The BBC has been taking a hard-hitting and quite depressing look at those in society who have taken the option (through choice or simply circumstance) to live on what is given to them by the state, and not through employment.
The series, filmed in Scotland, concentrates on a specific estate or “Scheme” where there are a mixture of privately owned and social housing properties. It shows a huge chasm existing between the responsible and theÂ reprehensible in terms of moral and social responsibility, but also shows that those who lack the will or opportunity to find employment don’t usually lack the luxuries the rest of us struggle to afford.
The six families, who were the focus of the series all had wide-screen TV’s, games consoles, enough money to drink, smoke and (in some examples) buy drugs, buy and drive cars and take overseas holidays! All this funded exclusively by the benefits system, and allowed to continue unchecked barring the occasional involvement of the Police and prison service.
I had to smile to myself as that all-too-familiar scenario was played out on the screen. It was like watching those delightful individuals I deal with day in and day out living mirrored lives, just with the addition of a Scottish accent.
Marvin is an ex-drug addict (he says), but has a lovely Â£700 television and Playstation in his front room. These are then stolen by a friend, who obviously needed them afterÂ inadvertentlyÂ using the cash he had been handed by the government to buy clothes for the kids and some fruit and veg for the fridge.
Marvin is also a wannabe father. Having assessed his financial situation to ensure that he can afford the financial commitment that it requires, he wants to start a family. When I say, “assessed his financial situation” what I mean is that he has gone down the “social” and found out that he can get enough money for a kid to buy the basics and still have enough money left over for a pair of Reebok Classics, and a second laptop for the bedroom.
The only issue with this is that his girlfriend is in prison, but shortly to be released.
Following Danya’s release and the unfortunate loss of the family tech, Marvin is stopped by the Police with over 300 Valium pills in his pocket. He gets sent down as a result. Marvin is convinced that she has been cheating on him, but that doesn’t last long as she soon attempts to smuggle drugs to him in prison and gets locked up again.
Marvin and Danya are, thankfully, only messing up their own lives. Kay is a mother of two and, in her defence, is one of the few who had previously had some form of employment. Unfortunately she was dismissed from her job (for reasons which are not entirely clear) and resorts to smoking cigarettes in bed in the morning whilst shouting at her daughters to go to school. She does this as the school have had to resort to phoning her up every day to remind her that they should be there. Eventually they arrive, albeit nearly half an hour late.
As if Kay’s daughters outlook wasn’t bleak enough, Kay takes in homeless people who have alcohol issues. The “lodgers” are also non-workers and attract the attentions of the Police. One of them, Garry, is suspected of being involved in a smash-and-grab style incident. The suggestion is that his accomplice may have been one of Kay’s daughters. Kay promptly steps up to the mark and provides Garry with an alibi which is completely fabricated.
The time has gone where theÂ peopleÂ with theÂ misfortuneÂ to be born into poverty would still take pride in earning what they needed to support their family, and not starting one until they had the means to do so. These days, there is no pride in providing for yourself and your family. It has become far too easy just to sit back, open a beer, light up a splif, and watch Jeremy Kyle on the 50″ LCD. Children are seen as a right, not aÂ privilege, and in some people’s minds, a way to secure the funds for more beer, drugs and must-have tech.
I may be shot down here, but I firmly believe that you should be able to prove you are able to support a family without the expectation of 100% support from the government before you are allowed to have one.
Household incomes should be at least Â£10,000 per child. Not a huge sum, but at least demonstrating some degree of personal responsibility to the upbringing of your young. If you want two kids, then go earn Â£20,000 between you and so forth. If you can demonstrate this amount of effort to give something to society, then I have no issue with some kind of support for things like childcare and shared ownership housing. I think there is also a case for benefits being item specific – child benefit should be spent on milk and clothes, not Lambrini and Marlboro Lights!
The government’s proposals to cap benefits at Â£26,000 are a start, but we need to go further. I know many people on my patch who don’t work, don’t care, and get Â£200 per week for theÂ privilege which goes straight in the tills at the local off-licence. They are permanently unfit to work due to being permanently wasted, and therefore continue to qualify for the benefits that allow them to continue the cycle until their livers and lungs finally give up, and they end up in hospital costing us more than ever!