i've been meaning to write over the past couple of weeks about the effects of widowhood, particularly after a sudden death that happened a few weeks ago. we don't often spend much time thinking about how our lives will be if we suddenly lose a partner. there is the grief and the lonliness to cope with. but the practicalities are not quite so bad in our comfortable little corner of the world.
we know, after all, that the government will provide. not very well, but it will provide an income of sorts. and if we're lucky, there will be life insurance to cover some or all of the mortgage. if you're a woman brought up in nz, you'll be used to doing your own shopping. you're not likely to be fazed by the thought of having to manage your own bank account and pay the bills. there's no doubt that you'll feel the strain of being on your own, but it's likely that you'll mangae to get things done.
but what if you live in a country without a social welfare system? what if your partner dealt with the outside world, and you led a sheltered life, concerning yourself with domestic matters and with raising your children? what if you're partner didn't leave you with a source of income? what then?
hopefully, you have extended family to support you. hopefully one of your children will take you in and make you part of the household. hopefully they'll do that without making you feel like a burden. hopefully you don't have to ask for day-to-day spending money. being dependent on your partner is one thing. being dependent on your children or other family members is something else altogether. in the case of the former, it's a partnership. you provided something of value to the partnership and in return, your partner took care of your financial needs. this was your basic right, and you had no problem with asking for money when you needed it. but in the latter case, it's not quite the same.
it's not often that we take the time to appreciate the social security system we have in this country. in fact, i know someone who works for a budget advisory service, who did a speech to young mothers. she talked to them about being prepared to cope financially if their partner suddenly decided to leave and they had to cope with living on a benefit. she wasn't surprised that none of the women had prepared for such a situation. but it could happen to the best of us, and there are too many people who don't realise how difficult living on a benefit really is.
none of the parties in this year's campaign are talking about raising benefit levels. it's not a vote-winner, and the resulting backlash against beneficiaries is likely to be pretty nasty (the lazy bludgers, breeding-for-a-business, blowing the money on smokes and booze, etc etc ad nauseum). like when the abortion decision came out earlier this year, it's one of those topics people hope to avoid.
i know benefits are now inflation adjusted, and working for families (excluding the in-work payment) and other supplements are available to make things easier. but it would still be nice to have a rise in the minimum rate for all benefits. it would be nice to know that if there is a sudden catastrophe, there's one less source of grief.