This is one of two posts going live today on the topic of benefits etc.
The BBC and Channel 4's recent spate of 'documentaries' on the welfare state and money matters seems to of achieved one goal; war-mongering amongst the 'poor'.
As a full-time working mother (when I'm not lazing about on maternity leave) in receipt of some benefits, I think I'm supposed to be the target audience, I'm supposed to feel outraged as I watch these shows, outraged that I work my fluffy, size-eight socks off in my job whilst others claim full benefits and 'make' as much as I do. Am I supposed to be sitting here, in the living room of the house I pay £750 per month for in private rent, feeling angry at these people for being in need?
I don't. Not the people in genuine need, not the people who want to work but can't find it and not the people like myself who are working and still not really having enough at the end of the month. I once read someone describe it as 'too much month at the end of our money'. I know that I am fortunate, I can afford to put a roof over my head, food on the table and my bills to be paid, and watching the programmes has made me even more grateful for that.
So what is the point of these shows, exactly? Is it to draw out negative reactions from those of us working, to shame those who are not? Is it to highlight the concern to the rest of us? Is it so that we have someone to blame for the state our country is in? With over 50% of the welfare spend going to pensioners, I find it very difficult to 'blame' anyone. We have a duty of care, as a nation, to help our elderly residents, people who have worked and paid tax for the majority of their lives. An important highlight of recent revelations is that it has never been more important to pay into a private pension and to have savings. Though rather disgustingly you will be taxed on both come your retirement...I won't even go into how much and why I find that so abhorrent.
I would be lying if I said that I sit and watch these shows without judging people because I do. I try so very hard to be empathetic, but some people really don't help themselves. If you are fit, healthy and able to work then you have absolutely no right to have a sense of entitlement over benefits including social housing. It should not be your life goal to get pregnant before you're legally old enough to drink, never work and expect to be handed a council house just because your mother doesn't have the room for you and your equally unemployed boyfriend and for said mother to then sit on national television saying she can't think of someone more deserving and in need of a council home...well...you can imagine the scowl on my face at that opinion. The welfare state was designed for people in need, people who cannot afford to house or feed themselves when all other avenues have failed. In today's Britain, there simply aren't enough jobs for our growing population, the work isn't always out there and let's not forget that whilst for every job that comes up there are x amount of unemployed people applying, there is undoubtedly a percentage of employed people looking to change jobs also. To put it bluntly, there is a whole generation of people that have little to no hope of finding work as they have no experience up against those of us already working, even low wage jobs are easily filled.
Others I have no sympathy for are the types that think they're 'above' minimum wage jobs. Nobody is above anything; if you can't afford to put food on the table then you'll take just about anything.
I'd rather these broadcasters stopped showing us people we are supposed to sit and shake our heads at, let's remember that these are people too and yes, whilst there is a minority that think it's okay to live their lives completely void of responsibility, the only charge of their own lives taken is filling out some forms and having children, there are a lot of people who don't have a choice. People who would do anything to pay their own way and can't. Surely we're paying our television licenses for more than putting people in virtual stocks, for us to throw judgements at in disgust? I'd much rather see some proposed solutions acted out (and no, I don't mean reverting back to 1949's rules), or some genuine help offered.
Has our welfare state become some sort of sick circus and are those of us in working, low-income families just the opening act?
Labels: Benefits, Britain, money, rant, television