staffemployed during the changeover to the new system will end this year. and massive redundancies are expected once the whole system is safely on disk.

The changes are about more than saving money. however. The system was crying out for reform. It was impossibly complex and stigmatised. f Asa result. people did not claim the benefits to which they were entitled.

The new system is designed to be easier to understand and administrate. More importantly. perhaps. it is designed to encourage ‘personal responsibility".

The very namesofthe new 3 benefits. ‘Income Support' and

'Family(‘redit'.smackofthe 3

modern marketplace rather than the

backwater buroo. Here is a system I l

which appears to proffer a helping hand just while you get back on your feet: a system not tailored to individual needs. but offering a ‘premium' if you are the sort of


Pensioners. the disabled and families where parents are in low-paid. full-time work receive extra money. Those under 25 and childless. however. get a smaller basic allowance. £31.05 a week. £19.40 for the under lSs.

The (iovernment are encouraging people to support themselves wherever possible and to look for support from their families rather than the State. Anne l lannah believes they are being unrealistic. 'It‘s not just one unfortunate member of a family: the extended family is unemployed. The chances

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By the time both of you read this

Edinburgh will be a ghost town. Already Silicon Steve is in Dublin.

person the (rovernment wants to g


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on Thursday the Finnish blonde goes i

Down Under and right now. somewhere in untamed Canada. Tami is hewing logs to build a cabin while David keeps polar bears at bay with his Swiss Army knife. Life ' wasn‘t like that in Joppa. But would they listen‘.’ No. When the notion to leave took hold there was no stopping them. livery temptation was put in their way to make them change their minds: Trivial Pursuit. M & S’s (‘hicken Kiev. regular babysitting. but to no avail. They came round the night before they were due to go laden with bits and pieces. la belle dame has acquired a steam iron. I got a pile of(‘anadian novels and a couple of volumes of E. B. White‘s essays which you can't get hold of here. I keep dipping into them and finding gems. In one he tells ofthe biggest boy in town’s attetnpt to join the Navy during WWI l.but he is turned down because of his height. I Ie was six feet four or. writes White. ‘twice the height of a Japanese. Apparently the recruiting officer felt this would give America an unfair advantage.‘

EB. (Elwyn Brooks) is such a gentle writer and I dare say all that

ii‘i’gz in 9‘}

are that your dad. your sister and your aunties are all in the same boat as you are.' She thinks the end result of the new system will be greater cost to society. ‘If people can't afford to eat properly they become ill and have to go into hospital. If they can't afford to heat their homes properly. the fabric of the building deteriorates. If people have less money to maintain themselves in the community. then more children are taken into care. more old and disabled people have to be cared for. all of which is very expensive.‘ Much as we may wish. poverty is not going to go away.

The proper dividing line between State support and charitable works may always be open to debate. but in a society which believes that people in similar circumstances should receive similar treatment. the whim ofcharity is no replacement for a regulated State system.

In creating the Social Fund to replace the Single Payments system. the (iovernment has. it is generally agreed. combined the worst aspects of Victorian charity with the faceless bureaucracy of the State.

Payments are now to be made. largely in the form of repayable loans. from a finite budget. at the discretion ofstaff. who will have to choose to give ('lient A a cooker rather than give ('lient B a bed. There is to be no independent appeal procedure.

There has been a strong reaction to the Social Fund frotn the voluntary sector. ‘We w ill continue to operate where there is a right in law and where we can argue and appeal

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against a decision.‘ says Edinburgh's

(‘itizens‘ Rights Office (CRO). ‘We are not going to encourage people to go for loans.‘ The (‘RO believe that the Social Fund will be the last choice for many people. ‘At least with credit companies. people can just not pay if it's a choice between eating and repaying a loan. With theSocial Fund. repayment is deducted from your benefit. You can‘t argue with the I)IISS.'

The more moderate Scottish Association of (‘itizens Advice Bureaus (SACAB) are also concerned. While willing to ‘apply the law of the Social Fund’ they are not happy at the discretionary nature of the fund nor the possibility of their becoming involved in DI ISS decision-making. ‘We believe there are people entitled to Single Payments at the moment. who won't get anything under the Social Fund or who will get a loan. not a grant. We are therefore concerned that people will be in greater hardship than they are now.‘ says Ann (‘lark ofSA('AB.

Inevitany it will fall to charities and loan sharks to supply the needful. Mary (‘orsar is (‘hairman for Scotland of the WRYS. who last year distributed half a million garments to «moo people throughout Scotland. At a time when charities find themselves on the political agenda. the WRVS want to dispel the image of the Poorhouse which adheres to their work. ‘( )ur clothing stores are like Nearly New Shops. but you don't pay.‘ says .\1ary('orsar. ‘We think of the people who come to us as

Lonesome and pining. Alan Taylor resists the call togo West. and holds the fort.

w'eepy stuff about pigs dying. snow 9 drifting and skating on the frog pond was the last straw as far as .loppa was concerned. Frog ponds are pretty rare down there. Tami being a native knows what to expect but David is prepared too having spent a week on a survival course on Dartmoor topped up with ballroom dancing tuition with la belle datne. They're going to somewhere called Bridgewater. Tami's hometown. in Nova Scotia and in one of the White books I came across a bookmark advertising Sagors' Bookshop. ‘Fine browsing since l‘)72.' There‘s a drawing of a small-patted window. a roller blind quarter-drawn and. on the sill. a vase of wild flowers and

three books holding each other up like drunks. Looks like Lake Wobegon to me.

Bridgewater. according to the gazetteer. is a small town in Lunenberg (‘ounty which was first settled by 1-153 (ierman. Swiss and French Iluguenots in the 175(ls. The people are noted for their thrift. hard work and fighting off Indians. I fear the worst. You just can't leave the Doric one night and start slaying Indians the next. ‘(iive them another century or two‘. I said to Tami. ‘to get the place ship-shape for you.‘ She wasn’t listening.

In a few days I'm pledged to write and let her know how things are back in the old country. I wish I knew.

customers: they choose what they

want rather than being given whatever comes to hand. We only have really good clothing. nothing scruffy.

The WRV’S. Mary Corsar admits. are working in the dark at the moment and don't know if demand will suddenly increase. She emphasises that they always need good clothing and bedding. ‘People are often in the position. after a death for example. where they say. "What on earth can I do with all these things?" They can hand them in to any WRVS store or office and can be sure they will go to a good cause.‘

It can hardly be said that the (ioverntnent has sprung the changes on the country. The proposals have been well-publicised for the past six months and advice lines and campaigns have built up throughout Scotland.

‘At the moment we're reacting.‘ said the spokesman from the (RU. ‘What happens after April will depend on the level of anger of claimants -- it's they who are going to take the action. The people who have been disenfranchised from the system are like people in prison. Most of the time they‘re completely downtrodden. but now and then they get up on the roof and riot.‘ xldt'it'e Lines: l’reeline Sot‘tul .S'eeto‘t'tv USU!) (mo 555. lidinlmrglt (RU. 55/ 33M). Lot/mm Region H'ellitre Rtglttv .‘Illl'lt't' Line ()3! 225 508/). (Ll/Iron"12.30pm .llon—I’rl.‘ l.3()—-4/nn .llon-- 'Iiltto's.

('ittzens ' A drive Ifto'etuu‘.’ see local offices listed in telephone directory.

Writing to someone that far away makes inc feel like a foreign correspondent and I need something to put me in the mood. But I would look pretty silly wearing a parka in the Doric. counting them all out and counting them all in. It wasin the I)oric that ('herry resurfaced after forty or so days in the wilderness. I Ie knew that Tami was leaving and he reminded me ofa remark she made after a night on the male with us. to the effect that she couldn‘t think of two safer men to spend an evening with. We've been trying to live it down ever since. At supper with the Silicon. Long .lohn. Tricky Nicky and a o ‘uple ofother unstable friends. (’herry took it upon himself to inflate a prophylactic. IIc blew and he blew and the thing burst and covered his face like bank robber’s nylon. A curious approach to contraception but then the boy has always had his own weird ideas on that subject. I Ieaven alone knows what tete-a-tete diners thought. Luckily I had my back to the rest of the room. I paid for my sang froid next morning. Rummaging for change to pay a bus fare I fished from my pocket a condom. camouflaged in silver paper. which the driver was not prepared to accept as legal tender.

The List I l-l April 198847