20 July 2024 06:57:43 GMT

The Third Rock Forum - Society

Article Title
Rehumanising Welfare
Author
Paul G
Topic Section(s)
Society
Economics
Ethics
Submitted : 17-10-2023 17:33
Amended : 17-10-2023 17:52
Status : Approved:  
Likes : 0
Dislikes : 0

In the 21st century 
the World prayed for a solution to the abuse of the welfare system. 
They settled on PEWS.

In 2084, the Welfare system was about to collapse.  

Following the Covid epidemic of 2019 - 2021, many workers who had been working from home decided either to take early retirement or to give up work altogether. 

When I say give up 'work altogether', the term 'altogether' is a bit misleading.  Many decided  let or airbnb their property or part of it and use that income to supplement their retirement income. Others decided to go sick or remain unemployed or both and to rely entirely on the state and occasional private untaxed paid employment. 

Even many of the young, on leaving full-time education,  decided that the world of regular work lacked appeal. Instead, they favoured the black economy which, combined with unemployment benefits, provided enough income to support a modest "money-poor but time rich" lifestyle.

At the same time, the average life expectancy crept up until retirement became the largest segment of life 

- 20% childhood and education
- 35% work 
- 45% retirement 

By the middle of the century, it was obvious to all that the economy was totally out of balance and that something had to be done but, given the nature of democratic politics, no government felt able to bite the bullet.  The country had been living beyond its means for so long that generation after generation had been born into and enjoyed a standard of living the country couldn't afford. (Even in 2024, the interest on the country's debt was greater than the entire cost of the NHS.)  It was thought politically impossible to tell the people that they and the government would have to stop borrowing, cut their coat according to the cloth and return to a lifestyle of the 1950s. 

So the country tottered on until 2084.  That was when Maya Devi, the British Prime Minister was persuaded by a group of academics (psychologists and behavioural scientists) to introduce PEWS,  the Personalised Empathic Welfare System.

Under the old system those who decided to abuse or exploit the system felt little or no guilt because the system had been "dehumanised". The money did not come from fellow citizens; it was dispensed by the "Social" - a peculiarly named, impersonal entity of immense wealth with a tendency to parsimony.  As a result, instead of feeling gratitude, welfare claimants could quite happily complain that they did not receive enough. After all benefit offices had long ago been instructed to address claimants as clients, as though they were customers who had every right to a service they had paid for.

PEWS aimed to put the human element back into welfare. Maya Devi had her doubts. "How much will it cost?" had been her first question.

Fortunately, amongst her academic advisers was one Egon Stiff, a former economist who had turned to psychology originally to try to use his new discipline to predict the vagaries of the stock market (not, it must be said, with any great success).  Stiff informed the PM that the new system would save vast amount of money.  It would enable the Treasury and the DWP to dispense with several thousand employees. At the same time, Stiff predicted that the welfare bill would be reduced by10% a year in the three years, settling down at about 73% of the 2084 welfare bill.

The principle of the PEWS system was simple.  Instead of taking money from taxpayers and then allocating welfare payments from the Government's pool of taxpayers' money to the claimant,  PEWS eliminated the middle-person and allocated each claimant (termed the receiver)  to one or more taxpayers direct.  The tax payer would be told how much he/she/ had to pay monthly and that he/she/ would be compensated in full by a reduction in his/ her income tax bill.  The receiver would be given the name and address of his/her/its welfare provider. In order to initiate payments, the receiver would have to attend a meeting with the provider in order to introduce him/her/itself and to provide contact details, including a bank account.

The provider would then set up a standing order in favour of the receiver, paying the set amount to the receiver each month.  Each quarter there would have to be a meeting between the provider and the receiver at which each party would explain their circumstances.  They would then exchange views on the situation. 

Any recipient who failed to contact their designated provider would lose their all their benefits immediately. Any provider who failed to pay his designated recipient the DWP-calculated amount would be treated as a tax evader and would face heavy fines or imprisonment, or both.

Below are two records of such discussions to illustrate how the system worked

Case One

2085 / 01 / 01
John, a plumber, and Dave an unemployed labourer.  
John's wife is Polly, a hairdresser.

Note: Dave arrives at a terraced house in Ringwood. He rings the bell.
John: Come on in.  Polly's put the kettle on.  We'll chat over a cup of tea.
Note: Dave is clearly uneasy and embarrassed.
Dave: It's nothing personal but I ain't happy about this. Why can't they just pay me money into me bank.
John: Well I can see that would be a lot easier for you but this is what the Government wants. You must have seen all the publicity about PEWS, the new system.
Dave: 'Don't pay much attention to politics. They're all a bunch of wankers, if you ask me.
John: PEWS is supposed to put the personal element back into welfare.
Note: John shows Dave the Government's PEWS leaflet, entitled "PEWS, what it's all about".
Dave: What personal element? What does that mean? I been getting my money from the Social for years.There's nuffin' personal about it. It's just paid into me bank account.
John: That's the point. They think it would be better if you were given the money in person, by the person paying it in person.
Dave: I don't want no money from you. 
Note: Dave is clearly upset.
John: It's OK. I'm not paying any more than I paid before. They've cut my tax.  It's just that I have to pay the money to you, instead of the tax man taking it off me and then paying it to you. They're cutting out the middle man. Makes sense if you think about.
Dave: It don't make any sense to me. I don't want your money.
Note: Dave gets up to leave.
John: Suit yourself.  I don't like the system either. But, if you don't cooperate,  you won't get any money.  I'm now your provider.  That's what I'm called. If I don't provide, no one else will.
Dave: I don't care. I ai'nt doing it.
John: Fair enough. You just have to sign this piece of paper.
Note: John hands Dave the WRF (Welfare Refusal Form).
Dave: What's this?  I ain't signing nothing.
John: You have to sign it or I have to phone the police.  All it says is that you have knowingly refused to accept welfare payments from your provider.  It's to cover me for not giving you what the Government says I should.  If I don't pay you and you don't sign this WRF, I could go to prison. So I now have to call the police so they can witness I offered you the money and you refused it.
Dave: I don't want the police involved. I reckon the police are a bunch of wankers.
Note: Dave has shown a high level of nervousness since John mentioned the police.
John: Then just take the money.
Dave: You mean you're going to give me me usual money.
John: That's just about the size of it.  All I need is your name, address and bank details.  
Dave: All right then.  If that's it.  All right then.
Note: Polly brings in the tea. They drink a cup of tea and Dave gives John his bank details.  John transfers the first month's instalment of the  Government-calculated amount to Dave's bank.
John: Oh, and I have to ask if you just one question. Are you looking for a job?
Note: Dave looks perplexed.
John: That's it. Just Yes of No. They're not asking for any details.
Note: Dave is reassured.
Dave: Yeah, I'm looking for a job.
John: OK. That's it.  I'll see you next month.
Note: Dave finishes his cup of tea and leaves.
Polly: Seems like a decent enough bloke.  Bit rough round the edges.
John: Yes, he's taking it pretty well. It'll take time for the new system to bed in. Did you notice that, although he didn't seem to know any thing about PEWS, he had his bank details with him.
Polly: Yes, that was a surprise.
John: He doesn't seem too keen on the Government - or the police for that matter.
Polly: That goes for most people, I would say.
John: And he didn't thank me for the money.

2085 / 02 / 01

John: Hello, Dave. Come on in.
Dave: Thanks
John: How's it going?
Dave: It's OK. I've had a bit of trouble with me back but I'm OK.
John: Sorry to hear that but I was really asking about work. Last time you said you were looking for a job.
Note: Dave frowns and seems to be uncomfortable.
Dave: I ai'nt found nothig.  There's not much work about.
Polly: Cup of tea?
Dave: Yes, milk and two sugars.
John: Bit surprised you can't find anything; the Government says there are a lot of job vacancies that employers can't fill.
Dave: Well I ain't found nothing., nothing suitable, what with my bad back an' all.
Poly: I can see looking for a labouring job if you've got a bad back is a problem.
Note: Dave seems much relieved by Polly's helpful intervention.
John: How bad is your back, then?
Dave: It's OK most of the time but I can't take any heavy lifting.
John: Aren't there any jobs you could do that don't call for heavy lifting?. I don't know, like postman, or working in a supermarket stacking shelves or collecting trolleys.
Note: Dave is angry.
Dave: I told you I'm a labourer. I work in the building trade
Polly: I'm sorry.  I'm sure John didn't mean to offend you but he has to fill in a report which says what effort you've made to find work.
Dave: Well you can say I'm still looking
John: Can you give me any details of jobs you've applied for?
Dave: No, I can't. Like I said, I've got a bad back.
John: There's no mention of a bad back on your profile.
Dave: What profile?
John: When you were allocated to me, I was given what they call a profile. There's not a lot of detail but it says whether there's any reason why you can't work, whether you have any physical or mental problems which would prevent you from doing certain types of jobs. There's nothing on your file about a bad back.. 
Dave: What do they know? They're all a bunch of wankers.
John: Have you seen a doctor about your back?
Dave: No.  I told you it's OK.  It's only a problem if I work.
Note: John shrugs.
John: OK.  I'll put down that you are still looking for work.  It's just that I have to submit these quarterly reports to the DWP and they may query the blank where it says "What has the recipient done to find work?"
Dave: What recipient?
John: You.
Dave: I'm a recipient?
John: Well, yes.  I'm paying you money every month.
Dave: But you said it didn't make any difference to you.
John: It doesn't financially. I pay less tax.  But I'm still paying money out of what I earn and I'm paying it to you - which means I'm your provider and you're the recipient.
Dave: If it don't make any difference to you, I don't know why you're asking all these questions
John: I'll tell you why. Because I have to. I don't like this arrangement any more than you do.  It's easy to put an end to it.  You just have to get a job.
Note: Polly has been concerned at the direction of the conversation.  She is aware of negative tensions growing.
Polly: I expect Dave has got other things to do.  And we have to go shopping
John: Fair enough.
Note: John picks up on Polly's concern which he, in fact, shares.
Dave: I'll be going then.
Note: Dave leaves
Polly: That went well. 
Note: Polly is not much given to sarcasm but feels it is justified on this occasion.
Polly:  I thought the two of you were going to come to blows.
John: Don't be silly.  It's just that he doesn't seem to understand.  "Who's the recipient?" What does that mean?  I'm sending him money every month.   Who else would be the recipient?
Polly: I think he finds it difficult to accept that you are paying him money.
John: Well any time he asks me to stop, I'll be more than pleased. It's pretty obvious, he isn't looking for work. He doesn't want to work. He perfectly happy living off us.  You're not a labourer if you can't do any labouring.
Polly: What happens if you submit a report with blanks in it.
John: There won't be a blank. Where it ask "What has the recipient done to look for work?", I'm going to put "Nothing".
Polly: Won't that get him into trouble?
John: We'll have to see. 
Note: John is unhappy with Dave's attitude and behaviour
John: He didn't even say 'please' when you asked him if he wanted a cup of tea - and he still hasn't thanked me for giving him more money each month than we can afford.
Polly: If we didn't send it to him, it would go to the tax man.
John: That's not the point. He's doing nothing and getting a fair chunk out of the money I earn.  If he doesn't buck up, I hope he does get into trouble.
Polly: Don't let it get to you. Now let's go shopping.

2085 / 03 / 01
Note: Before the third meeting John received a message from the DWP.  "As your recipient has not supplied any evidence of his effort to find work, inform him that his benefits will be cut by 5% immediately; and that there will be further cuts of 5% each quarter until he demonstrates that he is seriously seeking work. Make it clear this is not your decision; it is the law of the land."

John: Hello Dave. How's things?
Dave: Same as ever. Look I don't really need to come in, do I?  I don't see any point.  Just tell them I came - and we can carry on as before.
John: We can't do that. You'd better come in. I need to explain some things to you
Dave: Jesus, what a waste of time. All right, I'll come in but let's make it quick.
John: That's fine by me.

Note: Dave comes in and sits down.  "Don't forget it's two sugars", he says to Polly when she enters the room.
John: I thought you wanted to be quick. We'll skip the tea this time.
Note: Dave shrugs but he is clearly uneasy.
John: How's the job hunting going?
Dave: Not that again. I said it was a waste of time.  I'm still looking.  
John: Can you give me the name of anyone you've asked for work.
Note: After a pause, Dave replies.
Dave: I had a word with an old mate of mine, Spike. He runs a scaffolding business.  I asked him but, when I told him about my back, he said it wouldn't work.
John: Don't you mean he said you wouldn't work?
Dave: What are you saying?
John: I'm saying that if you ask for work and, at the same time you explain that you can't do the work, you won't get a job.
Note: John is scarcely able to disguise his irritation.
Dave: You've got it. It's what I've been trying to tell you. I've got a bad back.  Any job I could do is out.
Note: Dave has yet to pick up in John's waning patience.
John: I'm a plumber and I've had my share of back problems but I go out every day and work. As a result I earn money for me and my family - and for you. I'm giving you a fair chunk of what I earn. Do you think that's fair.
Dave: No, I don't. I told you at the start, I should get my money from the Social, like I always used to.  I don't want to come here. It really pisses me off.
Poly: You find it humiliating. I can understand that.
John: Well, I don't.  If you get the money from the Social, you're still getting it from me or some other bloke who starts work at 8.00 am and finishes when he's done a good days work.  The Government doesn't have any money.  It gets it from people who work.
Dave: Look, mate, I don't understand politics. Never interested me. Neither of us likes this, so why don't we skip the talk and my visits - and then it'll be just like me getting me money from the Social
John: I think you're missing the point. You keep talking about your money. It's not your money. It's money the Government takes from people like me and gives to people who need it.
Dave: Well I need it.
John: But you can work. Don't you see?  The system only works if those who can work, work.  They then pay taxes to give help to those who can't
Dave: You're doin' my head in.  I don't care about the system. I just want my money.
John: Well I'm afraid there's a bit of a problem.
Note: John gives Dave a copy of the DWP message.  Dave reads it carefully a couple of times.
Dave: Are you saying you're cutting my money?
John: I'm not saying anything. I'm telling you that the Government is not prepared to carry on giving you money if you don't make a real effort to find work. I'm instructed to cut your benefit by 5% immediately.
Dave: You can't do that.  I can't manage as it is.
John: I have no choice. They are increasing my tax to take account of the fact that I'm not giving you so much.
Dave: I don't understand.  You're my provider. You have to provide. You're still earning good money.
Note: Polly can see John is about to lose his temper and intervenes.
Polly: Dave, You don't understand.  We have a lot of expenses. We have a family. and we also pay a lot of tax on the money John and I earn.  So we're already paying for those in need through the tax system. We have to because the Government doesn't have any money of its own.  You will still get most of your benefit next month but you have to find work.  You seem to be fit and healthy. I know you have a back problem, but that doesn't stop you from finding work.  For the next three months, you'll get 5% less than before. If you try really hard to find work, there won't be a further reduction; but if you don't there will be. Of course, if you find a job, all our problems are solved.
Dave: That's bloody blackmail.
John: Don't you swear at my wife.
Dave: I weren''t.  I weren't.  It's just that they're cutting me money.
John: It's not your money.  It's our money.  It's always been our money, whether you get it through the Social or whether we pay it direct.
Polly: Can't you see that. John and I work to provide for our family. Before we get a chance to do spend our money on the family, the Government takes a lot of what we earn away from us to pay for all the schools and hospitals, and for the army, the navy and the airforce and so on, and for all the roads and railways - and for those who are too young or too old or too ill to work. What's left, we would like to spend on the family. But now, on top of all that tax, we're having to give you loads of our money for you to live on because you don't work. You could work but you just choose not to. It's just not fair.
Note: There is a pause while Dave wrestles with his predicament.  After a minute or so of thought, his mood changes. He is feeling an unfamiliar emotion - a degree of empathy.  
Dave: OK.  I can see what you mean.  I said from the start I didn't want to take your money. And, if you tell me the Government hasn't got any money, it isn't fair for me to take it from you.
Note: John and Polly wait for Dave to continue.


Dave
Alright then. I can get a job with Spike.  I've been working for him on and off for the best part of two years.  You can't live on benefits. You have to do a bit on 'the black'. He's been telling me to take a full-time job because he really needs me full time - and he's told me that, if I don't, your lot will catch up with me at some time and I could be in trouble.  So let it run for the next three months, and then you can tell them I've got a job.
Note
John feels anger welling up.
John
You realise you could go to prison. You've been earning money without paying tax and you've been taking benefits you're not entitled to.
Note
John is now really angry with Dave's attitude and the way in which he has been shamelessly ripping off the system. Polly intervenes.
Polly
That's true but we won't report you. We'll let it run for three more months and then it's over. Agreed?
Dave
Sounds fair enough to me.
Note
Dave leaves. He is upset that his benefits will end in three months but he is also relieved. Spike had told him he couldn't keep employing him as casual labour and that, if he wouldn't accept a full-time job, he wouldn't get any work at all.
Note
John and Polly discussed the outcome of the meeting.
John
What a bloody nerve!  Did you hear him; "Don't forget it's two sugars?" I should have thrown him out straight away. And he's been working the black economy. No tax; no National Insurance.  He's probably been getting more than we do.
Polly
Relax. It's over.  Three more payments and he's gone.
John
I think we should have cut him off now.
Polly
I thought about that but he's got to get set up with Spike - and, in any case, we have to give three month's notice of termination if all benefits are withdrawn.  We could have made a fight of it, but we've done enough.
Note
On 15th July, John received a message from the DWP, congratulating him "on placing his recipient in work within  six months" (he had been on the Social for six years) and telling him that, as a reward, HMRC would keep his tax at the reduced level for the month of July.


Case Two 

01 01 2085
Marcus D., an auditor, and Daisy, an obese, middle-aged unemployed woman.  Marcus D's wife is Phoebe, a home-maker.

Note
Daisy arrives at a large detached house in Ealing Common. She rings the bell.
Marcus
It's Daisy, isn't it? Do come in? Is it still raining?
Daisy
It was raining cats and dogs but it's let up now.
Marcus
Let me introduce you. This is Phoebe, my wife.
Phoebe
How lovely to meet you.  Have you had to come far?
Daisy
Not too bad. It's a bit of a walk from West Ealing
Phoebe
My goodness, you must be tired. Please take your coat off and sit down. Can I get you something - tea, coffee.
Daisy
A cup of tea would be nice.
Marcus
Well this PEWS thing is rather strange
Note
Marcus feels a little embarrassed about introducing the reason for Daisy's visit.
Daisy
Strange? Pointless. It doesn't make any sense. And, no offence intended, but I don't like it. Coming into a stranger's house to arrange for my benefit.
Marcus
I couldn't agree more. Please don't feel in any way obligated to us. I agree with you. It's demeaning. The problem is that we have no choice.  It's a crazy government idea. I don't like it; you don't like it - but like it or not we have to do it.
Note
Phoebe brings in the tea.
Phoebe
I agree with Marcus.  It's crazy. But there is one good thing.  We will get to know you and, if we can, we will help you.  I do a lot of work with the local Church, St Matthews.
Note
Although Phoebe is trying to put Daisy at her ease, it clearly isn't working.
Daisy
I don't need your help and I don't go to church
Marcus
And why should you?  We live in an increasingly secular society.  My wife holds on to her faith but I'm a committed atheist.
Note
Marcus laughs.  Daisy relaxes a little.
Phoebe
I'm sorry if I offended you. We all have to be so careful with what we say.
Marcus
Right, down to business.  I've an instruction from the DWP to set up a standing order to pay you £13,000 a month.  I realise that's not a great deal, roughly 15% below the average income - but that's what the government says you have to live on. So I shall need your bank details.
Note
Daisy hands Marcus a piece of paper on which she has neatly written the name of her bank, the sort code and account number.
Marcus
Excellent. I can see you're well-organised. Now, while we're drinking our tea, why don't you tell us a little about yourself.
Daisy
What do you want to know?
Note
Daisy is not at all defensive.
Marcus
Well, it would be good to know a little about you.  For example, what type of work are you looking for. I'm an auditor with a large financial consultancy company and, from time to time we have some vacancies. You never know....
Daisy
I worked for the local council for fifteen years as an admin assistant.
Phoebe
Wow!  That's really impressive. Did you like the work?
Daisy
No.
Phoebe
Oh!
Daisy
I was bored out of my head. Everyone was bored out of their heads. We all felt we were killing time.
Marcus
Well I can assure you that you wouldn't be bored at my firm. We expect people to work flat out. We have to.  We can't rely on a guaranteed flow of income from the tax-payer or the rate-payer.
Daisy
That wouldn't suit me, either.
Note
Marcus and Phoebe are surprised
Marcus
Oh! why not?
Daisy
I don't want to work flat out.
Phoebe
I'm sure Marcus didn't mean you have to slave away all day.
Marcus
No, of course not. I just thought if you were bored at the Council because there was nothing to do, that wouldn't be a problem where I work
Daisy
I didn't say there was nothing to do at the Council.  There was plenty to do, boring repetitive work.
Marcus
Oh!, I see.
Daisy
I'll explain. I'm not a lazy person but I don't like work. When I say I don't like work, I mean I don't like low-paid, boring jobs - and they're the only jobs I can get.
Note
Marcus and Phoebe are non-plussed.
Daisy
When the Council made me redundant, I considered applying for another job but, in the end, I decided against it.  My benefits came to about 80% of what I had been earning. I found, if I was careful with money, I could manage.  I gave up smoking and the lottery and that more or less balanced the books
Phoebe
Are you saying you don't want to work?
Daisy
If someone offers me an interesting job at three times what I get on benefit, I would seriously consider it. Otherwise, no.
Marcus
You shouldn't really say that.  You're supposed to be looking for work.  I have to fill in a form which says what you're doing to look for work. If I say you're not looking for work, I'm sure there will be a problem.
Daisy
I certainly don't want there to be a problem, so you'd better say I'm looking for work.
Phoebe
But that would'nt be true. It would be a lie.
Daisy
Not necessarily.  Like I said, if someone offers me an interesting job at three times what I get in benefit, I would seriously consider it. 
Marcus
That isn't going to happen. I have to report what actions you have taken in pursuit of a job.
Daisy
That's easy. Say I applied to your company.  I'll send you my CV, with a covering letter applying for a job, with a salary requirement of three times my benefit. Then you can say I've taken action and I can COAB.
Marcus
COAB? Is that short for co-habitate? 
Note
Marcus, rather condescendingly, has overlooked the missing 'h'. He is regularly tormented by people who either put an 'h' where there shouldn't be on (as in N Haitch S) or dropping the 'h' where there should be one (as in coabiting for cohabiting). It's just one of his quirks.
Phoebe
There's no "h", dear.
Note
Phoebe is trying to be helpful. She thinks Marcus is being silly.
Daisy
No,. it's for "carry on as before". 
Note
Marcus and Phoebe are shocked.  They change the subject. Daisy is perfectly at ease and apparently mildly amused. The three of them chat for a few more minutes. Then Daisy leaves.

01 04 2085
Marcus
Hello, Daisy. How have you been?
Daisy
I'm fine. How about you?
Marcus
Good. We've been good. No problems.  Well a few First World Problems with charging my new nuclear car - nothing we can't handle.  But we're not here to talk about us. How have you been?
Daisy
As I said when you just asked me, I'm fine.
Marcus
And on the job-seeking front?
Daisy
I thought we sorted that out last time. I sent you an application. You turned me down. Well you didn't actually turn me down. You just didn't reply which I took to be the same thing.
Marcus
Come on, Daisy. That wasn't really a job application. There was no CV. The letter simply asked if we had any clerical vacancies at a pretty high salary.
Daisy 
I thought I mentioned last time that I wasn't interested in any job paying less than three times my benefit money.
Marcus
I don't think you understand, Daisy. The Government wants you to find work. It believes that, if you fully understand that your benefit money comes out of the money people like us earn by going out to work every day, you will see that its not fair for you not to work, not fair for you to take our money.
Daisy
But I don't think it's fair that if I get a job, I will have to work the hours you work and at the end of it I won't get much more than I get on benefit without working at all.  I don't know what you earn but, if you can afford to pay me my benefit, you're obviously not short of a few bob.
Phoebe
We can afford it. But only because Marcus works all hours God sends. He leaves here at 8.00 in the morning and he's rarely home during the week before 8.00 in the evening.  The season ticket he has to pay to get to and from work takes almost as much out of his post-tax income as the money he is paying you.  So although he earns good money, we pay for it in time lost. Of course, we're more than happy to pay benefit to those who can't work. But you can work. You seem to be an intelligent person. There are lots of jobs out there. What skills do you have?
Daisy
I can type and file and make coffee.
Marcus
Well there are thousands of jobs available for that skill set
Daisy
Yes but not at the salary that would make it worthwhile.  I'd end up working 30 or more hours a week for more or less the same money I get on benefit.
Marcus
I can see your point of view but I have to tell you that, if you don't actively look for work, the Government will instruct me to give you less money than you currently get. And, if you persist in not looking for work, they will cut your benefit to a bare minimum.
Daisy
I thought it was a bare minimum already.
Marcus
Not according to the Government. And they will also insist you attend classes to improve your skill set. If you don't, they will cut your benefit altogether.
Daisy
I thought it would come to this. They're using you to force me into a job I don't want which won't pay me enough to make it worth my while.  I'm supposed to sympathise with you and feel guilty about taking your money. This is moral blackmail.
Phoebe
Well don't you?
Daisy
Don't I what?
Phoebe
Don't you feel a little guilty.
Daisy
It's not fair.  They should take the money from you and give it to me, like they used to. Of course I don't like coming here and asking you for money. it's humiliating. It's like asking for charity
Marcus
It's not like asking for charity. It is asking for charity.  The Government doesn't have any money.  When they give money out in benefits, they are taking it from those who work to give to those who don't. Some of those can't work, so that's fair enough. But some can.
Daisy
There's no need to rub our noses in it.
Marcus
All I'm asking is that you make some effort to get a job. It would be good for you; good for your self respect.  It you've got basic admin skills, you have a good start.  I can arrange for you to attend classes to bring your computer skills up to speed. I can't promise you a job at a high salary level but you should be able to earn a decent wage. What do you say?
Daisy
And you won't cut my benefit?
Marcus
No I won't. Not for the next three months.
Daisy
Good. I'll give it a go.
Marcus
Make sure you keep a record of what you do to find a job.  I need that evidence for my next report.

01/07/2085

Phoebe
Do come in.  We've been looking forward to hearing how your getting on.  I'll make some tea.
Daisy
Don't bother for me.  I had a coffee in Costas round the corner.
Note
Costa was founded in 1971  by Sergio Costa and is still in business.
Marcus
How's the Excel course I arranged for you?
Note
Despite massive progress in software, Excel is still a staple product.
Daisy
Oh! That! I didn't go.
Note
Both Marcus and Phoebe are astonished. They had been excited to think that they had helped to put Daisy's career back on track.
Marcus
Really!  Why not?
Daisy
I thought about it but then I looked up jobs that asked for spread sheet skills and couldn't find any. And ,in any case, I'm a bit old to go back to school.
Note
Marcus is really upset.
Marcus
Do you have any idea what that course cost?  We have a budget to cover any minor incidental expenses that  we incur in dealing with recipients. It wasn't anywhere near enough to pay for your course, so we made up the difference.
Daisy
What do you mean "recipients".  Are you paying benefit to others, as well as me.
Marcus
Just two others, although that's none of your business. I want to know why you didn't attend the course I arranged for you.
Note
Daisy persists in ignoring Marcus's question
Daisy
So how much do you earn?  
Marcus
That really is none of you business.
Daisy
You see, that's the problem.  I don't doubt you work hard.  Phoebe told me how hard you work the first time we met.  But you get paid loads of money, enough money to run this beautiful house, and a couple of nuclear cars, and no doubt to send your kids to expensive schools. On top of that, you have enough to support three of us recipients. Wow! You must be totally loaded.  It's just not fair.
Marcus
I'm not going to debate issues of social justice with you.
Daisy
Oh, I see.  The truth's coming out now.  I'm not worthy enough. I'm poor and should learn to keep my mouth shut. I'm supposed to be grateful for the money I get which is scarcely enough to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach.
Note
Marcus and Phoebe exchange glances. Marcus's glance conveys the thought that, given her weight, clearly Daisy has no problem in filling her stomach. Phoebe's glance forbids Marcus from making any reference to Daisy's corpulent figure.
Marcus
Everyone has the opportunity to better themselves.  I earn good money because I have taken those opportunities. I worked hard, went to university, and got a first class degree in actuarial science.  I assume you enjoyed the educational opportunities we offer every child.
Daisy
So, it's all OK.  Equality of opportunity.   How about equality of birth rights.  I bet you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. What did your father do for a living? He wasn't by any chance an actuary or an accountant, was he? I'll tell you what my father was. He was a lazy, drunken wife-beater and child-abuser.  Don't talk to me about equality of opportunity.
Note
Phoebe is distressed. She is surprised that Marcus has engaged with Daisy on personal matters. And she feels guilty, conceding there is some justice in Daisy's argument.
Marcus
Of course we don't have a level playing field but that's inevitable.  It wouldn't be fair to stop those who've worked hard all their lives from giving their family the benefits of their industry.
Phoebe
Shall we get back to the matter in hand?
Marcus
Yes. Good idea. I take it you have made no effort to find a job.
Daisy 
You can take it any way you like. I told you where I stood at the start.  I'm not going to work in a low-paid, boring job. And I'm not going back to school. I didn't ask you to book me on a course. If you'd asked me I would have said "Don't bother" and you could have saved yourself the money and the trouble.
Marcus
You do realise that if you make no effort to seek work, your benefit will be cut.
Daisy
Yes, I'm not stupid. Of course I realise.  But do you realise that, if you cut my benefit, I will apply for supplementary support on the grounds of poverty and the state will provide me with enough to live on. They have responsibilities under the Human Rights Act - and, in any case, they don't want beggars damaging the country's image and buggering up the tourist industry.
Marcus
Are you happy for me to convey the gist of what you've said in my report to the DWP?
Daisy
Yes. There's quite a few of us who've decided to call the Government's bluff. The whole PEWS thing is a disgrace.  They can't make us work if we don't want to. They're not going to bus us off to work camps. And they can't let us starve.  Using people like you to try to shame us into working is pathetic. I'm not ashamed to take your money. It's my right.  I know it's my right because the state has been taking money off rich folks like you to give to poor folks like me for decades.  
I guess I won't be seeing you again.
Note 
Daisy thanked Marcus and Phoebe for their hospitality and left.
Marcus
Good heavens!  Would you believe it?  We've been played.
Phoebe
Yes, we've been played - but by whom? Daisy or the DWP?
Marcus
I guess we've just been caught in the middle.
Phoebe
Well it looks like Daisy is going to win.
Marcus
I'm not so sure.  The present situation is unsustainable. Fewer and fewer workers providing for more and more dependents.  Something will have to give.
Phoebe
I just hope it isn't us.

The two examples of PEWS in action detailed above show that the initiative has been a mixed success. The DWP is currently considering its next step. It is considering cutting the benefits of the able-bodied who won't seek work to a minimum, with a requirement for them to attend a training centre for seven hours a day five days a week to qualify even for that minimum. The training begins with a basic course in literacy and numeracy and continues with elementary admin skills and an offer, where appropriate, of an apprenticeship or on-the-job training.  Any who refuse to attend the training centre lose all benefits and are tagged.  (Tagging, although contentious, is necessary to deter them from taking to a life of crime.)

There is fierce opposition to this measure from several dozen pressure groups and many politicians but the Government is appealing to the traditional justification for desperate measures - SMBD (something must be done).  Or perhaps even more persuasively SMBD-OWAF (something must be done; otherwise we're all f - - - - - ".