Archive for In the news

Housing Benefit

I’ve been reading in the news recently about the range of comment and the sides that are being taken with respect to the chancellor’s decision to reduce the limit of housing benefit offered to claimants and feel it’s high time I said my piece.

First let me be clear on my stance; I wholeheartedly support the cut in benefit levels in this area, indeed I would like to see the level dropped even further. This view may well anger many but I will make clear my reasons.

My philosophy on benefit has always been that it should only be available to those that really need it. That’s not something to be read into, it’s actual need. To illustrate, someone who is genuinely homeless should be provided with benefit such that they can pay rent on a house. Not an expensive house, not even an average house, just a house. Because, after all, without the benefit they wouldn’t have a house at all.

With that in mind, imagine my disgust to read that individuals with no income are being provided with housing that 90% plus of the population would never be able to afford, even when in employment.

I have many friends who have good jobs in the city and are forced to house share with colleagues and friends miles away from their place of work as they can’t afford even a one bedroom flat near their office. Why then is someone who has no income allowed to use these people’s tax money (tax that it could be argued contributes to them not being able to afford a city centre flat) to rent a house that these individuals wouldn’t be able to afford even if they were promoted several levels above their current pay grade.

There are naysayers who would have you believe that such a benefit cutting policy is akin to ethnic cleansing but based on income levels. To them I reply with this simple statement. Benefits are there to support people who can’t support themselves, not to elevate said individuals to the same level as those who can.

If it is more cost effective for the citizen to claim benefit than to work then the country will quite simply fall apart round our ears. We simply must live in a society where the incentive is to work rather than to sponge off the state. Failure to effect change both in law and monetary policy that reflects this will ultimately be our undoing.

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National Trust View

As a member of the National Trust I was delighted to find out that google are placing some of the key National Trust sites on street view. Not only will this increase the exposure of some of the country’s most beautiful vistas but it will also help the prospective visitor who is trying to decide between locations.

If, like me, you enjoy photography, what better way to scope out potential shots than to go there from the comfort of your own home before making the drive!

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It cannot have escaped your attention in the last couple of days that a sentencing hearing has been going on to decide on the period of detention for the two young brothers who brutally attacked and left for dead two young boys in Edlington, South Yorkshire.

Keeping an eye on the news I had rather been hoping that given the serious nature of the crime a long sentence would be passed and that some semblance of my faith in British justice could be restored. Sadly this was not to be the case. What actually happened was both inadequate and disgraceful. The brothers were handed a minimum sentence of 5 years.

To put this in context and thus explain my complete and utter outrage, consider the following. At point of sentencing the bothers are aged 11 and 12 respectively. This means that subject to good behaviour and their managing to persuade the authorities that they pose no danger to society (which considering the failings of social services before the case they are highly likely to be able to do), these violent criminals will once more be free to roam the streets at the ages of 16 and 17. This is of course just in time for them to reach adulthood, their criminal record slate to be wiped clean by the authorities and them to proceed into adult society as if nothing had ever happened.

Can I be the only one who sees something seriously wrong here? Ok, the sentence could be extended given that the term was a minimum one, but do you seriously think that is going to happen? Already we hear cries of blaming the parents, shifting the responsibility. Sure, the parents might carry a portion of blame, sure, prosecute them for abuse if you want, but do not under any circumstances let that detract from the fact that is was the two young brothers who committed this heinous crime. To add insult to injury, they have refused to reveal the identities of these thugs. If an adult had committed this crime they would be named and shamed in the public press and be looking down the barrel of 25 years in jail.

The rationale in treating children differently in criminal court is that society deems them to be less capable of perpetrating the severity of crime that might be carried out by an adult. The problem is that we steadfastly stick to this notion irrespective of the crime commited by the child, this case being a classic example, 5 years vs. the adult 25 years, yet the societal impact of this crime and it’s perpetrators roaming the streets is the same, irrespective of their age.

Seated round the dinner table at the home of a good friend and her family over summer we got onto news and current affairs discussion, in particular about the increasingly violent actions of young people. In putting my views across I coined the phrase “You do the adult crime, you do the adult time”. I received a resounding note of agreement from all in attendance and indeed have continued to do so going forward when I have quoted the phrase to others.

For too long we have merely bemoaned the fact that the balance of power is in the hands of the criminal rather than the law abiding citizen. We have talked for too long. The time for action is now.

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Mobile Connections

According to a technology article on the BBC, the connections made between mobile phones on the various cellular networks not only give an indication of our general state of happiness but can even have a stab at gauging our job satisfaction.

While some might be tempted to say that this is obvious, after all if you spend less time on the phone you might not know so many people and thus may not be as happy, but the research mentioned in this article goes a bit deeper than that and demonstrates some interesting results. What do your mobile phone habits say about you?

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Les tribulations d’une caissière

I was sent a link to a BBC article the other day on a French literature graduate who wound up working for 8 years on the checkouts because she couldn’t find a job. She ended up writing a book on her experiences and it has already sold a huge number of copies.

I think the appeal of a book like this is the notion that it could potentially happen to anyone and it also offers a window onto how we treat other human beings in different circumstances.The comments on her blog (for those of you who would like to dabble in a little French) from others who have gone through similar experiences are also rather telling in this regard.

For anyone who fancies some light reading in French I think this could well be a worthwhile book to buy, although as the BBC piece states, an English version is coming out later in the year so those of you who don’t fancy reading in French you shouldn’t have long to wait.

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Crime Hot-Spots

When I was living in Leeds, a number of areas were talked about as being notorious for crime. It was with some surprise then that a couple of these areas were missed on the BBC’s most burgled postcodes article and yet a number of areas I’d considered to be better found their way onto the list. Is your area listed?

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Surprises in Nature

Nature throws up some amazing surprises and can quite easily create intrigue for anyone with even a passing interest in it. This BBC nature article on a giant meat-eating plant is no exception. Truly remarkable.

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Skiing Without Legs

Having recently returned from a skiing trip, an article on the BBC about skiing without legs caught my eye. Looking at this really gives you an immense respect for people who, against all odds, get on with their lives and in addition are able to do things you wouldn’t have initially thought possible.

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Rare footage of Narwhals

A BBC camera crew in the Arctic have captured the most amazing photographs and video footage of the elusive Narwhal – known as the sea unicorn because of their large spiral tusks which can grow up to 2 metres in length.

The immense beauty and almost mythical nature of these creatures really captivated me when I watched the footage. Seeing this reminds me all the more that our world is truly a wonderful place and we should protect it in any way we can.


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Tiny Car

The picture below was featured on the BBC and I thought it was rather cool. We’ve all heard that smaller cars are the next big thing and a big part of helping look after our environment with respect to carbon emissions, but this little car almost looks like a toy!

Very Small Car

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