"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Who now is the benefit scrounger? Running backwards to the 19th Century

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Many times I have said how much I love the internet and how often it alerts me to a piece of commentary I may have otherwise missed. This morning, whilst catching up with various cousins: wishing one a happy 18th birthday; four of us having an inappropriate giggle over a silly news item; finding out how a dear friend in the US is faring healthwise; smiling at the latest cute picture of Second Youngest Granddaughter - I was alerted by a facebook 'political friend' to a piece in yesterday's Guardian by Suzanne Moore.

Lots has been written about Monday evening's Channel 5 programme 'The Big Benefit's Row'. With a title like that it really was not worth watching, but in the true 'Triumph of Hope Over Experience' spirit and because some good people were on it I thought I would give it a whirl. I didn't take into account that because it also boasted some people who I dislike, the whole thing could turn into a shambles ......

So, in my opinion, the show consisted of people like Ken Livingstone, Jack Monroe, Annabelle Giles, 'White Dee', Owen Jones putting [or rather attempting to put across] reasoned arguments for, statistics about and true case studies of those receiving welfare benefits Edwina Currie and Katie Hopkins hurled abuse and shouted down everyone with whom they disagreed. Yes those two woman really were that bad.

Audience members were not exempt from the opprobrium of the two women. One woman in the audience said she was out every day looking for a job, Currie shouted back at her 'Try harder'.  Panel member Rachel Johnson [editor of 'The Lady' and sister of Boris] put her arm round Jack Monroe and tried to defend her from the worst attacks of Currie and Hopkins. In my last blog I mentioned how benefits campaigner and disabled rights activist Sue Marsh was asked to come on the show and then sidelined and forgotten about. You can read her account here.

And of course someone had to mention during the programme how that dreaded and now demonised group - PENSIONERS - are taking the biggest chunk out of the welfare budget. How DARE they! Most of them having worked for forty plus years, paid tax and national insurance [okay some received Family Allowance. Big deal. Seven shillings and sixpence a week [thirty seven and a half pence] for the SECOND child was my stipend in 1975. And then - oh my - we were granted it for the first child also around 1978. I holidayed in Florida on that. NOT.

It was truly an awful programme. But it seems people are still talking about it [so am I, here!] and when I went out with a large group of friends the evening after the programme it seemed as if the discussion naturally turned to the programme. We all went to uni together back when rocks were soft and now we seem to represent all shades of political opinion and life experience, all of us aged around the 60 age mark, some of us now drawing our state pension. One of our number, who has suffered some truly calamitous life events and after her employer was forced, due to the recession, some years ago to close down his business can only find a job with one of the biggest employers in her village. She 'admitted' that - as she is only paid the minimum wage for her 40 hour week - she needs benefits to top up her wage. In fact most of the employees in her factory have this top up. But her employer is a respected local employer with all the trappings of a wealthy man? Sound familiar to students of the 19th? Who now is the benefit scrounger? The employees or the employer?

I could also talk about my niece who has been for so many job interviews, told on one occasion she must attend wearing a 'business suit' and yet when she arrived was told the person she was to see was 'out for the day'. No-one repaid her travelling expenses or for the suit she had bought [the job centre hadn't sanctioned it. The call for the interview had only been made the night before so presumably the interviewer had had a better offer between making the call and my niece arriving, despite having demanded the correct wearing apparel]; I could talk about the young man I was trying to help find a job for weeks by letting him use my lap top to search the job centre web site. Lots of jobs, pages and pages from one of the pizza delivery shops: zero hours contracts and must provide own car. However tips could be kept; I could talk about the cousin who was struck off DLA by ATOS despite a letter from her consultant and walking with two sticks, and how she had tried for two years to get smaller social housing from her council as she could not afford the heating bills only to be told there was nothing smaller in the area but as soon as the 'bedroom tax' came into force she was fined for having a spare bedroom; I could talk about the single mother who forced to move because of the 'bedroom tax' applied for a bus pass for her son to get to school only to be told he was not eligible as she had 'chosen' to move.

I could talk about all these immoral acts - but what would be the point when those like Edwina Currie, Katie Hopkins and members of this uncaring coalition government would not listen, care or shout me down?

The picture above is from January 2013, I could not access a more upto date one. Below are the figures for 2011/2012, which will obviously have changed thanks to ATOS and the 'bedroom tax'.

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