What do we gain by pointing a finger at others, those who don’t pose any real threat to anybody else?
I only ask the question because in recent months there has been a steady succession of the hackneyed old ‘Mum of nine gets £40k benefits but wants more dosh’ stories in our tabloids.
During the past 20 years ago these stale old yarns have never really gone away but it seems that despite the fact they are all fundamentally the same, they are back in fashion.
The most recent incarnation of this story, following the same old trusted formula centred around a photograph of a tired looking woman surrounded by her vast brood with the headline informing us that this Yorkshirewoman and her family receive £50,000 a year in benefits, although it is unclear whether they all live under the same roof. We are then informed as to where the money goes, that one of them has a thing for trainers and has three mopeds.
This particular chap receives benefits in the region of £9,000 a year, which will irk plenty, I am sure, but it is hardly a king’s ransom and if he wants to blow it all on lime green Nikes and second hand Hondas then more fool him.
And so what if a mum of six who hasn’t worked for a decade wants to blow a month’s worth of her income on Christmas presents?
The reason why these stories are still being printed by the national press – local newspapers generally avoid turning over their readers – is that people are interested in what the unemployed spend their not-so-hard-earned on. This grim obsession with how the other half live is down to both resentment by many who go to the office to receive their wages and a general lack of understanding about how many Britons live.
One line in the latest ‘scroungers’ story stood out for me and dismisses the notion that life on the dole is akin to living in the Land of Milk and Honey. One of those interviewed moaned that often he didn’t know what day of the week it was, such was the monotony of being out of work.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
The fact is that we have a benefits system which ensures that people and their families who, for whatever reason, are unable to work. Of course the system has flaws but despite moves to incentivise work for those who currently who don’t, there is still much to be done.
But should we be cross that someone on benefits smokes 20 a day and wears a £150 coat? I think anyone who worries about this clearly doesn’t have enough going on in their own life.
We have recently endured the toughest financial crisis in a generation and while the projected £113bn welfare budget for this year is undoubtedly high, we are not in this mess because of people claiming benefits.
It is about time we started pointing our fingers elsewhere.