INSIDE the pages of your Derbyshire Times this week are two separate stories which to me illustrate precisely what Government is up against when it comes to getting the welfare state working properly and fairly.
On page 17 we’ve the case of Ben Thomas. Ben, 40, has spinabifida. He genuinely struggles with his mobility. Changes to his entitlement are literally squeezing the life out of him, with further cuts set to deprive him of his car - the one thing that enables him to ‘take part in life’. That surely is not right. How many more people are there out there like him who simply cannot live any kind of life because they’re not getting the support they need?
Then there’s Andrea Smith: she has swindled you and I out of the best part of a hundred grand.
To add insult to injury, the money hasn’t been pilfered to put food on the table, that I could just about get my head around. It has in fact been propping up her husband’s gambling addiction.
For nine years she has robbed the public purse. Nine years at a rate of almost £10,000 a year – a salary many people have to work long and hard for.
The judge in the case said the public would be, and were entitled to be ‘outraged’ at her actions, and I can’t disagree with that.
What I do disagree with is the punishment meted out: essentially, she’s got off Scot free. Smith will never be able to pay back the £88,000. Let’s face it, it’s a mortgage. 150 hours’ community service? No chance.
Smith has three children. One of which is disabled. The court heard how it was the children that kept her from prison. So how on earth is she going to be able to complete 150 hours’ work, then? She isn’t, is she!
What should worry us all is that people like Smith are prevalent in every community, and I’m not sure how we stop them.
by James Mitchinson, Editor