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Matt Showering: How Labour's welfare system punished me for trying to take responsibility and not depend on the state

Picture 6 Matt Showering is a Conservative activist in Bristol and explains how the system designed to ensnare unwitting welfare claimants nearly destroyed his life.

At the 2009 Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron drew a standing ovation by setting out his strategy for ending New Labour’s culture of big government and welfare dependency, promising to “reward those who take responsibility and care for those who can’t.”

Cameron thus perfectly captured the mood of hard-working folk despairing not only of the layabouts and benefit cheats whose numbers have swelled in the twelve years since Tony Blair swept to power promising to dramatically reduce them, but also of Labour’s prowess for luring conscientious citizens into the welfare trap. The dark truth is that what Labour have done is actively discourage anyone facing any impediment from taking any responsibility, and attempt to make them completely dependent on the state.

I, of all people know this.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (mild autism) at 16, just over a year before I started university. Although life as a student proved far from smooth, I graduated with first class honours and won a place on a prestigious Masters course. Then disaster struck when domestic woes condemned me to depression so overwhelming that I lost all my zest for my studies and the subject. I soon found myself cast adrift, with no idea of my potential career path and no marketable skills outside academia.

One major decision I made at this point was that, having inherited a substantial sum from my grandparents, not only would I continue to live independently; but no matter how long it took to find work, I would not claim any benefits – disability-related or otherwise – going against all advice. I considered it more responsible to pay my own way.  But once it became clear that I faced an uphill struggle to obtain satisfactory employment, my refusal to claim left me with a veritable minefield to navigate.

The concept of a graduate not having ‘signed on’ the day they entered the ‘real world’ without a job must have seemed too outlandish to grasp. Had my medical practitioners understood my plight, they could have pointed me in the direction of two organisations potentially positioned to help: Working Links, established to tackle unnecessary unemployment; and the government-funded Remploy, which assists people with disabilities in finding work.

However, had I done some homework on Working Links, I would have found them unable to help because I wasn’t claiming benefits. Remploy, however, could provide assistance – until the moment when I realised my only immediate chance of getting vital experience under my belt, and staving off the threat of a full-scale nervous breakdown from inoccupation, was to register with recruitment agencies and undertake temporary work. Such is New Labour’s edict: if you need help, you must gamble everything on the state’s ability to provide it. Either that, or just add X thousand pounds to your student debt and return to education – so several people advised me.

The result of this struggle against the socialist dogma poisoning Britain was that, after two years of recurrent temping, and approximately 20 unsuccessful interviews from hundreds of applications, most of my money was gone, and I saw no choice but to stake what was left on leaving the country in the hope of settling in the more socially conservative setting of New Zealand.

A Government that was hell-bent on infantilising the population had mercilessly punished me for taking responsibility. Yes, I had needed some special assistance, but I was still determined to pay my own way using my own resources, to be as economically active as possible no matter how demeaning the work, and not to let the state assume control over my life.

Unfortunately, during my travels, my determination to be responsible for myself continued to dog my every step and destroy all my best-laid plans, meaning I eventually did return to Britain, in August 2008, penniless and in debt. Furthermore, my condition became more obvious in job interviews, and the economic crisis rendered many of my skills worthless. But again, instead of taking the easy and indeed expected option, I did the responsible thing – accept long-term temp assignments, for meagre wages, so I could pay my own way.

The temptation to gamble everything on Remploy, at least while temporarily back with my parents, was there; and all the ills I’d suffered during those first two years gave me ample moral justification to milk the state for every penny it was worth and give it back nothing in taxes. But to do that would be to let Labour win – something I could not possibly contemplate. Indeed, by the time my latest temp-to-perm contract was cut short due to the company taking a sudden hit, the Government had pulled the plug on Remploy’s project for helping those not claiming disability benefit: thus sending out the clearest message that anyone who is unwilling to enter its vice-like embrace must forever brave the inequities and injustices of its politically-correct, decadent society unaided.

Moving forward, the new Conservative Government must not only reward those who take responsibility and care for those who can’t, but must do both for those who take responsibility despite having such great obstacles to overcome. Then not just the Party, but the entire nation, can rise to applaud Cameron, the man who got Britain back on its feet.


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