Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Benefit Street

I didn't watch the TV show Benefit Street because I suspected that it might just add to the narrative that people on benefits of any sort are scroungers, wasters and altogether belong to a lower rung of society than the smug people who watch that type of programme in order to despise the participants.
The Tories have succeeded in demonising benefit claimants to such an extent that people who are entitled to them are afraid to claim them, because of the way it will make them feel.
Shame is an extremely powerful emotion.
However, those who are in work and who pay taxes depend in some way on there being people who are out of work. Those benefits ensure that we who work get paid a decent wage. Most people who are working are doing two people's jobs, effectively. We are pressurised to the max; people leave and are not replaced. Extra duties land on our desks and we dare not protest in case we are made redundant.
Our jobs depend on us being able to hang on in there, and on people who could contribute to those jobs being put on a  shelf until the economy recovers (and when will that be?)
I pay tax and I want my taxes to be used to support people who are out of work (and all the other things like the NHS, free legal advice and so on).
How can it be good that this rich country allows people to die because their benefits are taken away from them for tiny 'misdemeanours' that a semi-starved, depressed out-of-work person can not avoid? Where is our national conscience?
There is also a whole generation of young people in their twenties who are unemployed and not claiming benefits because of the shame attached to that, and therefore not being counted in the unemployment figures. They are being supported by their parents, often. They get the occasional day's work; they live on hope and crisps.
I hope those parents think carefully at the polling booth.
Being out of work has become stigmatised, yet again, just as it was in the Thatcher era. Unemployment is the responsibility of the state; there are not enough jobs to go round and it's not a case of individual laziness.
Zero hours contracts should be made illegal. I have actually never met the fantasy student or mother with kids or whatever person is invented, who purports to like 'working flexibly'.
What a shameful way to run an economy.
Rant over!

1 comment:

Cazz Blase said...

I worked on a zero hours contract years ago, under New Labour so at least I got the minimum wage for it. There were three main demographics employed at the company: Students, retired/semi retired, mums with young children who wanted to be able to do the school run. I could write a book about it, also about a couple of other jobs I had before and after it, but I won't.