My flatmate is the kind of person who has always had everything handed to him on a plate, but during coronavirus he’s taken things to a whole different level.
He was due to start a graduate scheme with a law firm this summer but was told in April that the scheme had been cut and the company was no longer taking on any new hires, presumably because of the economic downturn. He didn’t try particularly hard to find something else – just flicked through a few jobs sites and concluded there wasn’t anything that interested him.
So now he’s out of work with no income until law firms start their next round of hiring. This isn’t really a problem for him, as his wealthy parents pay for everything: his rent, his Tube fares, his food shops – they even pick up the tab for his nights out.
He decided to negotiate with our landlord that he could take a three-month break from paying his share of the rent as he has no job. He didn’t mention the fact his parents cover it and their finances haven’t been affected in the slightest.
The worst thing of all is that he’s now started claiming Universal Credit. Strictly speaking he’d qualify as he has no job and no personal savings, but seeing him order expensive takeaways every other night using his parents’ credit card while also taking benefits from the Government makes me feel so uncomfortable. He’s not mentioned anything about this to his parents either.
There are so many people struggling at the moment. Should I tell him how disgusted I am that he takes money from people who need it much more?
I’m not surprised your flatmate’s actions don’t sit well with you. As you say, millions of people are out of work – with some living hand-to-mouth off those benefits. Millions more, for example many self-employed people, have suffered financially during the coronavirus crisis yet are receiving nothing from the state as they do not fulfill the criteria for any of the Government’s support or benefit schemes.
That said, he’s not really taking money away from others who need it – there isn’t a limited pot of funds. But at the end of the day it will be ordinary, hard-working taxpayers who cover the cost of him receiving Universal Credit.
You can report benefit fraud at Gov.uk, but unfortunately if he really does qualify there is not much you can do to stop him.
He is also causing problems for your landlord, whose income will have been affected. Many buy-to-let owners live off thin profit margins and he could have caused real problems for them, especially if they cannot take a payment break from their own mortgage.
It would be interesting to know how his parents would react to the news that their son is claiming benefits while using their credit card. They may feel very differently about bankrolling his lifestyle.
However, snitching on him to his parents doesn’t feel like a sensible option. Instead, you could suggest he use his free time after lockdown to volunteer at a food bank so he sees himself the hardship some people are facing. This may be a far more valuable lesson that any you could give him.
Then again, you could just let it go. You clearly feel his behaviour is unjust, and some readers may agree with you that your flatmate’s exploitation of a loophole in the welfare system is ill-spirited. Others will say he is entitled to every penny he is claiming and doing nothing wrong.