited and make choices about where we spend the limited money we have.

  • Comment number 39.

    Richard Kirchner
    " but why do the PM's critics think that these 80,000 people should be left where they are, dependent on state handouts and that the current situation for them is acceptable."
    Addicts would stand a better chance of recovery if they were not criminalised its not us that keep them there its the PM. Do we think they should be on benefits this long without acceptable treatment and recovery... No they should be treated medically with pure heroin and then stabilized and withdrawn given their lives back are we responsible for this? No the PM is we are not his critics he is his own critic.

  • Comment number 40.

    Since we have no-blame divorce property judgments, how can there be a basis for apportioning it in welfare/health entitlement?


  • Comment number 41.

    OK Dave we get the picture the sick, the poor, and the defenceless MUST pay the deficit the student, the pensioner, ALL must be targeted the Disabled how dare they not make full contribution to the riches of my paymasters!!
    We get it call me Dave.

    Now that the poorest and the least able are being MADE to do their part how about all those loverly tax avoidence loophole closed announcements you know Dave the ones you and Vince were going to CRACK down on the ones your mates use to offshore the profits while keeping on-shore losses come on DAVE just give the details of ONE (thats one more than zero one less than two for Mr Osbourne) loophole the condems have closed since being in office???

    I notice that the ENTIRE health service could be sorted in a trice !! but not tax avoidence? Benefit scroungers now there is a high profile target get em! my (non taxpaying chums) say they are sick of thier taxes being used to support the feckless! Dont you just love it.

    We can castigate the lowest in society and force them to pay with penury, start yet another war (ground troops WILL be needed) and destroy a world class health system all seemingly organised without any problems yet 12 months down the line no tax loopholes have been closed yet.

    I begin to suspect that the truly wealthy in our society do not want them closed..

  • Comment number 42.

    I was diagnosed with depression over 20 years ago. I sought private treatment for this, which obviously I paid for myself. I have left jobs because of my condition, but felt I was off worse mentally not working. I have had depression related issues with anxiety and alcohol, but I have found that working enables me to be efficient in order to keep it, maintain normality and not get caught in a downward spiral. I never have and would not ever think to claim benefits for my condition. I do however not need Cameron to tell me what I am entitled to or what is good for me. If Labour meant a nanny state, the ConDems mean a wicked stepmother state.

  • Comment number 43.

    #41. deadpansean:

    I think you've pretty much got to the nub of it.

  • Comment number 44.

    Given society's utter fixation with fat it comes as no surprise to see the greatest attention being paid not to the far more numerous ‘addict’ claimants but those who by far constitute the smallest statistical element of this story. Of course nothing stirs the righteous outrage of the morally superior like a good old rant against one of the few groups in society against whom it is now not only considered acceptable but actively encouraged to stereotype and express open prejudice and hatred. The BBC of course know this and ensure that on any given day they carry at least three stories about how 'the obese' are deliberately ruining everything we ‘normal’ folk hold dear.

    The effect on public opinion is clear to see: whilst a decade ago I suspect very few people had a strong opinion one way or the other on the fact that some folk have the sheer audacity to be bigger than what is socially sanctioned, the merest mention of fat today has the overwhelming majority (even those from other marginalised groups and social justice organisations who should know better but who insist fat is somehow uniquely different) tutting in disgust whilst reaching for their jackboots, ban stick and snap judgments.

    Aware as I am therefore that this will inevitably be dismissed as 'making excuses' and giving succour to the morally repugnant fatties, I wonder how many of those 1800 people (an utter statistical insignificance in the 80,000 claimants figure, never mind a population of 70m) have other issues besides or contributing to their weight? How many gained it as a result of injury or medication? Moreover, fat people are constantly harassed, denigrated, blamed, shamed and attacked in a society which they are never allowed to forget utterly loathes them, and this must inevitably contribute to psychological conditions, stress and depression which in turn have been correlated with other physical health effects.

    Most NHS trusts now consider discrimination on the basis of BMI not only acceptable but a desirable means of punishing fat people, and I'm not talking about the dangerous, expensive and often counterproductive gastric bypasses they're told are their only hope of social acceptance but the hip and knee ops which might help them regain some mobility and fitness but which they are reminded by the likes of 'call me Dave' that they ‘don’t deserve’.

    Employers who due to legislation and social attitudes wouldn't dare quip about refusing to hire a black, gay or female candidate are quite open about the reasons, often based on little more than stereotypes and prejudice, why they wouldn't even consider offering a position to someone considered 'obese'. And if by some miracle they do gain access to the workplace, they're subsequently viewed with suspicion, bullied by colleagues, passed over for promotion and advancement, and reminded that any contribution they make will always be 'overshadowed' by their highly visible social transgression.

    All because they have a body which the majority consider unattractive (if all this was REALLY about health, drinking to excess, taking drugs and yes, partaking in crash diets and dangerous weight-loss techniques would all be stigmatised to a similar degree) in a society where it’s now almost considered a duty to conform to an ever-stricter aesthetic ideal.

    The absolute last thing we need is to further pariahise larger folk and make access to society even more conditional on size and BMI than it has already become. Fat people are not the threats to society that the media and medical establishment (both of which have gained handsomely from perpetuating the current panic) constantly claim. Most are decent people (with, dare I suggest it, feelings and individual identities) who pay their way and contribute a great deal to society – of course the day the government and media acknowledge this will be a cold one indeed in Hell.

    The idea that anyone would actively ‘choose’ to draw so much negative attention their way by being bigger in such a hateful and intolerant society, where otherwise perfectly ordinary people can cheerfully advocate banning them from the streets, prohibiting them from restaurants and public transport and even sterilising them, is truly, utterly absurd. The whole non-issue has been blown out of proportion into a classic moral panic underpinned by a flawed BMI scale and is far more complex than the simplistic presentation of it in the media as one of personal morality and individual culpability that can be solved by telling people they're considered too fat (as though they don't already know) and shaming them into their houses and onto the margins of society.

    That might make the virtuous 'normal' feel superior (which I suspect is one of the real drivers of society’s war on fat people) but has never been shown to have any effect on measured BMI whether levelled at adults or (as is increasingly the case, under the misguided principles of ‘tough love’) innocent kids. By all accounts, very few of the treatments and interventions thus devised do. Maybe one day we will realise this and grow up as a society, come to terms with the fact that we’re all different and accept that the content of one’s character bears no reference to the external shell in which they carry it around.

  • Comment number 45.

    Mark the original story is a lazy one, being presented as if there are 80,000 people getting drunk or high for no reason other than they are too lazy to work. I have yet to find an employer who will take on a chronic alcoholic as an employee. I know one man who was found "Fit for work" for ESA after attending his medical in his normal condition. He was drunk, incoherant and filthy but according to ATOS was fit for employment. It would have been a brave person who took him on, it took him a month to eventually submit an appeal as the jobcentre refused to let him claim JSA as he was obviously not fit for work. He spent a month with no income, guess where he got the money for alcohol? petty theft, shoplifting etc.

    I don't like the thought of giving people money to go & buy more drugs or drink but stopping their money altogether isn't going to help and thats what happens when you are found fit for work. Tell an addict that they can't get their fix and they will steal to obtain the fix. The cutbacks mean that support services are being abolished so you are making things worse. Drug and alcohol counselling services are being cut all over the UK. How are you going to support them back into work without the support service?

    The BBC was very negligent in failing to report that 70% of appeals against being found fit are WON. In other words it was wrong of the ATOS/DWP decision makers to stop the benefit in the first place. Tribunals cost a lot of money and at the end of the tribunal the previous benefits are reinstated. in the meantime the claimant has probably built up rent and council tax arrears, some even lose their homes. A small percentage may even committ suicide.

    Cameron & Clegg have admitted that they want £70 million cut from the disability benefit bill, I wish they would had out the cure for the illnesses that they want to disappear or are they just hoping that the claimants will all die off. As has already happened when a welfare rights officer had to go to the tribunal to tell the panel "The claimant is not here today as he has unfortunately died" The appeals were won but thats not much use if your already dead.

    I wonder how many of the alocholics or drug addicts are ex service personnel or people who started off with depression from being made redundant who then became alcohol dependent. I know a few dementia patients who became alcoholics as they couldn't cope with the underlying illness. Its well know that people use alcohol to blot out real life, it is not a career choice.

    The Prime Minister is a fool if he thinks that anyone deceides I'm going to become fat/alcohol dependent or a drug addict just to get £95/week. Their habbit probably costs more than that.

    Another question from the working population is how can benefit claimant afford all the holidays, plasma TV, leather suite etc. Have you never heard of doorstep lenders? Most of the claimants I know are thousands of pounds in debt after all the first visitor you get when you move into a council house is the provi man offering you £500 to get you set up in your flat. They mention that the APR is 199% but unles your good at maths that doesn't mean much. Sitting in an unfurnished flat with £67.50 a week to furnish it isn't fun so you take the loan & now your in debt.

    What does Mr Cameron suggest we do with people with these addictions? Is he going to employ them, maybe the chancellor could get them to work in dads wallpaper business.

  • Comment number 46.

    Surprise surprise an election looms and the DAILY FAIL rhetoric bile just pours out of them its sickening to behold.....

  • Comment number 47.

    It is a cycnical political trick to gain votes. The psychologists know that the public is made up of 45% of Guards: the bureaucrats, salesmen, bus and van drivers, factory workers etc. They have jobs and pay taxes and resent the taxes they blame and want somebody to blame. Alas, instead of thinking of their good fortune to be the two and three workers who have jobs, they want to bully the less fortunate. "Arbeit macht frei". Beware!

    Improve the CAPACITY of the INCAPACITATED is the solution.

  • Comment number 48.

    PS: Don't say you are an INVALID. Your comments will NOT be regarded as VALID and your stake in society will be ignored. Invalidity is now Incapacity.

  • Comment number 49.

    Good article.

  • Comment number 50.

    Really why the hell do atticts deserve welfare. It's their fault for doing the drugs and drinking and now we have to pay for it.

    Makes me sick just thinking about it. All the people who made good decisions have to pay for those who didn't.

  • Comment number 51.

    50. At 22:05pm 21st Apr 2011, TheCommunist wrote:
    Really why the hell do atticts deserve welfare. It's their fault for doing the drugs and drinking and now we have to pay for it.

    Makes me sick just thinking about it. All the people who made good decisions have to pay for those who didn't.

    =====================

    see 46 ......

  • Comment number 52.

    Cause some moral outrage, soften up the public, cut the benefits of a vulnerable group. Job done...
    This is exactly what I thought when I read the stories, the condems are stirring. This is blatant Government spin, and they are treating us like fools.

  • Comment number 53.

    50. At 22:05pm 21st Apr 2011, TheCommunist wrote:
    Really why the hell do atticts deserve welfare. It's their fault for doing the drugs and drinking and now we have to pay for it.

    Makes me sick just thinking about it. All the people who made good decisions have to pay for those who didn't.

    =====================

    YOU were lucky not smart....

  • Comment number 54.

    monic1511
    "Cameron & Clegg have admitted that they want £70 million cut from the disability benefit bill."


    easy they just remove addicts from criminal justice saving 1.2 million per addict in crime related costs 70 million is just 70 addicts how many addicts are there realy ? if the cost to law a year is 19 billion. cant belive that with these sort of spending disparities that there isnt a better solution here. If making an addict a managed and treated member of sociaty at a fration of the cost of punishment isnt it better to treat them well and remove them from benifit and back into sociaty in a health way?

  • Comment number 55.

    Very snide attack on minorities again. Cameron if you are to make a point and care about tax payers money then you might as well go the whole hogg and target all the other people who abuse the NHS because of excessive eating, drinking, smoking etc. After all not all of them on benefits but if they are taking benefits which they rely on then they are demonised.

  • Comment number 56.

    Making excuses for those who have gone down self destructive paths in life may make the had wringing left feel less guilty about "not condemning", however it does nothing to solve the problem.

    Making people face up to their own responsibilities is a starting point for change.

  • Comment number 57.

    That 400,000 or so people receive the Incapacity Benefit for depression is concerning. Do the expensive drugs they receive not work, or do they not take enough tablets? One would think that after being medicated they would be fit for something.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just to keep things absolutely clear

    The demonisation of those receiving IB @ £96 pw to force them onto JSA @ £69pw A difference of £27pw in savings on the benefit paid.

    27 quid is 80 ciggies or 2 bottles of scotch or food for the week (cheap food obviously for one) or 20 litres of petrol its NOTHING in the tax avoidence scheme of things its small beer.

    Cuts are NOT needed if so called legal tax avoidence and downright illegal tax evasion were to be sorted out these petty cuts would not be needed.. Throwing ordinary people outof work because you do not have the moral backbone to stand up to the true financial thugs in society the tax avoiding elite the money lenders/changers. When are the criminal charges for financial malfeasence going to start fred goodwin should be at the top of that list.. How come NEWS INTERNATIONAL pays less coorporation tax every year than my local butcher?? The same for BARCLAYS (they claim to have paid over 2billion in taxes but that is unavoidable employee PAYE) over 6billion in profits last year 113million in coorporation tax (all profits made by companies registered in the caymans) where is the justice for the ordinary taxpayer like you and I? if you think the unemployed are shafting the country then think again!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    57. At 23:00pm 21st Apr 2011, newlach wrote:
    That 400,000 or so people receive the Incapacity Benefit for depression is concerning. Do the expensive drugs they receive not work, or do they not take enough tablets? One would think that after being medicated they would be fit for something.

    ///

    Not sure about that, but what about obese people? To a certain degree I can understand drug addicts who got lured into their habit when young, gullible and easily lead. At least we know drugs are addictive, and addiction is hard to beat. But alcohol, cigarettes and food are all legal products, and therefore definitely not addictive. I mean, if they were, we'd all be food addicts, and consequently obese, right? And smokers won't drop their habit through choice, not addiction. I mean, they could all stop if they wanted, they just choose not to. And as they pay tax on the tobacco, they are fully entitled to NHS treatment when they contract smoking related diseases.

  • Comment number 60.

    58 deadpansean

    Cuts are NOT needed if so called legal tax avoidence and downright illegal tax evasion were to be sorted out these petty cuts would not be needed

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This guff is trotted out by the unthinking left without any evidence to support it.

    Tax avoidance is organising your affairs to reduce the amount of tax you pay and is perfectly legal. There is no obligation to organise your affairs to allow the state to take as much as possible. If you save money in an ISA or pension to reduce tax liability then you are engaging in tax avoidance.

    Tax evasion is illegal and is prosecuted. Paying a tradesman cash in hand to avoid VAT would be an example of this.

    Where is the evidence that making the tax laws more penal would increase tax take or that this increase in tax take would be so great that no cuts would be required? Companies have been leaving the UK in recent years because the tax regime is not internationally competitive.

  • Comment number 61.

    Energies and capacities: Pharmaceuticals of some kinds (most if not all?) may diminish your capacity. So may overeating. Streetwise view. Anti-social behaviour does not help the (Big, Fat Cat) Society.

    Walking up from Tolpuddle. Give them the fare to the colonies.

    Captain Swing.

  • Comment number 62.

    57. At 23:00pm 21st Apr 2011, new bach wrote:
    That 400,000 or so people receive the Incapacity Benefit for depression is concerning. Do the expensive drugs they receive not work, or do they not take enough tablets? One would think that after being medicated they would be fit for something.

    You would think so but in most cases the medication does little except make cannabinoid receptors or force natural THC levels down in order to make your body compensate. All well and good but as these drugs are also psychotropic they render the user incapacitated with a distorted sense of well being. Not to mention all the other medical problems that arise from such drugs altered diet altered vision and hearing altered moods which with some medications are turned almost off. Many of the unspoken side effects of these drugs also worsen depression and break down a person. I know they have tried all the different drugs over 25 years on me and few have worked as they should many as they shouldn't and none of them hold the answer to a lot of social depression via work etc as the problem of happyness once of the medication soon falls away then you have a really bad problem with addiction to these very powerful drugs the longer you are on them the more damage they do as you come off them... But we dont want proscribed addicts on benefits but its alright to have the prescribed addicts on long term antidepressants.

  • Comment number 63.

    It's a relief to see that at least one person at the Beeb realises that these stories are at their core a hate crime intended to make people despise those with disabilities in order to justify the gutting of disability benefit. It's just such a pity that I had to make a formal complaint about another story from, yes, the BBC echoing everything the PM said.

    I'm disabled with multiple spinal problems, a benefit claimant, and I fought for four years against a discriminatory employer not to end up in this position, so to all the nay-sayers here, do me the courtesy of remembering that when the DWP spins that as 'a bad back', nudge-nudge, wink-wink, that it doesn't just mean I'm a little sore, it means feeling like I have a raw wound across the entire posterior surface of pelvis and upper legs. I can't sit, can't stand, can't walk around, frequently can't even lie down without significant pain, and just typing this is pushing up my pain levels in three different locations, never mind the controlled drugs I'm taking to try and control the pain. Now you can disagree with me when I tell you that as far as I and many other disabled people are concerned people with addictions and obesity are equally entitled to benefits, because the tabloid headlines hide the comorbid and potentially life-threatening disabilities that are their reality. You can ignore the reality that obesity may mean Prader-Willi Syndrome, or be the side-effect of drugs that mean the difference between life or death, that addiction springs from complex psychological and physiological issues, that 'blisters' may mean Epidermolysis Bullosa, and so on, but trust me when I tell you that this campaign of vilification of disabled people by the DWP and its sycophantic media is making disabled people scared to go out of doors. I and many of my friends have been abused in the street by absolute strangers who have no idea if we are benefit claimants or not, just daring to be disabled in public is sufficient to trigger their tabloid fueled hatred. Is that something our society should be proud of?

    The truly sad thing is that there is an absolutely huge story here and the media are not simply missing it, but colluding in it. The Prime Minister of the country and several of his senior ministers, with the active cooperation of a government department -- never mind the Civil Service Code and Integrity, Honesty Objectivity and Impartiality, are engaged in the deliberate and sustained vilification of a legally protected minority for political ends, counter to the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, counter to the protection against disability related harassment built into the Equality Act, counter to the Public Sector Equality Duty, and counter to any measure of humanity. And yet the press stay quiet. Clearly, in the words of Pastor Neimoller, it isn't time to come for the journalists just yet.

  • Comment number 64.

    #41 deadpansean
    ...12 months down the line no tax loopholes have been closed yet.

    I begin to suspect that the truly wealthy in our society do not want them closed..


    Why are you blaming David Cameron ? We just came through 13 years of Labour government. Why did they not sort it out ?

    According to this...In the 2009 budget, the then chancellor, Alistair Darling, said: "We have identified loopholes and schemes which, when closed, will result in £1bn of extra revenue over the next three years..."

    Why were there any loopholes left even then ?

    And after that Labour budget, why are there loopholes now ?

  • Comment number 65.

    It is bad enought that people claiming disability benefits have to endure the fundamentally flawed ATOS Healthcare assessment without Cameron stating that Obesity, Alcoholism and Drug Addiction are not medical issues and the people afflicted have only themselves to blame.

    Cameron is not a medical specialist and obvioulsy has no idea how these dreadful afflictions occur. If this unacceptable statement is allowed to gain credibility then no doubt the next cut in benefits will be against people injured in an accident where they were found to be at fault; then we'll have flu cases for people who didn't get vaccinated or wear masks or wash their hands!

    Alcoholics, Drug addicts and some obese people are suffering underlying mental conditions. To throw them on the scrap heap of humanity as they do in The USA and other countries is a backward and barbaric suggestion.

    ATOS get over £100 million a year from HM Gov to provide DWP with faked evidence that people have failed the test. I failed the test yet had to be taken/driven to the assessment. I couldn't bend, kneel, sit on a bench walk without being in pain and full of drugs and ended up with zero points. A CAB official tested me the next day and I had over 60 points. 15 points ensures that one qualifies for benefits. The junior nurse who assessed me couldn't even turn her computer on and I had to spell words like Horticultural, agronomic and geological for her! I eventually got an apology from ATOS telling me that they had got it all wrong and one of their senior doctors wrote a damning report condemning the assessment YET THE DWP STILL DID NOT ALLOW ME BENEFITS.

    It is obvious that Cameron and his lackies are only interested in saving money, they are not interseted in people and caring for their fellow man and the predicaments they get into through no fault of their own.Their answer is to use Gestapo and Stasi tactics with faceless and blinkered unthinking bureacrats to eliminate the unacceptable. Will the next step be segregation and then Gas Chambers?

    May God forgive them; most of us at the bottom of the pit will certainly not!

  • Comment number 66.

    I just read post 63 and can vouch for abuse of the disabled.

    I have an automatic car (12 yrs old) a disabled sticker and use a stick as well as painkilling and anti inflammatory drugs.

    I drove into a large TESCO yesterday to find all of the Disabled parking spaces full. Several children and parent spaces were empty and nearer the door. I can't get in and out of my car unless there isa wide space at the drivers door as my left leg will not straighten or bend properley and I have to almost lie on my back and lift my leg out. In the circumstances I parked in the Children and parents area.

    When I came out about 20 minutes later there were two cars waiting to get into a space. One moved into the space next to me that was vacated and as I took my trolley back to the stack a young man of about 30 in the waiting car said "I see that you have a lot of children" I said that I was disabled and needed space to get out of my car and the disabled places were full. Before I finished he snarled "I don't care about you or your type, crippled scrounger" I simply said, "Have a nice day and a pleasant Easter"

    His wife was driving and he had two toddlers in the back.

    Prejudice is certainlky showing its ugly head in this society and Cameron's inflammatory remarks will be a delight to the bigots.

  • Comment number 67.

    georgethorburn..As a parent I can share your infuriation at selfish motorists who cannot read a simple sign. Try Asda they fine people who abuse the disabled and parent & child parking bays. I don't know if people behave any better at Asda, their staff certainly are more polite.

  • Comment number 68.

    It is so easy to find 'fault' when we are talking about substances we knowingly allow to enter our bodies, but what of the many circumstances, often driven by dogmatic social policies, that lead to a person 'feeling the need' to turn to substances? And what of the substances we may unwittingly absorb into our bodies via everyday cicrcumstance? Do they influence our moods?

    It is not so easy to find fault when you see a former upstanding and strong person fall foul of alcohol, or a less available drug. What drove them to change? It seems we are forever finding the symptoms (and the problems they lead to like public expense) without ever investigating the root causes of the 'breakdowns' leading to dependency and addiction. And the law makers make their decisions from such high minded places don't they? They never seem to touch base or, if they do, they quickly wash away the dirt.

    'Wet houses' seem to work well in North America where alcoholics are allowed to be happy without having to interact with a society that cares little about them unless and until they make trouble or seem to be costing too much. Once upon a time we would allow them to rot in their own dirt. We seemed to get wiser but I fear this is a case of one step forward, two back.

    We really do need to have a serious think about social policy in the UK.

  • Comment number 69.

    59. At 23:38pm 21st Apr 2011, U2195546 wrote:

    "...what about obese people? ...alcohol, cigarettes and food are all legal products, and therefore definitely not addictive. I mean, if they were, we'd all be food addicts, and consequently obese, right?"

    Oh if it were that simple. But there are many reasons why people metabolise and store food differently. People get fat as side effects of life-saving medication, as a result of injury or illness or underlying syndromes such as Prader-Willi, PCOS and thryroid disorders. However the biggest cause is (and dare I say it) GENES - yes, that's right, our body shape is around 75% genetic - nothing to do with exposure to viruses, food advertising or 'bad habits' passed from parent to child, or any of the numerous theories they've dreamed up to convince us we're morally culpable for our weight. A few generations ago the ability to store excess energy from food as fat conferred a survival advantage and the well-rounded aesthetically preferred; now it's considered an individual and social liability, representative of negative character traits and its physical manifestation legitimate cause for disgust, which given that it is a far from universal reaction I can only conclude has been socially constructed by the modern media.

    As I said before, the fact that claims by 'the obese' had to be listed as 'other selected' shows how tiny a proportion they constitute of those receiving benefits. In the same way that the 1-2% of visibly 'obese' people in society and schools (I'm not talking about those with a BMI of 30+ who because of the flaws in that scale don't even look particularly big, but those of BMI 40+ who feature disproportionately on BBC and C4 'belly telly' shows and whose stock images always accompany obesity panic articles) have become a cause for a disproportionate level of attention and hand-wringing, the 1800 'fat' registered claimants barely warrant a mention. The headline could just as easily scream 'fewer than 1% of disability claimants are obese'. But no news outlet would ever run with that, because the narrative people have been convinced to internalise and accept is one of many hundreds of thousands of folk laying around on couches and in bed having eaten themselves to immobility on taxpayer's money.

    Monic1511 @#45 makes an excellent point. Where I work, drug use or alcoholism is cause for dismissal, not sympathy. Some employers are starting to accept that people with physical disabilities can make a contribution that outweighs the cost and 'inconvenience' of accommodating them but where there's any hint of culpability for one's situation that goes out of the window. As I said in my earlier post, without the legal compulsion to do so most wouldn't even give a visibly fat person the opportunity to disprove popular myths and stereotypes about them. For what it's worth, I agree with the idea that decriminalising illegal drugs and moving addicts from the criminal justice system into the medical system would probably save a fortune and be more productive in terms of getting people clean, though most of those in favour of it undermine their case somewhat by demanding in the next breath, presumably out of sheer spite, that 'the obese' are criminalised instead. Some idiot on one of the HYS threads argued that fat women should all be forced to wear the Burka in public so that thin folk didn't have look at their exposed flesh on warm sunny days. Despite an overwhelming majority being opposed to Muslim women being permitted to wear the garment and the likely immense cost of implementation and enforcement, he nevertheless got numerous recommendations. So make of that what you will.

  • Comment number 70.

    Thank you so much for this, Mark. As a disabled person in receipt of Incapacity Benefit it's starting to feel like we're being attacked from all sides and a thoughtful response to the spin rather than a knee-jerk "scroungers" is very welcome.

    It may be too subtle a point, but benefits such as DLA, Incapacity Benefit or it's replacement Employment Support Allowance, are not awarded for your disabling condition but its physical effects. You might have nerve damage because a) you were born with it, b) its a complication of your type 2 diabetes, c) your hands or feet were crushed in an accident or d) you've been a long term alcoholic. If the damage is severe enough to compromise your mobility and daily life to a significant extent (through loss of function, chronic pain or tremors for example) then you will be eligible for an appropriate benefit. How you acquired the problem is not the issue, the idea is to help you live with it.

    I have tremor due to MS - it only LOOKS like I have the DTs. I receive benefits due to the effects of the nerve damage not because of the MS.

  • Comment number 71.

    64. At 07:13am 22nd Apr 2011, Clive Hill wrote:
    #41 deadpansean
    ...12 months down the line no tax loopholes have been closed yet.

    I begin to suspect that the truly wealthy in our society do not want them closed..

    Why are you blaming David Cameron ? We just came through 13 years of Labour government. Why did they not sort it out ?

    According to this...In the 2009 budget, the then chancellor, Alistair Darling, said: "We have identified loopholes and schemes which, when closed, will result in £1bn of extra revenue over the next three years..."

    Why were there any loopholes left even then ?

    And after that Labour budget, why are there loopholes now ?

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    I am not a 'leftie' as your ilk try to box anyone with a moral social conscience. It is true that the previous governments of all types since magna carta have a predeliction of supporting the wealthy (who are their paymasters) and fairness is always the victim of choice for these people. Tax avoidence or evasion is a BLIGHT on a suposedly modern society. How can we as one of the richest nations on earth find it appealing to attack those people that had NO INVOLVEMENT in creating the current financial crisis? What is it about left or rightwing politics that will NOT see the elephant in the room?

    Why does our own government have to borrow its own money from banks and pay intrest for the privilage?

    Why cannot the government take back the right on behalf of the population to create its own money? Rather than allowing the banking cartels to create money?
    Is the British parliament so weak and without power that a few institutions are allowed to control our countries money supply?

    No lets just leave it alone eh lets just castigate the weak and poor, lets pour bile and division onto the smouldering embers of hatred, that is easier to do than tackle the elephant.

    And when the social upheaval starts when people are so distraught that ANY action will seem better that the mire thrust upon them THEN that elephant may not look as big as it once did.

    But as usual it will be too late the country will have been raped of assets and we will be starting again.

    I wonder if it will be any better for the learning? But I doubt it if history has taught us anything its that we DO NOT LEARN FROM PAST MISTAKES..

    So Clive continue to live in your rosepetal world just don't be surprised when your windows crash in..

  • Comment number 72.

    Actually, this is the biggest flaw in the welfare state, its inability or unwillingness to discriminate on moral grounds. It therefore perpetuates, even nourishes, immorality and degeneracy.

  • Comment number 73.

    63. DavidG

    Welcome to the Divide and conquer tactics of the ConDem's David.
    Don't be too upset though; you can join the ever increasing list of those who the Government feel are not worthy of anything they get.

    Examples being Students who aren't worthy of affordable education, unemployed who aren't worthy of benifits, middle income families who shouldn't expect poor people to subsidise (sic) their children & the elderly who shouldn't expect anything.

    Of course, we shouldn't forget about all those armchair Doctors who have already decided that most of those who are disabled aren't really disabled at all & could go to work tomorrow.......if there was actually a job available for them to do.

    I'm expecting the NHS to start rationing treatment at some time to those who are really worthy, so those who have ever smoked, enjoy more than one pint a day, get knocked of their motorcycle, enjoy a bacon sarnie, work in a hazardous job, enjoy any sport at all (I could carry on, but you get my drift), need not apply because you brought it upon yourselves & have obviously contributed nothing to our County....& that includes me.

  • Comment number 74.

    This was a great article, but it's sad to see so many comments from people who missed the point of it.

    What's even more disappointing, is that so many people don't seem to understand what an addiction is. People who become addicted to substances or food often have a reason for doing so, like socio-economic conditions, mental health problems, and so on.

    The "personal responsibility" crowd often likes to ignore that - perhaps for ideological reasons. And what they usually mean of course, is "personal responsibility for everyone else, except me."

    They want a society where people can exploit others to get rich, but don't want to take resonsibility for the inevitable poverty and suffering experienced by the unlucky ones.

    They want a society where they can oppose the building of low-cost housing to avoid spoiling their area, but don't want to take responsibility for people that end up displaced or homeless.

    Maybe if the "personal responsibility" brigade would look at how their own behaviour and beliefs hurt other people, they might take some responsibility themselves.

  • Comment number 75.

    AdAstram wrote, "Actually, this is the biggest flaw in the welfare state, its inability or unwillingness to discriminate on moral grounds."

    We do not hire the government to make moral pronoucements let alone to 'discriminate' in favour or against any citizen on moral grounds, that is outwith their capability or their remit. We hire them to adminster the country on our behalf, and to provide those services - such as welfare payments - which the individual citizen cannot provide for himself.

    PS. Yellowsandydog, thank you for your good wishes. Next interview - for a job I found myself by scouring relevant websites and hanging out on professional mailing lists - is May 6th. It's computer work, running a 'learning environment' - my professional specialty, and something I can still do... having retained the ability to touch-type although writing in longhand is now impossible for me!

  • Comment number 76.

    Seems to me, if people were 'perfect' (problem free) there would be a lot of people out of work who are trying to make them so.

    Perhaps there is no answer. Being judgmental certainly isn't.

  • Comment number 77.

    It is not the states responsibility to be all things to all people.

  • Comment number 78.

    Thanks Mark, excellent article - agree with virtually everything.

    One of the issues with alcohol, drugs and food abusers that really annoys the tight-fisted, mean-spirited cuts-supporters is their puritan fury at the idea that these people are enjoying themselves (on their taxes!), by drinking, being high on drugs or over-indulging themselves on food, whereas they have had to struggle and be miserable because, well, because that's the sort of people they are. Having fun is not something in their lexicon.

  • Comment number 79.

    To those who would cite a moral imperative when deciding who is deserving and who is not of welfare largesse (as if), just which moral measuring stick do they plan to use.

    I would submit that none supplied by any of the major religions would be accceptable on its own, as those rejected would have a strong claim for discrimination. Furthermore, whilst freedom of religion is a cornerstone of our free society, we do not live in a theocracy. Thus, no goverrment has the right to enforce a particular set of religious moral values at the expense of any other.

    So that, presumably, leaves us with the opinion of the "reasonable man" much favoured by our legal system, and a convenient fudge when no clear answer exists. But, of course, the opinion of the "reasonable man", when taken in isolation, is fraught with inconsistencies and prejudices. That's why we have evolved a political system whose roots are to be found in the belief that a represenative democracy is best for all; where the opinion of the individual is combined into the voice of the many and distilled by our representatives, our MP's, to form a coherent viewpoint that removes the extremes of opinions and, hopefully, comes up with a sensible way forward. Where experts in their field are consulted and the evidence thus collected used to inform policy, and ultimately legislation.

    But what if the considered opinion of the group doesn't suit those in the executive who want to implement a policy that only the few at the extremes would support?
    One turns to a tame media hungry to print the poison the governemnt dare not speak aloud, and whip up a frenzy of "moral" indignation that clearly has at its core the unspoken conviction that to even consider disagreeing marks one out as a perverse and degenerate refusenik.

    That's why I believe Cameron & co have shown a wanton abrogation of their duty to the electorate by constantly resorting to populism to sell their more egregious policies. Relying on the voiciferous blind hatred and prejudices of the belicose few to enforce the acquiescence of the majority, who would prefer a more reasoned approach to public policy development as a whole, is no way to run a governement.

    But then, Mr Cameron has shown himself to be a master of naked demagoguery and deceipt when it comes to getting the public "onside" for his most divisive policies. As it is, and as it ever was, it will be jam for the few and a stale crust for the many - and consider ourselves lucky we've been allowed that.

  • Comment number 80.

    It's hard not to be dragged down by a society that complains alot, separates us all out and where progress seems to mean cultivating differences rather than building on commonality. I don't really have much to say on the tabloid's preoccupation, but If I could change one thing, it would be to allow Universal free access to the OU , along with free Internet access to use & access learning material, especially since Uni's now charge. How is a country supposed to become a hi-tech knowledge based economy if its citizens can't access learning & get qualifications employers recognise. The Government should at least ringfence some subjects as free- those that benefit the country's future economic health - in science based areas for example

  • Comment number 81.

    So what about the individual who ends up unable to work through industrial injury due to negligence of the employer? Who suffers deppression due to the debilitating effects of the pain and the enforced change of lifestyle, who turns to alcohol or drugs to mask their despair?
    What happens when the injury is of a nature recognised by the medical experts as debilitating, but untreatable, but when presented to a cynical benefits claimant officer, is treated with sceptisism and disbelief?
    Such individuals often suffer in unpredictable cycles, being capable and happy one day and utterly bedridden and miserable the next. The medications used for such individuals can be as debilitating as the injuries themselves, often causing side effects and secondary addictions. The system we have might not be perfect, but it works to a fashion. So get off your moral high horse and try spending a day in the shoes of a fibromyalgia or chronic pain sufferer, or an alcoholic or drug addict who has fallen into such addiction through no real fault of their own. Think how you might react if it were to happen to you. Still resent the £80 a week? Shame on you!

  • Comment number 82.

    If Cameron is so keen to see alcoholics and drug addicts rescued from welfare dependancy why doesn't he offer them jobs, at No. 10, for the Conservative party, for the government? This would truly show they have not been "left for dead".

  • Comment number 83.

    The UK loves an easy target - who better then than the stoned, drunk or fat? Even better if we can get a few tabloid headlines to help us on our tub-thumping, benefit cheat hating way. As always we can rely on the Tories to tell us that Labour did nothing and even worse probably turned a blind eye in order to buy a few votes.

    Aswell as a great blog by mark Easton there's some real stories in the posts above - a great pity they can't be read by more people.

    I suspect for every £1 saved by this rhetoric driven policy more real people will pay a heavy price for our latest bout of lowest common denominator politics.

    Oh how the middle classes must wish they could get £96 a week, if only they were feckless too.....

  • Comment number 84.

    Get to the root cause of the problems these people have so that treatment can be bespoke. The problem, however, is that the sources of treatment are being cut! catch 22!

    Take away their benefits without treatment and they will still feed their habits, funded, of course by crime (which will cost the taxpayer even more).

  • Comment number 85.

    Sounds to me like this is just the Tory's pandering to the Sun and Telegraph readers,it will get the government a few nods of approval from the outraged readers,outraged that 40,000 alcoholics are on incapacity benefit,it does make you wonder how many alcoholics there are in the UK in total if there's 40,000 who cant work because of a freely available dangerous drug.
    Very little will change from whatever they're trying to do get incapacity claimants back into work,maybe they should turn their "back to work" focus on the 2 million able bodied unemployed first,before picking on the soft targets that keep the Sun readers on side.
    The present situation does illustrate that governments really have very little power to do anything at all of any consequence,they tinker around with a few laws and keep the newspapers happy with a few attention grabbing headlines,but nothing much will change for the better,too many Tory's out there opposed to change,and the biggest change that's needed is to restrict the availability of alcohol by removing it from supermarkets and corner stores,but then that's all about making money for the government,money that they then have to give back to the 40,000 alcoholics on incapacity benefit who are obviously spending their benefits on alcohol.

  • Comment number 86.

    85. slightlyallthetime

    Interesting points well made.

    Yes, it does make you wonder why the Government are trying to pick away at these people, but don’t even have a plan for the record number of able bodied unemployed youth.

    As usual, it implies that there are a large number of jobs just lying around waiting to be snapped up by these terrible lazy disabled people who employers are just gagging to employ.

    This may be the case in Cameron Land, but back at Base Camp Reality things are so different.

    The reality is that the Thatcher & Blair Governments actively encouraged an increase in the numbers of those on Incapacity Benefit to massage the Unemployment figures so things wouldn’t look so bad.
    It’s far easier to do this than face up to the underlying problem of the true level of unemployment & economic inactivity that is still growing in the UK today.

    This is about divide & conquer tactics aimed at driving wedges into every social group & fostering loathing between them in the UK; heck they are even trying to get those on Disability Benefit to argue over the scraps on the table & fight over who is more worthy.

    Sadly this shows Cameron for what he really is; a cheap politician, with no real ideas or long term plans & who sucks up to media bandwagon for solace.

    No wonder we have so many alcoholics around.....supplying the Government with Taxes & Duty money.




  • Comment number 87.

    The Disabled could protest but i suppose the DWP would use this as proof that they could work.....
    OH yes and they would get Kettled and murdered by the met.....
    Seriously though its outrageous the predudice that the government is allowed to get away with.In particular the complete lies that ATOS origin medical services are ordered to tell.Then the so-called independent appeals tribunal back those lies up.
    I HAVE PERSONALLY WITNESSED THIS.
    How many people who complain about spongers have been though years of discrimination in the job market,and how many even have a clue what its like to live on £90 a week.Life of Rielly huh I must be missing something......

  • Comment number 88.

    # 86...Yes,I'd forgotten about the tinkering with the unemployment figures that the previous governments did,once they'd got a claimant on incapacity benefit instead of unemployment benefit,it removed that person from the unemployed list and also reduced the amount of work that the Jobcentre staff had to do,I would imagine that this was an easy option for harassed staff at a time of high unemployment,to encourage anyone with any slight disability to claim incapacity benefit rather than seeking employment that wasn't there in the first place,it would make their own Jobcentre and the government look good by reducing the unemployed and save them a lot of work by reducing the size of the queue.
    Even if you say that half the present 2 million incapacity claimants could do some form of work,be it part time or full time,then that would just add another million to unemployment figures making it 3 million,which is what it was before the figure tinkering started.
    The truth is there just aren't enough jobs to go round and there probably never will be and what the government is doing is exactly what I said in the previous blog,pandering to the Sun / Telegraph reader mentality that wants to see a few examples of unworthy benefit claimants being forced back into work for less pay than the government gives them as a benefit,I'm sure there's a few of them out there who will get their comeuppance from the Sun as it delivers it's own brand of vitriolic drivel to the public waiting to see these "spongers" sorted out,and everyone in Sun reader land will be happy for a while because they think the problem is being dealt with,but there will only be a handful of unworthy claimants that make it onto the pages of the Sun,but the public gets what the public wants,or at least they think they do,the truth is completely different and nothing much will change because there aren't enough jobs in the first place.

  • Comment number 89.

    lets stop talking about those unemployed people who claim benefit unjustly. ridiculouse! I work in the NW and we get 150 applicants for every job we advertise. People want to work. When there are enough jobs for every young person leaving school we can get steamed up about shirkers, but until then I suggest we collectively take the blame and stop talking about the unemployed and start talking about the willing to work. The blame should not be laid at the door of those who want a job, but at those who fail to deliver enough of them.

  • Comment number 90.

    Benefit claimants are always attacked simply because they don't have the means to defend themselves. If they went after the banks and the large companies then their lawyers would be straight on it and get anything rescinded. Those on benefits simply cannot afford to do this, especially the disabled. It has long been Tory policy to demonise the poor, if they had their way they'd be working in sweatshops like kids in Thailand do.

    Never forget history, the disabled were discriminated against in Nazi Germany and ended up being killed and remember even in 1932 Germany was a cultured country.

    A founding principle of the NHS is to treat the illness regardless of the cause and the welfare state to ensure that everyone will have a respectable quality of life from the cradle to the grave. In other words it shouldn't matter why the alcoholics, addicts and obese are ill (a small minority unable to defend themselves of course) just that they are ill.

    Working has been shown to improve mental health (often a driver of substance abuse) but "call me Dave" is beheading the public sector unaware he cannot force the private sector to create jobs. The latter are not creating jobs and who's going to hire an alcoholic, even a recovering one? Condem policies are condemning entire swathes of people to the scrapheap including many young people and, as in 1997, it will be up to Labour to clean up the mess left behind - hopefully under AV

  • Comment number 91.

    Well said allerton! There simply aren't enough jobs to talk about dossers

  • Comment number 92.

    Let's work up through this "story" from the ground up. Firstly the idea that 80,000 people are on Incapacity Benefit as a result of obesity or drug/alcohol addiction. That is flat out wrong. Nobody is receiving any disability/incapacity benefit purely as the result of those conditions. They are not conditions which on their own qualify somebody to claim any such benefit. So what is this figure?

    If you look at the numbers given by Chris Grayling it's very clear that these aren't figures for the prime reason that a claimant has been declared unfit for work. Because they total more than the number claiming the relevant benefits. So it must simply be a list of medical conditions suffered by people on IB and related benefits. It's already looking a somewhat different picture and that's just two simple points. Two simple points, incidentally, that the journalists responsible for the article should have spotted and questioned.

    So what we actually have is a story that large numbers of sick and disabled people are obese and/or have problems with addiction. We have no idea of which came first, the disability or the obesity/addiction. From this the PM manages to concoct a whole new policy priority that is based on a complete absence of anything that connects even vaguely with Planet Earth.

    Which leads me to question what is going on. I see two possibilities. Firstly it's simply cheap electioneering targeting one of the groups least likely to be able to fight back. Alternatively, or also, with the changeover to ESA coming up, Cameron is trying to justify setting ridiculous targets for the DWP and ATOS for the number of people they will declare fit to work over this summer.

    Whatever the reason, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts by Messrs Cameron and Grayling that is pretty difficult not to describe as blatant lying.

    Bear in mind that there are very few jobs out there, and that more money will be spent on tribunals than will be saved in paying benefits. Either it is complete stupidity on the part of the government or the objective is something covert. The logical result of forcing more people on to JSA, and increasing the pressure to take work of any kind, is even more competition for jobs. That may well be the primary purpose of all this. It isn't about reducing the benefit bill, it isn't about helping the sick and disabled back into work... it is about making it easier to fill jobs on lower wages and with worse working consitions. The intended victims of this policy are people in work. Basically anyone who isn't in a profession or isn't senior management.

    Whilst I can't prove that to be the unspoken reason for the policy, I can't see any alternative that doesn't mean we are governed by morons.

  • Comment number 93.

    Drug addicts are addicts because they can't face an issue, be it abuse or some other sort of trauma. I am amazed at the people here saying otherwise, they have no insight and have no idea what they are talking about... If drug policy was changed to a health issue instead of a criminal issue this country would be such a better place, never mind the financial cost, the human cost in suffering would be greatly reduced.

  • Comment number 94.

    Mark raises some interesting points which could be debated for eternity.The 'masses' should be asked for their opinions.These anecdotal observations in large quantities would provide enough evidence to have some statistical validity.Or is this too simplistic?

    Personally,I think money is better spent on treatment rather than extra benefits.

    I note that some contributers hold vehemently strong opinions.I trust that their rhetoric is backed up by practical help and charitable giving,where possible, to the causes they espouse.

  • Comment number 95.

    Yes, previous posts have it right about self indulgence. The Good Lord has given us all free will and it's up to us to exercise restraint. This comes to smoking fags, taking drugs, drinking yourself into a stupour or eating yourself into a heart attack. We the taxpayers don't deserve to have these life style choices thrown at us to pay for by those whom want to indulge in their particular vice or gluttony. I've heard it until I'm sick of hearing about alcoholics not being capable of stopping and therefore are ENTITLED to our taxes. I used to be in the Forces with a bloke whom was given the alternative of either stopping his drunken behaviour or face being dismissed. He had a rather difficult fortnight but finally was able to get through a day without consuming alcohol. A year or so later he told me that being given this ultimatum was the best thing that had ever happened to him as he was able to get his life sorted out. He was planning on asking a young lady whom he had gone to school with to marry him. Perhaps some civil servants could take this tact whilst interviewing people whom are applying for benefits with the smell of beer or spirits on their breath? It would save we taxpayers a few bob if they did reject these people for benefits as once they start receiving a cheque they stop all efforts to seek help in ceasing their drinking.

    I've watched people at Burger King purchase several Whopper hamburger and chips meals then retire to a table and consume the lot. They would then return to the counter and purchase dessert. During this meal they were easily consuming several thousand calories. Gluttony is mind over matter as well. You have to control yourself from consuming so much food that you suffer health problems. Then we taxpayers have to pay for your stay at NHS and benefits because you can't resist the urge to gorge yourself on food.

    Perhaps we can develop schemes that shall require those seeking public benefits to pass a life styles examination. You must answer all questions truthfully or you're automatically banned from receiving benefits for a ten year period. We have to start telling people that their personal indulgences aren't the responsibility of we taxpayers. It's a rather hard thing to say however it needs to be said.

  • Comment number 96.

    Depression is a disease. It is related to drug addiction, alcoholism and obesity.

  • Comment number 97.

    #95 Billy Bones wrote:

    "We have to start telling people that their personal indulgences aren't the responsibility of we taxpayers. It's a rather hard thing to say however it needs to be said."

    You seem to have missed the connection between tobacco, alcohol, fast foods, and taxes, because those who 'indulge' pay whopping amounts to the Exchequer, and yet you wish to deny them a payback when they need it? And not a word about the corporate muscle pushing the images of alcohol and fast food (and any other food) into a homes, entertainments, media, sport and cinemas, largely responsible for so much that is wrong with us all.

    Society is sick because people are sick, and it isn't just those who have problems with certain substances that tend to make easy reading in red top papers.

  • Comment number 98.

    #97...I think most people are missing the connection between the government and the sale of tobacco and alcohol,it is they who are the drug pushers in all this,spurred on and lobbied by the drink and tobacco companies and consequently raking in huge amounts of revenue.All these so called respectable/responsible politicians who occasionally spout on about healthy lifestyles and moral responsibility are no better than any other drug dealer,the image of them portrayed in the Tory rags belies the truth.
    But then,the people need to read these newspapers to reassure themselves that all is well and that the government is seen to govern, and is dealing with their concerns about the way society is going,the newspapers keep the voters on board but society goes from bad to worse both mentally and physically,the political classes are just unqualified people who can talk a lot but have very little or no power at all to do anything about changing society for the better.
    What with the proliferation of outlets for alcohol it's no wonder there's a huge problem in the UK,nearly every corner shop has a piles of cans of cheap alcohol on display,children are growing up with these images and think it's normal to go and get blind stupid drunk as soon as they can,it's almost like a rite of passage for the naive and bored adolescent.
    Incidentally Mark...I noticed a piece on the BBC news page in the health section that showed that researchers had found a link between drinking alcohol and cancer,maybe a report on this wouldn't go amiss,or has the drinks industry bought up the research company already and put the head researcher on a retainer in order to suppress any information they may release into the public domain.

  • Comment number 99.

    #98

    I know the feeling about politicians opening mouths without, for a moment, engaging their brains, if indeed they have them. It is all too easy for them to invent "self destruction" as a defence against anyone who gets themselves on the slippery slope to social devastation because they felt "helpless, inadequate, stupid, unsupported, unworthy, lacking moral fortitude, absence of backbone, inept and useless", or however else most of us genuinely feel when problems pile up and resolution is not to be found. Just telling us it is not our fault and it is sometimes okay to feel so desperately low, would be a step in the right direction but it demands moral courage and do we know any politicians who have that?

    We have well over two million people for whom a job is not an option (because there is so little available work) and yet all we offer to the unemployed is the rigour of an ever more trap ridden benefit system. Not one single minister dare sit on the frontline of a job centre and tell the truth to those signing because that demands moral courage, and they really do not fancy bloody noses.

    Welcome to UK Politics, the UK's biggest closed shop, big money for doing nothing, and incapable of ever telling the truth. And they dare criticise trade unions with yet another Tory wanting to curtail their power still further!

  • Comment number 100.

    Mr Easton is hopelessly confused and he goes off the rails early with his suggestion that the objection to alcoholics, drug addicts and the obese getting invalidity benefit is based on their being supposed to be "morally" culpable for their condition. The objection is not that they are morally culpable but that they are FACTUALLY culpable ! Whether and to what extent someone's obesity is caused by their own choices or visited on them by the fates is a factual not a moral question. And likewise with all of his hard cases that he uses to try to engage our sympathies for druggies etc.

    The practical argument for restricting welfare payments to people who are factually culpable for their incapacity is simply that if you subsidise incapacity causing foolishness you will get more of it. Which is bad for the extra people who are thereby incapacitated and bad for taxpayers who are required to pay for other people's foolishness. Obviously the extent to which someone's incapacity is caused their choices depends on how risky their chosen activity is, and people will have different (moral) views on how much risky behavior in their neighbours they wish to subsidise. Some people, for example, will take the view that the risk of serious injury from falling off a horse can be adequately dealt with by personal accident insurance from an insurance company willing to take the statistical risks of some of their customers falling off their horses.

    The fact that the courts apportion culpability in tort actions every day rather explodes Mr Easton's notion that any attempt to distinguish between different categories of welfare claimants might require a "morality" officer whose job would be absurd even in principle.

    Mr Easton's piece is essentially a traditional statement of socialist distributive justice - "to each according to his needs, and don't bother your pretty little head with how particular people come to be needy" But most people aren't socialists, and they prefer not to be compelled to give money to people who they think have caused their own misfortune. Which is not to say that most people are not merciful. Plenty of those who object to government welfare for drug addicts are happy to contribute to drug addict charities or give their time to helping drug addicts.

 

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