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Politicians, words and meanings

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Tory party, vocabulary, changing words, unemployment, benefits, pension, sanctions, Job centre, Universal CreditOk, so the government and the media like to change the language they use, so let’s just take a look shall we?

By Trudy Baddams, women’s pension rights campaigner: We Paid In You Pay Out.

We have gone from Social Assistance, to Social Security, to Income Support and now Universal Credit, an all under the same umbrella name, Universal meaning ‘all’. In time everyone will be on Universal Credit in one way or another, from unemployed to full time workers, to pensioners.

But let’s also look at the other benefits we’ve seen.

Looking at the benefit for being unemployed, it is now called JSA – Job Seekers Allowance.

You can see why the general public can easily agree with government when the term is used against those who are unemployed: the benefit is payable for seeking work, clearly, if claimants can’t be bothered then why should they get it.

Don’t shoot me, just saying what we see in the media.

ESA Employment Support Allowance, which used to be sickness benefit.

I prefer the latter because it is clear that people are getting it because they are sick. ESA is clearly an ‘allowance which supports employment’, this is nothing to do with being too sick to work, you will note, and judging by the amount of claimants who are refused ESA we can now see why.

Look how the government have lumped everything together under the umbrella of welfare including pensions. This makes the welfare bill seem huge, but three quarters of this is pensions – which should be something totally different and not in the equation at all.

In the eyes of the government, the media, and working on the general public too, pensions have become a benefit.

Since when?

It’s part of the National Insurance contributions we make throughout our working lives. And our employers pay contributions too. It was 45-51 years’ worth of contributions, roughly 20 per cent of our wages over all these years. Now to be classed as applying for benefit. An insult.

We are policy holders; we have entered into this contract in the full knowledge that we will get our pension at 60 (women) 65 (men).

We have all kept to our side of the contract, but the government appears to be in breach of contract, as they decided when we were near pension age we have to wait a further 6 years (women) 1 year (men).

A pension is not a benefit, it is a right: our right to retire at the age agreed at the time of joining the insurance scheme.

And let’s look at the term ‘benefit’.

This seems to be such an ugly word.

If you mention you’re ‘on benefits’ you immediately become the lowest of the low, a scrounger, you must be fiddling the system.

Benefits are classed as handouts. They are not.

Referring to the above and similarly with pensions, we have paid into the National Insurance Scheme throughout our working lives to cover us for ill health or unemployment. We are not scroungers.

These payments are simply pay outs from the insurance scheme you joined.

Until this phrase is adopted by government and media alike, we will always be viewed as the scum of the earth claiming ‘benefits’ by those who simply have no knowledge of how the benefit system works, or feel they are missing out, or feel aggrieved because you are not working while they work long hard hours.

You see this after Channel 4 show programmes like ‘Benefit Street’.

And when we talk about the NHS, our ‘free’ NHS.

It isn’t ‘free’. We’ve paid for it in our National Insurance contributions, our taxes. Yes, it is ‘free at the point of service’ that’s the policy we adopted by paying National Insurance – you want anything over and above, then take out a private health insurance.

If you want a private room or preferential treatment, pay for it. But we are all basic policy holders and entitled to free at the point of service.

I always knew the place to go to find work was the Employment Exchange. That became the Jobcentre, then Jobcentre Plus.

Again looking at the language here, this is a great example: the Employment Exchange, somewhere that could help you find employment, cards on boards, helpful staff, telephones.

It changed to the Jobcentre, similar to the aforementioned but had computers, newspapers, a place to discuss work and benefits, someone who would ring and make appointments for interviews, helpful in time of unemployment.

But then it turned dirty.

The Jobcentre Plus became a place where you sign on where they have been stripped of everything; now with security staff standing around, bare walls, no jobs boards, no computers, no phones.

A place where you receive sanctions for being late or forgetting your extra sign on date, or get a job yourself.

A place where you’re interrogated for making an error in your claim, or have to face accusations made, taking the walk of shame, everyone knows where you’re heading, down the corridor to sit in the ‘red’ chair instead of all the others being blue.

Jobcentres are labelled ‘sanction centres’ these days.

The language or choice of words here is quite ominous. Jobcentres, you would think, would be ‘centres full of jobs’. Not so now.

The government talks about ‘sanctions’.

They are there to help people get back into work; Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) said people thanked him for sanctioning them, it made them find work. Unbelievable.

Well it probably ISN’T true.

‘Work is the best way out of poverty’, ‘work is good for your health’; we all recognise these points and don’t want it continually rammed down our throats.

It’s the force that these ideas come at you.

Get to work or you’ll ‘be sanctioned’, you must stick to your ‘claimant commitment’ – which according to IDS is ‘designed to suit your requirements’; how is 35 hours of job-seeking in front of a computer any good for anyone?

How is ‘working for your benefit’ good for you?

Working alongside paid staff, the same set hours, the same job, them with all their ‘rights at work’ and you not even paid the minimum wage? This is morally degrading and mind numbing.

Traineeships?

Instead of ‘supporting’ the sick on benefits or the unemployed, they spit out the strict directives, ‘conditionality’ some people can relate to Kapos.

The government pitting victim against victim: jobcentre staff the victims of management targets; the claimants the victims being sanctioned for silly reasons.

That word ‘support’ you back in to work, is a joke. There is no support.

Break it down, it’s a list of conditions, it’s what you have to do to get your money regularly.

Whilst all the time the law states you have to do all you can to find work. This is acceptable, except it’s been taken out of its proper context.

One phrase that really puzzled me is “The removal of the spare room subsidy”.

Now I knew a little about housing benefit, I had to claim when I was on my own with my daughter and knew the system well, but I had never heard of the ‘spare room subsidy’ so I questioned it: how can something be removed if it was never there?

The housing benefit is not worked out on how many rooms you have in the house, never has been.

So after months of research I found I was right, there was NEVER any ‘spare room subsidy’; it came into play when IDS made up this phrase and it sounded good so they stuck with it.

Of course we call it ‘bedroom tax’, which it really is, a tax on an extra bedroom, but I still ask the same question, how can you remove something that was NEVER there?

We’ve touched on pensions, but I noticed the other day, and this is a typical and dangerous choice of language: the government was talking about pensions in a piece I was reading, but they used the term ‘pension benefit’ and no, they weren’t talking about pension credit either…

Now we all know it’s a pension, but by adding the word ‘benefit’ it takes on a completely different angle – and enables the dropping of ‘pension’ altogether. Watch this space.

As to the ‘pension benefit’ above, I’d like to draw your attention to WRAG.

This is part of ESA. There are two groups: you have to have a sick/fit note from your GP to claim ESA, so you are sick, end of.

You are assessed to see if you’re sick enough, though, to get benefits.

Once assessed you’re grouped either in the ‘support group’ where you receive a little more money and you can just get on with your life the best you can, or the other group, the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), for ‘those who are sick now but will be able to return to work sometime in the future’.

This sentence changed to ‘are fit for work sometime in the future’ and it’s taken that sinister step now to being ‘fit to work’, dropping the ‘sometime in the future’.

You see how easy it is to change the language to give a completely different picture to what is actually happening in the real welfare world.

This and Cameron’s governments have been the only ones to adopt so many catch phrases.

This austerity is a choice.

It’s not ‘living within our means’ when they can find money from the ‘magic money tree’ for the DUP, HS2, their own 11 per cent pay rise.

They will look after ‘hard-working families’ and with their ‘long economic plan’ they can afford to pay more for the NHS, ‘thousands more doctors, thousands more nurses’ ‘put more money into education’ when there are teachers leaving in their droves, the NHS has never been so short staffed etc.

But I think the biggest mistake comes from Guy Opperman just recently, when he suggested that those of us reaching what would have been our pension age (60) can always take on apprenticeships

We’ve had a whole life of learning, thank you very much, and then Richard Harrington MP said we can always claim from the ‘generous’ welfare system if we can’t work.

This just about sums up this present government’s total contempt and lack of respect for its employers – yes that’s us, we pay their wages, they serve us.

Is it now time to play them at their own game and begin to change the language we use, as a means to an end.

Start calling ourselves policy holders of an insurance that we have paid into, which is there to pay out should we need it.

Every time you hear anyone use one of the above statements and how it’s evolved, then please put that person right, correct them, explain where this language came from.

We don’t have to put up with this anymore. It’s time to fight back.

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