Employment Support Allowance (ESA) disgrace
Writing these blog posts, it is impossible to predict who will read them or where they might lead.
Thus it is a pleasant surprise that my most retweeted and liked post has been Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Disgrace - especially as I would be the first to admit that I am no expert in the murky confusion of the social security market.
I say a ‘pleasant surprise’ because the interest generated by this post would seem to support my overarching thesis – specifically that the understanding of human behaviour and creativity of our world-beating advertising agencies could be better employed to improve society as a whole.
Please park this thought while I tell you that it is a golden rule of marketing that any money spent on promoting a product or service must, if nothing else, generate more income than the cost of creating and transmitting it.
Frankly, if your advertising has cost more to produce and transmit than the revenue it generates, what is the point of doing it at all?
It seems pretty obvious doesn’t it?
But you would be surprised how often companies have broken this rule – particularly in the first, fated dotcom boom.
Traditionally, in consumer marketing, the UK population is segmented into simple demographic groups – A, B, C1, C2, D and E – where A are the richest people in society and E the poorest.
I have never worked on an advertising campaign where the target audience has been exclusively in demographic groups D and E. Not once. Nor have I ever heard of anyone else targeting a marketing campaign to the poorest people in the land. Never.
These poor people have no money to spend, so why advertise to them?
Why would you?
Of course, for the government, there a number of areas where a more professional and creative approach would help these people who, because they don’t have any money, need more help than anyone else.
So, to revert to my DLA Disgrace post, and the disgraceful inhumanity of the tests people have to endure to qualify for this benefit, I can reveal a further unfairness that lies within the rules of another social security benefit called ‘Employment Support Allowance’ (ESA).
Please bear with me. If you get lost with the detail of what I am about to reveal, keep the faith. It is the principle of what follows that counts – and it may surprise you, if not provoke you into civil action.
I will keep this as simple as I can. I like simple.
National Insurance is categorised into three ‘classes’.
To qualify for ESA, you need to have paid Class One or Class Two NI contributions for two of last three years.
If you have not done this, it is possible to ‘top up’ a shortfall in NI payments.
But there is a trap.
You cannot top up your payments if you have paid NI for thirty years or more.
Well, to be specific, you can – but not at the Class One or Class Two rate. You can only top up at the Class Three rate which, to receive ESA, does not count.
Are you with me?
In short, if you are someone who has paid, say, thirty seven years of contributions into the National Insurance system – nothing short of a lifetime of hard work and toil and good citizenship - it is impossible for you to top up payments and you will not qualify for ESA. You will receive no social security benefits at all. Nix. Nothing. Not a penny.
However, if you have paid NI for less than thirty years, you can top up your NI contributions at the crucial Class One and Class Two rate – and you do qualify for ESA.
And, if you are from an EU country, not even a UK citizen, and you pay Class One and Class Two contributions, it is possible that you can qualify for ESA.
How can this be?
Daft, isn’t it?
Now, let’s return to the demographic groups D and E we discussed above. You remember. The people who have no money – nix, nothing, not a penny.
There is one thing the Ds and Es do have.
It is something we all have.
It is called a vote.
And, when it comes to votes, there is one thing we would do well to remember:
Every vote has equal ‘value’.
The vote of the poorest person in the land is worth exactly the same as the vote of the richest.
But the UK government, unforgivably, have developed a social security system whereby good, honest citizens who have paid tax for over thirty years, and do have a vote, are at a disadvantage to citizens of EU countries who are entitled to receive benefits in the UK but not to vote here.
Thus it is no surprise that millions of UK voters have become moved by a political party that promises to overturn this unfair treatment of people who have fallen on hard times.
This party is called UKIP.
PS – I am not a UKIP supporter. I believe we should be in the EU and that convergence is preferable to divergence, as discussed in my first ever blog post ‘Convergence And Divergence‘