Jessica Howard-Johnston tells us how an argument about welfare benefits bizarrely became an issue in the Big Brother House
A fiery debate over the welfare state has blown up in a place where you would least expect – the Celebrity Big Brother House. Housemates Katie Price and Katie Hopkins clashed over how Price’s disabled son’s travel costs are paid for by the government. The argument has sparked public controversy on how far the welfare state should go and whether benefits should be given to the super-wealthy.
Katie Price – otherwise known as Page Six’s ‘Jordan’ – revealed on the show that her son travels to school everyday on tax payers’ money. Her son, Harvey, who is blind and suffers from autism and Prader-Will syndrome, needs to be accompanied by a nurse and travels by taxi. Price said that footing the bill herself would be a ‘ridiculous’ cost of up to £1000 a day.
Katie Hopkins, however, retorted that Price, who is estimated to be worth £45 million, should pay for the fees herself, saying: “With the amount you earn, I’d find that tricky when you can afford it yourself… I’ve always held that if you can afford to pay for something, you should pay for it and you shouldn’t rely on the government. I think that’s wrong.”
But, who is right? Price defended herself by saying that she pays her taxes and rightly uses a service that she is entitled to. The Celebrity Big Brother tiff even reached the Deputy Prime-Minster, who described it as “a perfectly legitimate debate”.
However, Nick Clegg himself sided with Price, pressing the need for universal services for all children with disabilities, regardless of their backgrounds, saying: “I so happen to think that the help that we give as a society to disabled children may well be one of those areas where most people think, on balance, it is better to provide universally. Of course this means we get cases like this, Katie Price… But I would be pretty reluctant to say that, on the facts of this individual case, we throw out the idea of universally treating all children with disabilities with the same kind of compassion and support.”
What do you think? Should disabled benefits be universal or should they be income-determined? Are Katie Price’s benefits fair? Or is Katie Hopkins right to condemn them as wrong?