Had Gibbons claimed the benefits to which she was entitled she could have collected double her ‘fraudulent’ claims. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Courtesy of James Ball @ The Guardian:
Joanne Gibbons was sentenced to community service for claiming income support while holding down two paid jobs. Through accumulated payments of £66-a-week, the court heard, she collected £3,140 to which she wasn’t entitled.
Predictably, the Daily Mail is outraged. But here’s the strange twist: had Gibbons claimed the benefits to which she was actually entitled, she could have collected £130 a week through family tax credits and child benefit. In total, Gibbons’ fraudulent claims cost the taxpayer around £3,100 less than claiming what she was actually entitled to.
It’s the reaction to Gibbons’ claims which are particularly noteworthy. Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance – an organisation rarely troubled by wealthy people’s tax avoidance – tells the Mail:
“It beggars belief that somebody going to the lengths of making fraudulent claims would have actually received more in benefits had they been honest.
“It just goes to show that the current system is broken and doesn’t provide the right incentives for claimants to go back to work.”
This quote suggests Sinclair is perhaps even less numerate than the “benefits cheat” he’s deriding. Gibbons was entitled to £130 a week in legitimate benefits, while working on two low-income jobs. This total was higher than the £66 a week out-of-work benefit she was improperly claiming (though some of the £130 a week could be claimed in or out of work).
In what sense is a system which tops up low wages a disincentive to work? Sinclair appears lost in lazy rhetoric – an all-too-common failing when it comes to chastising the millions of families, most of whom with at least one adult in work, who rely on the benefit system. Continue reading