Tag Archives: facebook

On Builders and Anti-immigration Bile

So there’s another copy & paste meme doing the rounds on Facebook. This one:

Just been talking to a guy who works at the DHSS call centre. He was saying that he had a 52 year old self employed builder who has never claimed before but has had no work, rang up asking for some help and all he could offer him was the payment of his national health stamp.The next phone call he received was from a Somali immigrant who couldn’t speak English and required a translator with 7 children and another on the way complaining that her £40,000 a year benefits was not enough to live on !
He also stated that they had been receiving phone calls from Bulgaria and Romania with reference to benefits available in preparation for the window that will be opening soon here in the UK.
I am not a racist and support my own charity in Africa but something is seriously wrong with our system, there are many of us out there who have invested in our nation and asked for nothing in return and when you hear things like this it’s like your own government is slapping you in the face.If you agree with me please share…

Like most of these, this is a load of claptrap and I think it’s worth going into some detail about why. Taking this a sentence at a time:

“Just been talking to a guy who works at the DHSS call centre.”

DHSS? That was abolished in 1988. Notice that it’s “a guy”. No names, no locations. I’m going to suggest that this “guy” doesn’t actually exist. If he does, he’s been working for a government department that ceased to exist 25 years ago. Nice work if you can get it.

“He was saying that he had a 52 year old self employed builder who has never claimed before but has had no work, rang up asking for some help and all he could offer him was the payment of his national health stamp.”

First of all, under the Data Protection Act, call centre staff are not allowed to discuss individual cases. Maybe our non-existent “guy” didn’t give a name because he’d be sacked? If our 52 year old builder had no work, he would have been referred to Job Centre Plus for an assessment or advised to check online to see what he might be entitled to. National Health stamps were abolished in 1948, and stamp-based National Insurance contributions went out in 1975. I know some people sometimes use the old terms, but our 52 year old would have been 14 when they ceased.

I draw attention to the language used because this is a meme that someone has come up with to wind people up. Using obsolete terms like “DHSS” and “national health stamp” gives it a bit of a homely feel, like someone’s grown up with the system. It’s back to false dilemmas again unfortunately. I know whoever came up with this wants to put across the idea that someone who’s paid into the system all their life doesn’t get anything back because asylum seekers are taking it all for themselves. This is not true though. The asylum support budget is separate from the DWP social security budget and the amount of support asylum seekers can get is pretty tiny. Asylum seekers are a handy scapegoat, but the real reason it’s difficult to get anything out is government policies designed to hector and patronise people who have the audacity to try to claim. Basically, it’s the old workhouse test.

How much would an unemployed self-employed builder actually get? We need to make a few assumptions:

  • He was born on 1st Jan 1961
  • He is up to date with NI contributions
  • He lives alone with no children
  • He is fully able-bodied and receives no disability benefits
  • He has less than £16,000 in savings
  • He has no other income and has not claimed any other benefits
  • His rent is £500/month from a private landlord and has no underoccupied bedrooms
  • He lives in Leeds

Plugging these details into the DWP benefits advisor, we get:

  • Contribution-based JSA of £71.70 a week. After 6 months, it switches to income-based JSA. The overall amount is the same, but any income other than JSA is deducted.

The Leeds City Council benefits calculator adds:

  • Housing benefit of £115.38/week (but a lot of private landlords have “No DSS” rules)
  • The meme originated before council tax benefit was abolished, so that would have been paid in full. These days it’s been replaced by an inferior council tax support system, where (in Leeds) you have to pay 19% of the full amount

If someone has assets of more than £16,000, they are not entitled to anything. The idea being that if you have money saved for a rainy day, you are expected to use it when the rain comes.

“The next phone call he received was from a Somali immigrant who couldn’t speak English and required a translator with 7 children and another on the way complaining that her £40,000 a year benefits was not enough to live on !”

I bet that was a fun call. “Hello. I don’t speak English” “But you just did.” I’m not sure what this is about. If the Somali immigrant hadn’t had some sort of grant of residency, their contact would have been with the UK Borders Agency or its predecessors (the Immigration & Nationality Directorate or the National Asylum Support Service depending on when this meme was drawn up). They certainly wouldn’t have contacted the DHSS, or even the DWP.

What does a Somali immigrant get then? Taking these assumptions:

  • She is single with 7 kids, all under 18
  • She has no assets or access to accommodation
  • She has applied for political asylum but it has not been granted yet

The family will get their support from the UK Border Agency, and they will get:

  • Accommodation with water and fuel bills paid. They will not get to choose where in the UK it will be. The costs will be paid direct to the landlord and utility companies. As the claim for asylum progresses, they will probably be expected to move several times
  • £43.94/week cash, which has to cover the whole family (as far as I can tell, but this is not very clear)
  • £3/week on top for any children under 3
  • A payment of £300 when one child is born. This is only paid once regardless of how many children they give birth to
  • The local authority has an obligation to ensure any children are educated, so they will be given a school place, and reasons of public health mean they will have access to medical care

Note that asylum seekers are banned from working, so this is all they get. That accounts for about £2,500 so I’m not sure where the remaining £37,500 came from.

In a property only occupied by asylum seekers, the property owner has to pay council tax.

Supposing the family has been granted asylum. What then? If they have been granted temporary leave to enter/remain in the UK and recognised as a refugee they can claim social security on the same basis as the 52 year old builder. Temporary leave to remain normally lasts for 5 years when it is reviewed and you can apply for indefinite leave to remain.There is also discretionary leave to remain, which lasts for up to 3 years and has much stricter rules about whether you can apply for indefinite leave. You are not recognised as a refugee if this happens.

I put in some sample values on the DWP benefits advisor (She was born on 1st Jan 1980, her kids were each born on 1st Jan 2012-2006 and she pays £100/week for council accommodation) and got:

  • £376.04/week child tax credit
  • £100/week housing benefit
  • £100.70/week child benefit

That’s a total of £576.74/week or £29,990.48 a year. £5,200 of that will be paid direct to the council as housing benefit, so that’s £24,790.48 cash a year they get. Still not £40,000/year. Anyone with leave to remain or British citizenship would be entitled to this, even our builder if he had the same circumstances.

“He also stated that they had been receiving phone calls from Bulgaria and Romania with reference to benefits available in preparation for the window that will be opening soon here in the UK.”

What happens when the “window” opens is that from 1st Jan 2014 people from Bulgaria and Romania will be entitled to apply for jobs in the UK in the same way as other EEA nationals. Would it be wrong to point out here that it means people from the UK can now work in Romania and Bulgaria if they wanted to? People from the EU can claim JSA for up to 6 months on the same basis as UK residents (including being required to sign on, being patronized by Iain Duncan Smith and all the rest) but they cannot claim contributory benefits like child benefit unless they’ve made enough contributions and pass a residency test, and they can only claim in-work benefits like tax credits if they’ve got a job. There is no entitlement to council housing, not even for UK citizens.

“I am not a racist and support my own charity in Africa but something is seriously wrong with our system”

Sounds like someone doesn’t understand what “racist” means. It isn’t just about calling people from Africa silly names. Whipping up hysteria against people from abroad based on incorrect information counts as well. I also daresay that the “system” that is seriously wrong is the education system of the person who originated this meme. Finding out a few facts shows that the social security system isn’t quite as bad as these memes make it appear. Good for you if you support a charity in Africa, but which one is it? There are lots of them, not all humanitarian ones. It is possible to support an African charity while having a prejudice towards people from other countries, so one doesn’t disprove the other. And how does this fit with the Somali immigrant with 7 kids anyway?

“There are many of us out there who have invested in our nation and asked for nothing in return and when you hear things like this it’s like your own government is slapping you in the face”

You say you’ve invested in “our nation”. OK, what have you invested? Be specific. You feel like your government is slapping you in the face because you’ve heard a load of untruths from someone who probably doesn’t exist? You’re weird.

“If you agree with me please share…”

Is there something you can do if you can show that the meme is a load of old pony? Maybe share this blog post, or just disprove things with facts.

So, to summarize, we have someone from a non-existent organization trying to put out a load of anti-immigration hysteria based on things that are either inaccurate or untrue. It would save a lot of time if people just got to the point and said “I don’t like people from country X”. Copying & pasting memes that you vaguely agree with is easy, but it never hurts to challenge them and see how accurate they are. As with my earlier post about a family of former asylum seekers being given the rent on a £2m house while a stock photo of a pensioner struggles on a state pension, it’s a classic divide and conquer technique. Our builder can claim benefits at the same time as people from Bulgaria apply for the kind of jobs that he might not want to do. It isn’t either/or.

Unlocked

For ages my Livejournal has been friends only, mainly due to problems with spam and trolls. However, just as an experiment, I’m going to try having most of the entries public and with public but screened comments. I’m also going to try the LJ -> Facebook link to see how that works. There will be some LJ stuff that will be friends only: I know most of the people on my flist quite well in one way or another and there are some things I prefer to restrict to them. I also know Facebook’s privacy policies aren’t exactly in keeping with the principles of the Data Protection Acts.

May as well also use my first public post to say that if hotbadgerdeluxe is reading this then I hope he’s OK even if he’s having a (hopefully only temporary) absence.