Like any other terms, both "on the social" and "on welfare" can be used pejoratively if the speaker or writer intends, and certainly the Daily Mail, Daily Express and I suspect, The Times and Telegraph hack away at this implication until the association with malingering becomes accepted . But in my childhood in the 1940s and 50s it was still quite common for those "thrown on the sick" or receiving a pension to talk of going to the Post Office to collect their "Lloyd George", and neither the speakers not their hearers thought this was in any way demeaning. Rather they honoured the founder of the system, and I believe there was a hint of pride in belonging to a society that was civilised enough to provide for the sick, aged, disabled or those between jobs.
The Tory attack on the social security system will, I believe and hope, rebound on them, because it has generated a discussion which has unearthed a lot of rather surprising facts which should dispel much misplaced prejudice.
The following have been picked up at random by me from the papers and casual listening to the radio:
- social security may be the largest item of government expenditure, but nearly two thirds of it is on pensions (received, and paid for over a long working life, by people like me.)
- only 3% of the expenditure is for unemployment benefit (now rather grandly called "Job Seekers' Allowance")
- fraud accounts for only 0.7% of expenditure. This, to be fair, amounts to around £1billion, which is a lot of mony, but not nearly as much as the estimated £70 billion lost annually in tax evasion.
- in the past, social security payments have been increased at the same rate as prices, whereas wages have risen faster than prices. Consequently, whereas unemployment benefit used to be approximately one fifth of the average wage, it is now barely one tenth (actually 11%). Hence the argument that benefits should not rise faster than wages is "specious" (a useful work I picked up from a caller to "You and Yours.")
- £71 a week, the current rate of JSA, is not a lot on which to live the Life of Riley.