There are, it seems, certain people in this country who assume that anyone who is unlucky enough to have to claim any form of state benefit must be some sort of uneducated, scrounging, lazy misfit with a penchant for cheap booze and the sexual proclivities of a rabbit on viagra. This description, according to these people, applies whether the claimant has just been made redundant from a high-paying IT job or has been on benefits since leaving school. Most of these people promoting the this blanket view appear to work for the government and the Daily Mail.
A prime example, which inspired me to write this entry, is the recent DM headline regarding the harrowing and upsetting case involving Mick Philpott:
“A Vile Product of Welfare UK”
The article then went on to say:
“The drug-taking layabout, who embodies everything that is wrong with the welfare state, was still smiling even after being convicted of killing six of his children. “
Mick Philpott was acting on his own behalf and for his own selfish benefit. To blame the welfare state for his vile actions is just another cynical and disgusting sales ploy by a newspaper that already paints the unemployed as lazy, feckless layabouts, no matter what their circumstances (see my opening paragraph). It attempts to paint a picture of 2.5 million people who would do anything, including killing their own children, to gain a handout. Tax credits didn’t put the fuel can in Mick’s hands. Housing benefit didn’t force him to splash fuel around the house and ignite it. Those were the actions of a despicable, vile man who wanted to regain control of his victim. Control he had lost because she was strong enough to leave him and save her children.
With no shame or tact whatsoever, we get this response from a newspaper that, once again, is acting like back street rag with delusions of grandeur, but then the chancellor, George Osbourne, appeared to agree with the DM:
“But I think there is a question for government and for society about the welfare state – and the taxpayers who pay for the welfare state – subsidising lifestyles like that, and I think that debate needs to be had.”
Shame on you, Mr Osbourne, for using such a tragedy to advance a political point and to justify further changes in the welfare system. Yes, the DM regularly paints the unemployed as lazy scroungers with big flatscreens, and were expected to use this tragedy to their own advantage, but you, Mr Osbourne, should be able to put your political points across and inspire debate without stooping so low.
The DM, on the other hand, stoop so low that being called ‘gutter press’ is seen as an upgrade.
Yes, being on benefits is not nice. It’s not pleasant spending your time looking for a job, getting excited about an interview and then experiencing the inevitable depression that comes when you get the letter, email or phone call telling you “thank you for attending but….”. Its not pleasant having to record every effort made to get a job and then having to present this record every two weeks, which allows you to sign a piece of paper which enables you to receive a sum of money which represents the government’s idea of the bare minimum required to live.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad I live in a country that provides for it’s citizens in times of hardship. Unfortunately, the system that provides this relief is also open to misuse, and this misuse is perpetrated by a small minority, (in relation to the overall unemployed figures), who, on occasion, are found out. Sometimes the fraud is quite large and this then gets picked up by the media, who sometimes report it as it is or who, sometimes, in the case of the Daily Mail, use it as a big bucket of tar and paint the entire unemployed population with the same brush.
Yes, there may be people who, without any visible means, seem to be able to afford high end cars, designer clothes and large flatscreen TV’s with Sky subscriptions. According to the likes of the Daily Mail, this is most of the unemployed population. I don’t know any of these people. The people I know who are on benefits are people who have lost their job for one reason or another and have had to claim benefits to survive. Myself included. While on these benefits we have been looking for jobs, whether in our chosen occupation or not. We use our money to buy food, electricity & gas and, if we can afford it, cigarettes and occasionally alcohol. (I don’t drink. I just buy shoes instead). I’m not saying that myself and the people I know are paragons of virtue, nor that we walk around with halo’s, (unless its a copy of the game), but nor are we deliberately having children to gain extra benefits or bigger housing, selling drugs or stealing cars, or getting involved in any major crime.
We’re just trying to live, enjoy life and get a job.