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Means testing. Always with the means testing… October 14, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Anyone notice this about the proposals for a new system of ‘subsidised childcare’ that may, someday, or may not, be rolled out over ‘a number of years’. All this from Katherine Zappone…

Parents would log on to a website and provide their PPS numbers to see if they were eligible for subsidies, and at what level they would apply.
They would then choose a participating childcare provider. The State would pay the subsidy directly to the provider, with the parents paying the remainder of the bill.
It envisages higher subsidies for lower-income families – covering as much as 100 per cent of childcare bills – which would drop off as parental income rose. The thresholds will be determined by the amount of money allocated in budgetary negotiations over the next month and it is intended that income thresholds will rise over a number of budgets.

I’m always dubious about means testing. As the piece itself notes:

The plan from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone will be designed in such a way, however, that the level of subsidies can be easily increased or reduced should a government wish to do so.

You bet.

But the broader point is how means testing is the default position for so many on the right – a sort of cover where they can nod towards issues of equality while functionally evading them entirely.

I’ve written here, ad nauseam, about how means testing throws up barriers to entry – don’t take my word for it, there’s solid evidence of same in studies in the area of welfare provision. People who won’t access benefits due to self-perceptions in regard to pride, and social standing and so on. People who don’t have the abilities to engage with such structures and systems and so forth. My own experience of seeing grants in education made me deeply cynical about cut-off points and so on in relation to accommodation costs or fees. And, of course, means testing is a very blunt instrument. Those just above income limits have every right to feel aggrieved.

What is more, and this argument is also articulated all too often here, but necessarily so I think, we have structures in place – national structures, in the shape of revenue for collecting taxes from all citizens.

Given all this it is surprising, in a sense, how quickly some seem keen to introduce small bureaucracies in educational areas, childcare and so on that would oversee means testing.


1. EWI - October 14, 2016

The most efficient form of means testing yet devised is already built in, and therefore unnecessary bureaucracy should be scrapped.

It’s called a progressive tax system. You pay into the pool according to your means. All else is superfluous, smelling suspiciously like attempts to humiliate and punish the poorer-off (an impulse that’s been with us since the workhouse).


WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2016

100% agree.


2. 6/5against - October 14, 2016

Lets ignore people on the right who are simply mean-minded and think of those who are at least well intentioned. I think they always want means-testing because they don’t understand welfare payments in the same way that we do: they see them as a form of charity.

Charity is seen as something that is dispensed to the poor from whatever resources remain after we have looked after ‘necessities’. By their nature they should only go to the poorest of the poor, and they are contingent on the will of the giver.

From that perspective you get questions of the ‘why should Tony Reilly get the old age pension?’ variety, and it is absurd to think of the very rich picking up a charity payment. Just as the rich obviously deserve no help with childcare costs etc.

If we could successfully rebrand all welfare payments as insurance payments (which of course, they are) it would do a lot to undermine that charity/means-testing mindset. Everybody collects insurance cheques of course. Even the wealthy.


WorldbyStorm - October 14, 2016

That’s very true and I think such a reworking would be great. It is amazing how deeply embedded the idea slmost as welfare of an additional extra is. Today reading the IT comments I was amazed to see anti single parent stuff, describing people in viciously unfair and inaccurate terms and again in a language of deserving and undeserving.


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