After the recent controversy surrounding Katie Price’s reliance on public funds to support her disabled child, Harvey, Zak Mahinfar discusses whether as a taxpayer you have the right to ‘benefit’ from the services offered by the government.
The news was made twice this week by those condemning reliance on the welfare state. UKIP parliamentary candidate Lynton Yates proposed banning benefit claimants from driving: “Why do they have the privilege to spend the taxpayer’s hard earned money on a car, when those in work are struggling to keep their own car on the road?” Whilst, none other than Katie Hopkins challenged Katie Price’s reliance on public funds to support her disabled child Harvey’s school travel arrangements because she has “enough money to pay for it herself.”
Personally, I struggle to distinguish where UKIP starts and Katie Hopkins ends. But as John Harris in The Guardian pointed out, Yates’ ideas are not too far a cry away from what is already happening within society. Esther McVey, the conservative employment minister, justified this as “ending the something-for-nothing culture.”
And this is where the two incidences come to a head. The demonization of any individual who relies on social support. Could you argue that Harvey is part of this ‘something for nothing’ culture because he was born with a debilitating condition? Let us remind ourselves, that Harvey is far from getting something for nothing.
Ultimately, support for the disabled is not only necessary but imperative for individuals to be able to live a fulfilled life. It’s about compassion. Something we seem to be starting to lack. A report in 2012 from a coalition of over 90 disabled people’s organisations and charities estimated that “the 3.6 million people who claim disability benefits will [collectively] be £9 billion worse off, in total, over the period 2010–2015” and “87 per cent of disabled people say their everyday living costs are significantly higher because of their condition” whilst “90 per cent of welfare rights advisors argued that disabled people would be ‘left without adequate support by the benefits system.”
Baring in mind that the disabled child in question is blind, suffers from septo-optic dysplasia, autism, and both gains weight easily and struggles to walk; this is a heavily debilitated 12 year old, and the care he requires is no doubt highly specialised and yes, expensive. But Katie Price pays her taxes, and Harvey’s care is not just a legal entitlement but a human right. Do we not live in a society where we want to help one another? Or shall we just resort to full-blown Social Darwinism?
This quintessential ‘benefit bashing’ culture extends from beyond the idea of ‘something for nothing’ but embraces Benefit’s Street, Jeremy Kyle and Daily Mail headlines such as the following: ‘No wonder she wants us to pay for her son’s taxis! £100,000 new teeth. £450,000 on THREE weddings. The obscene spending of Katie Price – the £45m star who insists the council ferry her disabled son to school’
The press is at the best of times, manipulative; regularly feeding their own agenda. Referring to Katie Price as ‘the £45m star’ is misleading to say the least. Katie hasn’t politely obliged a request to ping over her bank statements, this an estimation of her net worth, or total assets, which is at best an ‘educated’ guess based on what they know of a celebrities finances from the public domain. So to imply that Katie Price has £45 million in her back pocket to spare is somewhat ludicrous to say the least. For starters, if she had that much money, I doubt she’d be on Celebrity Big Brother as we speak. I can’t say I follow Katie Price’s career but I admire her establishment of a successful business empire completely of her own accord. You can criticize her life choices, her superficial persona, but you have to respect her for being a working class self-made millionaire and single mum.
Although benefits have been repackaged by the media as a ‘something for nothing’, Katie Price’s case points out that despite perhaps being able to afford to pay for her son’s care herself, as a taxpayer it is her right to ‘benefit’ from the services offered by the government. Surely it is more important that we defend the rights of the vulnerable to exercise their power and their right to social support, than to continue to feed into the demonisation of those who ‘fall short’ and need to exercise this right. What are the government there for if not to support the people of this country?
Zak Mahinfar, Online Features Columnistbookmark me