Lets Talk Benefits

UK BenefitsLast night, stemmed from a Blog Post ‘How (Not) to Survive on Benefits’ written by Nickie from Typecast, we had a Google+ Hangout talking about the UK Benefits system.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but I did learn a few things.

I was hoping to chat more about people’s perceptions of people on benefits and the system.  This is not something I have a strong opinion on but did have some predisposed ideas of people on benefits and wanted to work out, through discussion, how I felt about it all.

Is abuse as wide-spread as we think?

Prior to the discussion I did a bit of research and apparently the number of fraudulent claimants are a lot less than we think.  One person, linked to the DLA said it was less than 1%.  I found this very interesting and this supports the idea that the government and media are making us blame the poor labeling them as ‘scroungers’ to justify their upcoming benefit cuts.

The working poor

I also found it very interesting that a large majority of people on benefits are people, who are in fact working, and that their wages are not enough to survive on so they need to rely on benefits  to make up this shortfall.  Jax has written an interesting post about the need to look more at the working wage.  I was stunned to hear what the minimum wage is.

As Jax said, we live in a civilized society and looking after our most vulnerable is reflective of this, I would never suggest getting rid of the benefits system, but it is there to help those genuinely in need and I do still think there is abuse.

How to encourage people back to work

Lynn made a very valuable comment, that we need to look more at child-care subsidies, I know many woman who have found that it’s not financially viable to go back to work after having kids due to the ridiculous cost of child-care.  Wouldn’t it be better to give people incentives to go back to work?  Why go back to work if you will be worse off?

But why do I feel so damn guilty about being middle class and continually found myself apologizing for the fact.  This is not to say that we’ve not had times of trouble in the past and did call on the benefit system but only for a short period, while we got back on our feet and this is how I feel it should be used.   It’s not a long-term solution bar people with illness and disabilities.

Role Models

We have worked hard to get to this point and possibly to the detriment of our daughter when she was little, I could have opted to stay at home and go on benefits but went back to work instead.   Isn’t it better to show her that working hard is the answer and not to sit back and accept hand-outs.  I grew up in a single parent house-hold with a hard-working mother that held down three jobs at times and never relied on the state or anyone else.

This is a huge topic to cover in one blog post but I would love to carry on this conversation.  What do you think?

Flickr Photo Credit Maynard

Bucket list for Kids: Fifty things to do before you’re 11 ¾

I really liked this list published by the National Trust, except for the addition of the health and safety bits which annoyed me and contradicted the entire article.   However, the article made me rather nostalgic, thinking back to when I was growing up in Canada in the great outdoors.  We were chucked out the door first thing in the morning and wouldn’t return until dinnertime.  The majority of time was spent roaming the neighbourhood and playing in the woods with very little parental interference or direction.

However, I was saddened to read that fewer than one in ten children play in wild places regularly, a third have not climbed trees, and one tenth cannot ride a bicycle.  I have to admit that as a family we don’t spend as much time ‘doing’ nature as we should.

I had a long discussion on the phone with a researcher from the Globe and Mail, discussing why this might be the case and honestly, I can’t pinpoint one exact reason.  Is it over protective parenting?  Is this the fault of the media for putting the fear of god in us about stranger danger and cyber stalking?  Is it overcrowding/busy streets? Unrealistic expectations on parents? Could it be lack of time due to work commitments?  Or knowing what to do with our kids when we do have time?  Can we blame the weather?  Seriously, what is it?

I’m taking this as a ‘gentle’ reminder to get my daughter out more as there are so many benefits from ‘green’ play; I think a lot of us should really.  I can’t wait to have a go at geo-caching now that I’ve worked out what it is.  However, I’m not too keen on my daughter catching crabs!?!?!

I think we haven’t made too bad of a start so far.  The plan is to keep updating it as time goes on.

1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone
6. Run around in the rain

7. Fly a kite

8. Catch a fish with a net

9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers
11. Throw some snow

12. Hunt for treasure on the beach
13. Make a mud pie
14. Dam a stream
15. Go sledging

16. Bury someone in the sand
17. Set up a snail race

18. Balance on a fallen tree
19. Swing on a rope swing

20. Make a mud slide
21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild
22. Take a look inside a tree
23. Visit an island
24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind

25. Make a grass trumpet
26. Hunt for fossils and bones
27. Watch the sun wake up
28. Climb a huge hill

29.  Get behind a waterfall
30. Feed a bird from your hand
31. Hunt for bugs
32. Find some frogspawn
33. Catch a butterfly in a net
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what’s in a pond
36. Call an owl
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

38. Bring up a butterfly
39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night
41. Plant it, grow it, eat it
42. Go wild swimming
43. Go rafting
44. Light a fire without matches
45. Find your way with a map and compass
46. Try bouldering
47. Cook on a campfire

48. Try abseiling
49. Find a geocache
50. Canoe down a river

I’d love to hear your thoughts on why kids aren’t spending enough time outside.  Please do leave a comment below.


Would you eat your own placenta?

I personally wouldn’t and the mere thought of it makes me gag. Earlier in the week I was watching ‘How to be a good mother’ hosted by Sharon Horgan. Sharon, like many of us, was questioning her own parenting skills and went to visit 6 mothers who have very different approaches to parenting.

Introducing the mums
There was a young mother 27 who had 6 children, all home births and are all home schooled. Another who believes in extended breastfeeding, no nappies, co-sleeping, frowns upon all modern inventions including prams and is a wet-nurse. One is a busy working mum who is incredibly organised thanks to technology. She has a nanny who is required to send photos to mum daily, has 1000 of apps on her phone, schedules a video conference with her son every day and has the most amazing communication platform (chalk board) in the kitchen.

The one I could associate with the most was the ex-stuntwoman, wicked step mother and dress couture. She never wanted children of her own, inherited some step children, but then found herself pregnant. She strongly believes that children shouldn’t be wrapped in cotton wool and that helicopter parents aren’t doing their children any favours, which I completely agree with. However, I do think she takes a few unnecessary risks as she doesn’t believe in bike helmets for children. Eeek!

Penchant for placenta
But the one that I can’t get out of my head is the one that has a penchant for placenta. When her own child was born and the midwife wasn’t looking, she sneaked a piece and wolfed it down. Bleuch! She’s turned her love of placentas into her own home business. People send her their placentas and she cooks them up and not wasting a thing. She makes heart shaped window charms out of the umbilical chord, drying them to preserve them. She also visits new mothers in their homes and by request blends up the placenta with fruit to make a smoothie. Apparently it tastes quite nice.

I appreciate that umbilical stem cell research can help in the treatment of things like Parkinsons, Diabetes, Burns and Arthritis but I’m fairly sure the patients don’t ingest them.

So, the question is, would you eat your own placenta? Do you believe there are health benefits or is this woman crackers?

[polldaddy poll=5837372]

Photo Credit

Sibling Rule Sucks!

I promised myself I wouldn’t get wound up about this as there is nothing I can do about it.  However, when I was filling out my daughter’s application for pre-school I found myself getting angry that when the time comes she will not go to the school closest to our house.  We have two schools which are near our house.  One is a 5 minute walk and the other is a 45 minute walk.  On paper they are both very good but the one closer, in my opinion, is better for Madame and the latter would require driving to school everyday as I don’t have 3 hours to give up a day to walk back and forth.  Plus, we will lose our childminder which she has been going to since she was 4 months old.  I blame the arbitrary Sibling Rule!

We live in an area with smaller houses (2-3 bedroom) terraced housing.  People tend to buy them as childless couples, have a child, and get them into the school and then high-tail it across town to the bigger houses.  There is one woman at my school of choice who has 5 children in the school and lives clear across town.  One of our old neighbours has 3 children in the school but she moved two years ago but still has the gull to park on our road.  It takes me all my power not to nut her!  I wish I had statistics on this but I can tell you there is a lot if you saw the number of vehicles that converge on the school in the morning.

I’m confident that this isn’t unique to our area.  It’s happened to so many of my friends as well and you see loads of stories similar in the local paper every year.  One of my friends lives at A, there is a school at B but in fact she has to travel to C every morning.  There were 29 siblings that year, which meant they only had space for a couple of children.  In addition, her resident parking permit has increased by 16% this year for the 2nd car.  The Department of Transport really needs to speak to the Department of Education as the only reason she has a second car is to take her child to school.

The sibling rule has always been a sore spot with me even when I was a teacher myself.  I strongly believe that if you move out of the area you should move your children to the closest school as there are so many benefits from children going to school locally:

  • Childhood Obesity:  kids could walk to school, this is a no brainer
  • Sense of Community
  • Neighbourhood Watch:  If you know your neighbours you’re more likely to look out for them.
  • Traffic Congestion:  if you’ve ever tried to get across town during drop off or pick up time you’d know what I was on about.
  • Pollution:  less car journeys mean less air pollution
  • Road Safety:  less absent minded mums ploughing their way through town in 4X4s and a reduction in dodgy parking outside of schools where kids can dart out!
  • Childcare:  bit of a selfish one but wouldn’t it be great to know neighbours with teenagers
  • House-sitting:  we all need someone to feed the animal menagerie when we go away.

The only time I’d bend the rules is if you had a child who had started Year 6.  I’m not suggesting that children go to different schools but if your child has started year 6, they and the rest of the siblings should be allowed to finish the year and then move.  This is something parents should consider when they decide to upsticks!  But, if they throw the SATS out then this would no longer be an issue.

Bottom line, it’s very unfair that we will be unable to attend our local school unless there is some type of divine intervention.  I wonder why they call them local schools anymore?????

Let’s Table it!

Photo Credit

Tonight we ate around the kitchen table as a family for the first time in a very long time.  Unfortunately, my husband works in the city and normally doesn’t get home till after 7 or 8 so it’s a little late to make Madame wait for her dinner.  So, she often eats on her own in the kitchen with me busying myself in the background.  Then her father and I eat on our laps in front of the TV much later.    I have a feeling that this is the norm for most families.  Sharing meal times seems to be a thing of the past.

I’d be interested to know how often you eat together as a family.

[polldaddy poll=3425898]

I’ve been doing a bit of reading and it seems that the benefits of eating together as a family is ten fold.  I’m in no way preaching or trying to make you feel bad, I was just curious. According to the articles I read, families who eat together have a stronger bond, children do better at school, they eat more nutritional meals, they learn how to cook, have better table manners and communication skills and you can save money.

I can’t change my hubbies work schedule and I’m sure this is only going to get more difficult when Madame starts school and a zillion other clubs and activities. However, I’m going to make an effort to eat together as a family on weekends.  I’ve also toyed with the idea of having breakfast together but I’m not a morning person.

Can someone remind me about this post the next time I order a Curry on a Saturday Night?