I walk to work, its about 2.4 miles, I do it not to save petrol but to save money and ensure I get to work on time. As a result of this walking, I get to see lots of adverts.
You know, of course that the government is the UK's biggest advertiser.
I am fraught with anxiety. I see lots of adverts against benefit fraud. They catch benefit thieves, 56,439 of them last year.
I'm not sure if I'm a benefit thief or not. Maybe I am and I just don't know it, maybe I made a mistake on a form, and as a result I'm getting benefits that I shouldn't be. If its just an innocent mistake, they won't prosecute and fine me, will they?
Like, last year I claimed Housing Benefit for a few months, and Job Seekers allowance, but they kept cancelling it for a variety of reasons, so I got further and further into debt. The Housing Benefit was a particular pain, cos I lived in the middle of West Hampstead, its pretty expensive round there and I could barely afford it even when I had a job, so there was something that made me feel uneasy about getting the state to pay for me to stay there. If I was the state I wouldn't have paid any benefits, I would have insisted I moved out to somewhere cheaper, like Hull.
But no, the State, they paid vast sums of money for me to stay. Maybe that was the mistake that will get me done. Anyhoo, I moved away to somewhere cheaper, Wembley and stopped relying on Housing Benefit.
I heard about some bloke who works 50 hours a week, but still claimed Housing Benefit cos he couldn't afford the place he stayed in, he had a big family and needed a big house. He was advised to work less so he'd be able to claim more benefits, it was the only way he could stay were he was. Is that cheating? Not working as much as you possibly can? Or is it just the way the system's geared.
I was on Job Seekers Allowance, but that kept on changing, and getting cut and I'd have to reapply for it and then discover that it was the Job Centre who made a mistake and not me. But maybe it was all a mistake and I wasn't due to claim anything. It could go either way.
Besides, if its not the claimant who makes the mistake, does the person in the benefits agency get fined and imprisoned? No? Is there any penalty for them cocking up? Any incentive for them to not mess up?
There was a Dick Puddlecote piece the other day about how his business has to keep doing stuff to keep up with changing regulations, just to stay in business. Maybe the benefits malarkey is like that, one week I'm all law abiding and lawfully claiming and then some legislation changes or some statutory instrument and a week later I'm a benefit thief without me actually doing anything.
Right now I get a single person's discount on my council tax, 25% off, which is nice of them. But I'm concerned that when I phoned up, I just told the nice person at Brent Council that I lived alone and they believed me, and didn't require any proof or anything. What if I was lying? What if its some kind of trick, some kind of test?
I swear I'm the only person who lives at my flat, no one else has slept there or stayed the night since I moved in. The bed remains unchristened.
Then again there was that thing with Islington Council taking itself to court about parking fines, maybe the council folk have gone rogue against themselves. Its not my fault, I'm just caught up in some council schizo split personality battle.
Maybe its the Working Tax Credits? First time I applied I figured out how much I was due to earn in 2009/2010 and the nice Working Tax Credit people gave me a regular amount of money every week. But then a month or so later, I recalculated how much I thought I'd earn in the same financial year and came up with a different figure, so now I get paid a different amount in Working Tax Credits, but I don't know which number was right, or what I did differently the first time.
What if it was right before and wrong now? What if I'm a benefit thief?
I don't think I am, I don't think they'll ever catch me, but that's what the people in the adverts thought. Or they would do if they were actually benefit thieves, and not just models paid to appear in adverts holding signs.
In fact if they're not really benefit thieves, and just pretending to be, how do we know that the 56,439 figure isn't also just pretending to be the number of people caught? How can we believe any of it?