We receive assistance from several government programs because of our boys. I’ve always been careful to avoid the appearance of impropriety because I believe that’s my responsibility as a recipient, to avoid doing something which could jeopardize the program.
I was speaking about this with a group of friends recently and one of them was talking about his experience as a board member on the co-op. Several of the co-ops were subsidized by social services, in some cases as much as eighty percent of the fees. And yet the recipients often had trouble paying the remainder. He would see them bringing in cases of beer and cigarettes but they couldn’t manage the rent.
I know about other situations. A family friend does home visits for the health department and on visiting one family, she saw a brand new snowsuit lying in a puddle of water in the front yard. She picked it up and brought it inside but the parents dismissed her concern, saying they’d just get a new one from the Snowsuit Fund (which collects new and gently used snowsuits for needy families).
Situations like these are the ones which tend to make people jaded and skeptical about assistance programs. It gives conservatives reasons to slash funding. It makes the regulations and red-tape tighter, forcing those who need help to jump through more and more hoops in order to get it, slowing everything down and raising overhead costs. It makes it harder for new programs and charities to get funding.
I don’t think we need to get too puritan in our expectations of recipients. There was a fuss recently about a family who was receiving respite for their autistic child and they went on an expensive cruise. I don’t have a problem with that. Just because you’re getting help doesn’t mean you can’t have a vacation. (Especially in this case since it turned out they’d saved for seven years to make it happen.) I’m not even against families buying booze or cigarettes, as long as the children have enough food and the rent is paid for. If not, there are provisions for dealing with that. Neglecting your children is something which can be prosecuted and if your children are taken away, the money you receive for them goes too.
There are abuses out there and those who abuse the system should be dealt with. But not by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The majority of those who receive assistance are good people who are doing their best in bad situations and need the help. They don’t deserve to be punished because of freeloaders.
But I think we also need to start raising the social consciousness out there. It can’t hurt if people start thinking about how their actions affect others. We all have a responsibility to make society run smoothly.