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Urine Testing Benefit Claimants

February 2, 2016

Urine Test oil rigger meme

So it looks like this meme is doing the social networking rounds again.  On the face of it, it seems quite a reasonable request – who would want to pay someone to sit around and do nothing at all each and every day of their lives when your hard-earned tax money is subsidising it?

That’s not exactly the case though.  All this meme does is demonise those who are on welfare benefit, and note the meme does not specify any type of welfare payment, just ‘benefits’.

Furthermore, this person works on an oil rig and therefore works in a high-risk environment surrounded by heavy machinery and the co-workers rely on each other for safety and social interaction.  Of course he is urine-tested, as per the private drilling contractor’s work agreement between employer and employee.

Let’s break this meme down:

  1. Not every worker has to pass a urine test in order to be employed; indeed our elected representatives who run this country don’t have to undergo a urine test to see if they are fit to make decisions which affect all of us. (this is purely for entertainment value, honest: George Osborne. That is all. )
  1. We ALL benefit from the taxes every single one of us (even those on benefit – VAT for example) pays. So why single out one category of people to force them to submit to urine testing simply to receive enough money to barely live on?
  1. Some people take drugs to self-medicate, for many reasons including but not limited to as dealing with chronic pain conditions, depression, mental health problems and so on. Subjecting those who are on Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) to urine tests will not help their situation and may exacerbate it.
  1. Some people take drugs because they like them recreationally. Others drink alcohol.  For many, being on benefit is a soul-destroying desperately difficult life and boredom is a massive problem.  Why begrudge what little enjoyment they may have?  It is their money once they receive it and no-one has the right to police how one spends one’s own money.
  1. Many people take drugs and/or and still manage to be contributing members of society:
  • Many still work full or part-time, so this meme discriminates against those who are unable to work or do not work for whatever reason.
  • Those who cannot work at all may still fulfil voluntary roles which are vital to the ongoing care of our society. Is it a coincidence that the poor and more in need you are the more likely you are to volunteer and/or give to charities/social causes?  I don’t believe so.
  1. The amount of one’s tax which goes towards welfare benefit claimants who do not work is roughly 25% of overall tax and National Insurance paid, see graph below. Of that, only 5% goes towards those on JSA.  All other payments go on various other benefits, see graph below.
where your tax goes

Originally posted by The Telegraph, a right wing UK broadsheet newspaper.

Welfare benefits-where they go

Source: The Institute for Fiscal Studies*

There’s a reason the government changed the name of Social Security to Welfare Benefit.  It was not a marketing ploy.  This change of wording takes it from a social contract ensuring the most vulnerable are taken care of in our society to a payment given to those whose welfare requires a bit of help but is most definitely not something people should choose to be on and is something to be mildly ashamed of; in the same way ‘receiving charity’ is seen as a superior being condescending to an inferior person in need by many.

Benefit errors due to fraud and/or claimant and/or official error stands at 2.1% and has done so for many years, according to the government’s own statistics.**   The statistic is not broken down further, so a generous assessment is 1%.  Even so, this meme is not about what one might consider unfair or fraudulent claims, but is about judging the behaviours and policing the lifestyles of unemployed-yet-considered-able-to-work benefit claimants.  It is about enacting a policy of discrimination against those who claim benefits in order to survive whilst trying to get back into work.

“Can we imagine how much money the government would save…?” asks the meme.  Given the freely available information anyone can research from creditable sources, very little.  Assuming benefits are withdrawn for those who test positive, what then?  It will not cause an addict to stop using, nor will it suddenly find work for those who were on the benefit and now have it withdrawn.  What it will cause is more suffering for the sake of an extremely small amount of money, especially when you factor in the administrative costs of these drug tests.  It is possible that it would end up costing the tax payer more than it would save them.

Finally, what about false positives on drug tests?  Many over-the-counter medications and even basic foodstuffs can skew the results.***

I’m sick and tired of the demonisation of benefit claimants by the government, and all this meme does is perpetuate that demonisation.  Making an assumption about a class of people based on personal unsubstantiated opinion is prejudice.  Don’t perpetuate it.

* http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/7762

**https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/371459/Statistical_Release.pdf

***http://www.medicaldaily.com/drug-screening-6-everyday-things-trigger-false-positive-drug-test-358582 AND http://www.askdocweb.com/falsepositives.html

 

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