What’s In a Name?
The different names given to this payment from time to time reflect the current social attitude to those who receive it.
Welfare: When the whole concept of the welfare state was born out of the mass poverty generated by the industrial revolution, the subsistence paid in money or in kind to those in need took the name: welfare. This is still the generic name by which it is universally known. I believe that in other countries this basic survival payment is known by other names. The most universal is, however, still welfare, but bearing in mind its miserly magnitude, I cannot imagine anybody ever faring well on it!
The ‘Social’: When I first became unemployed this payment was commonly known as Social Security, or colloquially simply as the Social. It was viewed as a safety net against destitution. It reflected an attitude that every human being should be protected from starvation and homelessness. As such, anybody who was deemed to need it received it.
Income Support: Later the name of the state subsistence payment was changed to Income Support. The idea was that everybody, no matter who they were or whatever their means, was obliged to try to obtain an income through their own initiative. However, if the free-market worth of their labour were not sufficient for them to subsist, then the state would top it up or support it with an extra payment. The attitude of society-at-large was that everybody needed - and should by some means receive - an income sufficient for the purpose of sustaining their lives. However, in my case, as I suspect for most, the term ‘support’ was a misnomer. It did not merely support my income: it was my income.
Job-Seeker’s Allowance: Later still, the name was changed again to Job-Seeker’s Allowance. This reflected a hardening of social attitude. This name implied that everybody had an obligation to find paid work and that the payment was specifically to meet the expenses of seeking that paid work. If any recipient found himself for any reason unable to convince the relevant authority that he was actively seeking work then the payment was stopped. It reflected the hardening attitude that if one were not seen to be seeking paid work - for any reason - then one had no right to live.