Lies, Damned Lies and Benefit Tourism

There really is an awful lot of crap being spouted by politicians over so-called “benefit tourism” at the moment. If you believe the propaganda, tens of thousands of foreigners are flocking to our shores to take advantage of the world-renowned generosity of our welfare system. People with no intention of getting a job and living at the expense of hard pressed British taxpayers. We’re going to put a stop to this, they scream. How very easy: whip up hysteria over a problem that doesn’t exist. Make widespread ignorance and stupidity allies in your ignoble cause.

Let’s bust this myth. As most of the comments have concerned eastern Europeans, I will confine myself to the rules for EU migrants. All EU citizens have the right to live and work in any other EU country, but there are some qualifications to that right. Any national from another EU state who comes here without a job (an “economically inactive person” to use the official jargon) cannot claim benefits straight away. They are automatically barred from doing so for the first three months of their stay. And if they are not working at that point, they would fail a test as to self-sufficiency and would remain barred from claiming. (Of course, there are exceptions contained in the detail of these rules, but these are beyond the scope of this post). The only EU national who could claim immediately would be someone who has an offer of a job and needs to claim tax credits, housing benefit etc to top up low wages. And in that, they would be joining tens of thousands of UK citizens in the same boat. These rules were brought in about ten years ago. Hardly new then. I would also point out that a UK national returning home after a long absence would also be barred from claiming for at least the first month.

I find the idea that thousands of foreigners come here just to claim benefits completely laughable. This is the sort of rubbish you hear from the opinionated pub bore after they’ve had a few: bloody foreigners, coming over ‘ere, taking our benefits. At first glance, someone from Eastern Europe might find the amounts generous, based on the cost of living in their own country. But even if they could claim, they can’t claim them at home, they have to be claimed here, with our high cost of living. Not so generous then is it?

It’s quite clear why all this fuss is being made. Foreign migrants join the poor and welfare claimants as scapegoats for economic failure, while those really responsible for the mess are shielded from blame and carry on enriching themselves at our expense. All with the connivance of the government. Yet there are no protests, merely acceptance of the propaganda. How very depressing. The government must be rubbing their hands with glee.

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