My brother Buffrat, royal pain the ass that he is, is a dreamer; a regular space cadet with what can only be described as a rather tendentious hold on reality driven by an ego that would put Gordon Brown to shame; roughly 2 years ago following a stream of batshit-crazy but insanely hot girlfriends he conceived a plan - the plan being to quit his highly lucrative, on-the-up career in recruitment and join the RAF (his is in his twenties and in great shape still making it a viable career move).
He told his boss, his boss told his bosses boss who told senior management; in short panic ensued for the sole reason that Buffrats department was the only one making money for their entire division - enough to support it indefinitely through the recession (Buffrat as with all space cadets sometimes verges on the fringes of truth and can talk an unbelievable amount of codswallop; however the above factoid I believe considering what happened next).
Meetings were called - pay increases, generous holiday entitlements and stock options were offered all to no avail; once Buffrat gets an idea he sticks to it (long enough for it to screw things up and annoy everyone around him, more of which later); he was joining the RAF and that was that - notice was handed, he would leave in 2 months time.
It was at this point that things turned nasty.
His company immediately put him on leave but demanded he attend the office daily to ensure his team could get sign-offs on work without bothering Buffrat's immediate superior; he was reduced to playing online poker and navel gazing for fear he would take his knowledge to a competitor. They also started to have "human resource issues" associated with my brothers pay and commission from previous months; combined with an extremely messy breakup with Buffrat's batshit-crazy ex left him nearly penniless (admittedly not helped by his profligate spending habits; he is not the perfect victim in this story).
The months went by and it got to November last year; he moved out of the house he co-mortgaged with a friend who agreed to take over the mortgage completely and moved in to the old family home (Mumra runs an old people's home and lives on site) to conserve money; his meagre savings quickly vanishing, but the date he was due to head off for officer training fast approaching.
Then idiocy struck.
Somehow he managed to find the means (Buffrat often finds the means) to go out one evening, proceed to get blind, stinking drunk, fall over, lose his phone, wallet and chip a bone in his elbow; his imminent move to pastures greener and new adventure was delayed while his elbow was examined; the might of crushing NHS bureaucracy would delay his start in the RAF by 3 months while doctors would poke his poorly arm with a stick and mutter about getting an Xray and bone scan at some point in the distant future once all the Climate Change Coordinators and One-A-Day Commissars had done their fortnightly gender equality check in the radiology department.
Naturally, having drained his savings and his old company now trying to "disappear" his last 2 months wages and commission under the dusty carpet of latinised legalese, he was broke.
Which brings me to the following story in the Fail this morning:
A charity which sends food parcels to impoverished Eastern Europe has had to redirect some of its aid nearer home – to the South West of England.
More than 200 people a week are picking up ‘basic foodstuffs’ such as cereals and tinned goods from a help centre at a Baptist church in Okehampton, Devon.
The crisis arose after the closure of three factories, leaving 350 workers redundant.
Many are living below the poverty line as they wait to qualify for benefits, which can take five weeks or longer.
There are bigger problems at the heart of welfare certainly: the tragic moral hazard associated with intergenerational dependency, the insane number of benefits available and the near-schizophrenic levels of intrusion they allow considering the political football they've become; I'm glad the coalition seems to be making moves in this area.
But, as is happening with the above group of poor people, as happened with my brother who similarly lived on handouts from his already hard-pressed family, perhaps the first point of reform should be speed; the mandarins in charge of implementing these reforms have every incentive to make things more difficult: the more difficult it becomes to get through the process the more bods needed for civil-service fiefdoms, the more intrusive they can be.
This is not a call to make the benefit system easier to game; it is a call to reform the very public sector drag that created the mess in the first place, the desire to fill the gaps in welfare with more welfare, the long term welfarism implicit on a system that the work-shy and unfortunate together have to wade through; would you honestly keep searching for part time work, any work, if it might disappear upon entry leaving you to jump through all the sane hoops again?
Welfare and care for the unfortunate needs to become as adaptable as our unpredictable economic climate requires; this is a good place to start.