If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Benefits

The BBC is not the Daily Mail. So if the BBC publishes a story about people on benefits, it will be sympathetic and supportive, and ever-so-slightly designed to make those of us in work feel a little bit harsh and guilty for our knee-jerk 'get a job' attitude, right?

Well, wrong. Either the BBC has had a sudden change of heart, or someone in their research department hasn't had the memo yet. They have published an article entitled "Family Life on Benefits", and in it they have sneaked some very pro-Coalition propaganda.

The article concerns Raymond (not his real name) who lives with his wife and seven children. No-one in the family works, and they receive benefits totalling £30,284.80 per annum. Now this is the money they actually receive in their hands, so it will be the equivalent of a pre-tax income of around £40k. Now this interests me. I don't have seven kids (I took the 1970s mantra of 'Stop At Two' seriously), but that income is way, way more than I have ever seen. I have been Head of Department and Faculty in a large comprehensive school, I have worked as a commercial trainer, and I have been Health and Safety Manager for a medium-sized company - all good, solid jobs requiring qualifications, skills and experience. I have worked hard all my life, paid all my taxes and been a loyal and conscientous employee. And the most I have ever earned in one year has been £25k. So when I read that the average income in the UK is £26k I start to wonder where I have been going wrong. And when I hear of someone receiving substantially more than that for doing nothing (and when the taxes from my earnings help to pay for it), my ears prick up.

The BBC article could be calculated to raise the hackles of any working taxpayer. Here are some of the reasons:

Why isn't Raymond working?
Ray says: "The market for my skills dried up 10 years ago - there's a total lack of work in my area of expertise."
He was a writer of educational software, but he hasn't worked since 2001. Was there no work he could have taken on to tide him over until he got himself retrained?

Why isn't his wife working?
His wife Katherine suffers from bipolar disorder with an anxiety disorder and is unable to work.
If she's genuinely bipolar, than of course I am very sympathetic and I wish her well. But why do I see the words "anxiety disorder" and see someone who has managed to talk an overworked GP into signing her off for a vague condition which can't be disproved?

The impression is that of two people who have decided long ago that they don't want to work, and have managed to convince the system that they would be better left alone and fed, clothed and housed by the rest of us. I could be wrong there, but I doubt it.

Where this gets really Daily Mailish is when the family give a breakdown of their spending, and claim that the proposed benefits cap will force them to choose between "heating and eating". The breakdown includes the following items every week:
  • 200 cigarettes
  • Large pouch of tobacco
  • 24 cans of lager.
Let me see. 200 Sterling King Size cigarettes, £56. 50g Samson rolling tobacco, £13. 24 cans of Carlsberg, £18. Total £87.

Add the Sky TV that they say is essential
because we're stuck in the house all week - otherwise we wouldn't have any entertainment.
and costs another £15 a week. (I used to have Sky, the minimum package just to get the 'free' box and dish. I stopped it years ago because I never watched it, but I couldn't afford to start having it again even if I wanted to.) So the work-free family feel that the rest of us ought to stump up out of our own earned income to buy them booze, fags and 'entertainment'. (Entertainment is no longer something you make for yourself; it's something you buy. Says it all.) And an expensive £60 per month subscription to Sky is not necessary, even if you are a telly addict. You can get a Freeview box for under £20 these days - a one-off payment - and have between 50 and 100 channels for nothing.

So that's a total of £102 per week of what even the most bleeding-heart lefty would not describe as essential expenditure.

And, for comparison, there's a total of £82.40 per week which they claim would be snatched away from them if the benefit cap were introduced. Less than they spend on booze, fags and telly. So when they say they are going to be forced to choose between heating and eating, what they mean is that both heating and eating are less important to them than their ciggies and beer. Good priorities to be teaching those seven kids, don't you think?

As an additonal bit of what-the-fuckery, listen to Mrs Raymond's reason for continuing to smoke:
On the cigarettes, my wife tried to give up, but she missed one appointment on the course and they threw her off it.'
You see, we really want to be good, but NHS bullies keep stopping us.

If this story had been in the Daily Mail, I would be discounting it as an extreme example, polished and honed to cause the maximum apoplexy in the slightly-dim middle-aged. But not when it's presented by the BBC. Not because I trust the BBC to be unbiased and factual - I don't - but because the BBC's agenda is usually exactly the reverse of the Mail's.

The benefits cap is proving massively popular with the general public, and this article is the reason why. Last word to Raymond:
But, says Raymond, "If these proposals go through we will take a massive hit to our finances - and it's not as if we could move into a smaller or cheaper premises. I see eight people here having to choose between eating or heating."

I'm going to borrow Julia's 'World's Tiniest Violin', if she'll let me.

7 comments:

  1. Amazing, isn't it?

    It was doing the rounds on Twitter yesterday, with the Left alternately directing their ire at 'Tory moles within the BBC' (really? OK, if you say so...) or desperately trying to defend it with 'Well, poor people are entitled to comforts too, you heartless fiends!'. Neither approach was really succeeding, though.

    'Tiny violin'? I think this calls for the 'Give-A-F***-Ometer'!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't want to ask, as I knew you hadn't had it long.

      But next time ...

      Delete
  2. "the Sky TV that they say is essential because we're stuck in the house all week - otherwise we wouldn't have any entertainment."

    If taxpayers had funded Free-Sky-for-all, all those years ago, maybe we wouldn't now be subsidising all his 7 x sprogs.



    "I took the 1970s mantra of 'Stop At Two' seriously"

    Whereas some used the 'Stop at 1 & that'll leave room for an accident' mantra.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah yes, the prefabriacted concrete coal bunker!

    All the best from Mr Apollo...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No tricks, no unpleasant bending ...

      Delete
    2. Wrestle poodles and win!

      Delete
    3. Tease people! Shave your legs!

      Delete

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