Useless bludging pommy bastards

Channel 4 in the UK has made a documentary looking at welfare bludgers, their attitude and the state of welfarism.

I’d love to see it broadcast here. We’d never get our TV stations to do a similar documentary, they’d go out of their way to find people to blame their useless, miserable lives on John Key.

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Karen was a care assistant for 22 years, but has been out of work for seven years, during which time she has claimed £155-a-week disability living allowance. Her car, too, is paid for by the state. Karen feels benefits are her right, that she has done her bit by working in the past. Now, she says, it’s the state’s turn to support her. ‘I’ve done my f***ing share for Britain,’ is the way she puts it, in her blunt Midlands accent. ‘I’ve worked for me money, I want me money.’

Far from thinking them generous, Karen doesn’t think her benefits nearly bounteous enough. But the fact is benefits are more generous today than they’ve ever been, or indeed were ever intended to be by the founding fathers of the welfare state.

The level of welfare payments is now higher, in relation to earnings, than ever before. The average amount claimants receive has more than doubled in real terms over the past 50 years, according to recent statistics.

Projected costs suggest benefits will cost taxpayers £348 billion this year.

Our extended welfare payments must be horrendous as well.

The results are both depressing and heartening. In episode one, Karen, Melvyn, a cheery 71-year-old widower, and Craig, a 24-year-old in a wheelchair, have their 2013-level benefits taken away for a week and are put through the 1940s system.

All three are from Nottingham, where half the population is on some kind of benefit.

Yes, half. Even though we have become inured to the dependency culture, that single figure tells a terrible story. For benefits were originally conceived as a temporary helping hand in times of trouble, not a lifestyle choice. Joblessness allowances, pensions and the NHS were meant to provide a safety net, but were something the individual should aspire well beyond.

[William] Beveridge described welfare payments as ‘an attack upon want’. But want was only one of five giants he was trying to slay. He described the others as ‘disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness’. Yes, idleness.

How unwilling we are nowadays to talk in those bald, almost biblical terms. Indeed, we seem to avoid applying any kind of moral principle to state handouts today.

But the early welfare state did just that. And it did so partly to keep the welfare bill down, but also because its founders believed we benefited from having a purpose. Work was seen as therapeutic; even those who could only do a little were encouraged to try.

Things certainly have changed. Today, people believe they have a right to give up work and live off the state, as if they were taking early retirement. They want benefits that are not just good enough to live on, but generous enough to fund luxuries like alcohol, cigarettes and modern status symbols such as huge widescreen televisions.

Sigh…supposed to be a safety net, the welfare state has been turned into a trampoline.

When a welfare officer visits Karen and remarks that her house is clean, and her lawn mown, she reveals that this has been done by her son.

Strikingly, Karen, who is very overweight, has long acrylic nails, immaculately painted with a different shade of polish on each finger. Her hair is freshly braided and her manicured hands glitter with enormous rings.

There’s no doubting she suffers from pain and discomfort, but it’s also obvious that the demoralisation caused by her various ailments — which she refers to officiously as ‘my health issues’ — is exacerbated by lack of purpose.

Karen’s ‘new’ 1940s weekly handout is deemed to be £38.48 — compared to the £155.34 she currently receives. The car she has courtesy of today’s mobility allowance is also taken away.

She is furious. Expletives rain down on the welfare officers as she insists: ‘I can’t live off that.’

But this is not the worst news. If she wants to keep even this small  payment, she will have to be assessed for work.

Her response is a tirade: ‘I’m not well, I’ve got a list of illnesses what are wrong with me. Go to the younger people, what are they doing? Leave me alone, I’ve done my f***ing share for Britain, I’m doing no more. They can f*** off.’

Her pleas fall on deaf ears. Conditions recognised now as disqualifying someone for work were simply  not recognised when the system  was established.

Despite Karen’s protests that she’s ‘in pain every single day 24/7’, she is forced to complete a 1940s-style medical assessment. It is toe-curlingly fascinating to watch.

‘Would you be able to climb ladders?’ asks the doctor.

‘Oh no,’ said Karen.

‘Jumping?’

Karen laughs at the sheer idiocy of the idea.

‘Throw something?’

‘No.’

‘Pull an object?’

‘No.’

‘Pushing?’

‘I would find that a struggle.’

The doctor puts a 12lb bag of potatoes at her feet and asks her to lift it.

‘No, struggling with that,’ she says, not even getting it off the floor.

The doctor then places one potato on the desk in front of her and asks her to pick it up. She pauses, unsure what to do.

Call me sceptical, but I could almost see the cogs turning in her brain, as if she was thinking: ‘If I pick up this potato, I might lose my benefit, but if I don’t pick up this potato, that will look ridiculous.’

She reaches forward tentatively and picks it up, saying ‘there’s pain in here’ while rubbing her arm ostentatiously.

Karen’s medical isn’t finished yet, however. The assessor then gives her a piece of paper and pen, before getting her to draw a star and cut it out. This she does without complaint until he tells her the test will show if she could do tailoring work.

Her response is then instant: ‘This is actually hurting my thumb.’

Bludger.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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