The Welfare State was started after the devastation of the second world war in an attempt to help people who needed housing, financial assistance, decent health care and education, as well as help to find work. Last week saw the start of a brand new documentary series on Channel 5 called Benefit’s Britain:Life On The Dole, a look at a few families around the country that live on various benefits and how they manage relying on the welfare state.
Episode one looks at Yarmouth and the struggles of seasonal work in a town that is reliant on the tourist trade, where one in five adults are on benefits of some description.
We are first introduced to Lorna, Lee and baby Portia, who are on a benefit income of around £12792 per year (£90 per week child care, £312 per fortnight in other benefits), not taking into account housing benefit and so on. This is money they and their child need to live on. This is £2.329.60 a year more than someone earning minimum wage (for under £20), doing an 8 hour day, 5 days a week.
Even though they had sanctions imposed on them for filling out the wrong form, they still managed to smoke, drink, run a mobile phone and even run a mini motorbike. Lee says that he would rather get benefit that work in a seasonal job as he is only interested in being a mechanic. During this time they also decided to get a dog, another mouth to feed and care for. Lorna discusses on camera that she doesn’t understand why people moan about living on benefit, it’s easy. Not surprising when they receive more than minimum wage, but at least she is honest.
Jordan is 20 and lives in a flat with two other lads, all on benefit. He has been sanctioned for 2 months after not attending a government work scheme and so lost half of his money. Between the three of them they have nothing, but Jordan seems determined to not live his life on benefits, he appears to want more.
When the electricity is running low, they go together to get the money from the cash machine that the state will pay them after midnight. Instead of saving the £10 he found in his lamp, in case there is no money for electric, Jordan buys them all a kebab and just hope for the best. His flatmate’s bank balance is 6p. Throughout the episode all three, who claim poverty, are constantly smoking and drinking, have the latest games console and a computer. Jordan does eventually get himself a job though, but his first reaction is that things are now messed up as he has to pay rent.
Thomas lives with his partner, baby and dog. He says they can’t live on £145 per week and because of his criminal past, he can’t get a job. He hides from bailiffs, has a computer and TV. When the bailiffs do come knocking the couple find it amusing as technically, Thomas owns nothing, it is now all in his girlfriends name.
He blames the prison service and the system for not helping him and fills in gaps on his CV where he was in prison with lies.
Tracey and Gwen are two friends who have become house mates after the introduction of the bedroom tax. Having been on benefits for 25 years Tracy is livid that pensioners and veterans get more help than she does and that pensioners have money to play bingo. She complains about being charged and found guilty of defrauding the state, when she received £23,000 in benefits payments, to which she was not entitled.
Finally we meet Dean who likes to blame all of his problems on foreign workers.
As with any TV show, you have to approach with a certain amount of understanding that this is not an accurate depiction of society as a whole. The people who are part of this series have been hand picked by the producers to ensure that the show gets a higher rating, by no means are all people on benefit represented by this group.
You have to ask though if the priorities of these people are completely wrong – beer, cigarettes and TV are luxuries, ones that if you can’t afford them you go without. If you don’t have enough money to feed you or your family, but you buy a packet of cigarettes, then there is something seriously wrong with your way of thinking. Before it is said that you can’t feed people for under, what do cigarettes cost now, £8? Please, check out our recipes or request we write some to help you budget, it is more than achievable.
Likewise, if you buy alcohol over essentials or kebabs over electric, then when you are sitting in the dark you have no one to blame but yourself. If life is hard and there aren’t jobs in your area, moaning wont make a blind bit of difference, you need to get up and do something about it. You can’t blame your problems on anyone else, you have to take responsibility for your own life.
Stating that pensioners should not be entitled to as much help, or veterans, is baffling. They has generally worked their whole lives and paid into the system, why shouldn’t they get the help they need in later life? Should the older generation be forgotten and pushed aside for money grabbers and lazy layabouts? We should have respect for our elders and for our veterans, it is simply disgusting to make such a statement and on national TV no less!
There seems to be a growing culture of people wanting everything handed to them on a silver platter, without working for it in the least. Times are tough and it is not easy living in today’s society, but it is possible. The world doesn’t owe anyone anything.
Many people have legitimate reasons for needing help, whether it is job loss, homelessness or illness, the Welfare State was created to help those people in need NOT those who want a handout because it is easier than doing something for themselves.
Episode One of Benefit Britain: Life On The Dole is available to watch on demand right now and episode two aires tomorrow night at 9pm