Testing times?

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/3da/19460519/files/2014/12/img_0325.jpg

The picture above has appeared on my Facebook timeline a lot over the past couple of years. It is always there because a friend of mine has Iiked it meaning, by extension, that they agree with the idea of automatic drug testing for welfare claimants.

Now, I’ll start by saying that I have a deal of sympathy with the reasoning behind wanting this. Why would we want state funding for illegal drug use and the illegal drug trade? Why would we want to see money meant to allow people to live when they have fallen on hard times be wasted on drugs?

There is a higher than average proportion of benefit claimants who are problem drug users and an estimated 100,000 of these are not getting any treatment. It is an issue and one which needs to be addressed.

However, is compulsory drug testing of welfare recipients the answer? Let’s assume for a moment that the idea is testing of those on means tested benefits, not universal ones like Child Benefit or State Pension. So, are we testing all those on Tax Credits (which will include most of the people I know who agree with this idea)? They are welfare recipients and “want” to be so as they have voluntarily completed an application for the Tax Credits they receive.

I’ll assume, again, that this is not a form of welfare people are thinking of. I’ll assume that forms of unemployment benefit are the ones meant. So, will that include disability, incapacity, sickness or carers’ benefits? Benefits meant for people who cannot work, rather than those who are able to but, for whatever reason, aren’t working? This would seem rather churlish, especially as many of the people on these benefits are physically or mentally incapable of becoming drug users or, in the case of carers, are actually fulfilling a role which saves the state money.

So, I assume, yet again, that what is really meant is drug testing for those on Income Support or low income benefits. Well, my first question to anybody who suggests this is whether they, if they were unfortunate enough to find themselves out of work, would be happy to undergo compulsory drug testing. I suspect that, although they would go ahead with it, they would feel rather uncomfortable and demeaned further by the insinuation and invasion of the process.

Also, as of the latest figures in May 2014, there are 2.47 million ESA claimants and 5.2 million working age benefit claimants in the UK. Who pays for the testing? Not just the kits, but the human resourcing and facilities for the tests to take place? How often do the tests take place?

And what happens if a test is failed? Do they lose benefits completely and live on… well, nothing? Or do they undergo compulsory rehab? If so, who pays for that?

Suddenly this is frighteningly expensive or frighteningly inhuman. Either way, although the suggestion is borne from genuine concern and a real issue, it is more of a knee-jerk reaction to the current fad of demonising those on benefits than it is of trying to solve a real human problem.

Addiction is an illness. Like all illnesses it requires treatment and work on both sides to overcome. I am no expert in this field, but it seems to me that those who are experts are probably in a much better position to come up with a workable solution than I am. Or people posting a photo on Facebook are. Or politicians who have spent the last five years cutting funding for drug rehab projects are.

Let’s start getting the right people suggesting solutions for problems and stop letting our own prejudices get in the way of that.

A tale of hypocrisy

People are being told not to wear crosses at work! This is a disgrace! I mean, all other jewellery is banned at the same workplaces, but this is a chilling erosion of our Christian heritage. It doesn’t matter that there is absolutely no obligation to wear one for Christians, we must listen to those in the Church calling for us all to have the right to wear small pieces of metal.

People are being disciplined at work for refusing to offer services to homosexual couples. Religious freedoms are being overridden by the gay mafia! It’s a step too far. I don’t care if those being disciplined have had other disciplinary problems at work. I don’t care that they have chosen a profession which, by definition, would see them helping gay couples. I don’t care that my idea of freedom is being allowed to let my prejudices curtail the freedom of others. We must listen to those in the Church who say that homosexuality is an abomination and that they want to treat gay relationships as second class.

People are being duped into consciously living a life on benefits. They scrounge whatever they can because the last government cruelly allowed them to fall into this existence of dependence on the state. We must get them off of this as quickly as possible. So, it turns out that more people need food banks now, that’s only because they’re squandering money elsewhere. So, people are struggling to pay the rent because we’ve reduced their housing benefit because they need an extra room in their house due to their disability, we have declared war on a broken benefits system. We must listen to those in the Church who…

What?!

A load of clergy have said that WE are responsible for increasing poverty? They say that the welfare system needs reforming, but we’re doing it wrong?!

Well, it just goes to show what we’ve always said. The Church is out of touch with the times. These people are nothing but a bunch of raving lefties! I bet some of them only signed that letter out of peer pressure. I’m sure all those who didn’t agree with us, anyway.

We must listen to the Church!

Unless, of course, they agree with us.

A modern interpretation of Matthew 25:31-46

2015/01/img_0359.jpg

Then, the King said,

“I was hungry and you told me that it was my own fault for being lazy and believing that I was entitled to help from hard working families and that I’d probably spent all of my money on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs anyway.

I was thirsty and you assumed that I was desperate for gin or vodka, rather than water.

I was naked and you said that I would have more chance of a job if I took more care of my personal appearance, even though I wore all I could afford.

I was poor and you told me I was a scrounger who just wanted to sponge off the state and put stories about me on the tv and newspapers, despite knowing nothing about my circumstances.

I was sick and you denied me any help, told me to go back to work and assumed I was faking illness in order to scrounge.

I was in prison and you demanded that the key was thrown away and that I was kept away from all respectable, law-abiding members of society because I was a bad person who could never change.

I was a stranger and you ran, scared of me, told me to go home, that your country was full and that I was only there to steal your money, possessions and jobs.

For I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me”