Saturday, 24 November 2012

Points of view

There have been some interesting bits and pieces in the media this week which show how the battle to stigmatise those who have to depend on benefits is being won.
The Guardian carried a report on Tuesday of research by a team from the University of Kent.  Not, you notice, a think tank but an academic institution.  It reported that there is "a climate of fear" among people who need to claim benefits which frightens them off.  Government disinformation has meant that 1.8 million people have been "potentially too scared to seek help".  The report lists some of that disinformation (lies, in effect) then examines how the newspapers have systematically branded as scroungers those on benefits.  It's a damning report, but where was the coverage elsewhere?  There wasn't any, because it doesn't fit the agenda of the government and its mouthpieces.  Well done to the Guardian, though.
On Thursday Iain Duncan Smith appeared on BBC's Question Time.  I wasn't able to watch all of this, but I caught the row between him and another panellist, Owen Jones.  Jones tried to talk about the demonisation of the poor, but IDS snapped back at him with a furious face and voice.  And even the usually sensible Deborah Meadon disagreed with Jones.  The truth was outnumbered, as usual.
Plenty of coverage was given this week to Lord Freud, the employment minister in charge of reforming the welfare system.  Radio 4 discussed the "bedroom tax", under which people on benefits and living in social housing (I hate that term) will lose a big chunk of money if they have a spare bedroom.  A reporter went to the North East and discovered that there is a huge shortage of housing which people can down-size into.  So they have to either move far away or go into private rented accommodation which will end up costing much more.  When the reporter put this to Freud he waffled and retreated to the previous question.  Clearly what seems eminently sensible in an office in Whitehall doesn't work in the real world, but nobody wants to know.  Freud again showed the extent of his understanding in an interview in House Magazine, reported in the Guardian.  Apparently people on benefits are too comfortable and have a lifestyle which discourages them from taking risks.  He then made the sort of remark which comes back to haunt you:  "Freud, a former journalist and investment banker, told the magazine that his background did not make him unable to understand the reality of living on benefits. 'You don't have to be the corpse to go to the funeral, which is the implied criticism there,' he said."  The Telegraph also reported the story and the reaction of Liam Byrne for Labour.  The difference in the comments under the two articles speaks volumes about the polarisation of attitudes.
On a lighter note - sort of - was the report of a fake job advert which appeared on the website.  It was for a professional killer for MI6, and was so well put together that it was a while before anyone spotted that it was a fake.  Makes you wonder how many other fake jobs are being advertised.


  1. When I went to sign on I was asked to sign up to Universal Jobmatch,the lady was very pleasant as she is very supportive(really,no pun intended) I asked her if it was mandatory..Pause..Not at this time,but probably in the future.At this time a supervisor became involved "Why will you not sign up,it is for your own benefit" response was "Are you sure?" She then demonstrated the programme ,I asked her to put in a post code,5 mile range and "any job" Results 2699 positions available..she adjusted the search to include only the last 7 days 2147 positions available,fair enough(ridiculous,even the Adviser almost choked) not being rude I asked are these positions vetted? .....end of meeting.

  2. "It reported that there is "a climate of fear" among people who need to claim benefits which frightens them off. Government disinformation has meant that 1.8 million people have been "potentially too scared to seek help". The report lists some of that disinformation (lies, in effect) then examines how the newspapers have systematically branded as scroungers those on benefits."

    It is not just newspapers though is it? We have BOTH the BBC and ITV at the stigmatisation game. Look at the BBC program catchily called ''Saints and Scroungers''! A program that tracks down those that have defrauded the benefits system and those that need govt assistance. The very title of said program makes one feel queasy as it instantly divides people and their opinions with the use of the tabloid, lowest common denominator term ''scroungers''! Esp as rates of fraud never go above the 3% mark. A case of the deserving poor versus the less deserving.

    Then we have Jeremy Kyle on ITV. Along with ''put something on the end of it'' and ''shut it, it says the Jeremy Kyle Show on the wall'', one of Kyles favourite saying seems to be ''get a damn job''. He says this to alcoholics, drug users and bad parents as though simply being in employment will cure them of all their ills. Do people who work not have alcohol, drug, and parenting issues? Heck, even millionaires can easily have one or more of these problems.

    Of course, both the BBC and ITV know which part of society they are preaching to. Even though ironically, many watching such early-mid morning tat will be out of work themselves.

    Below is a good summing up of the loathsome Saints and Scroungers.

  3. Trouble is there are people out there who don't want jobs & want to stay on benefits, who maybe have partners or live in shared housing or with their parents, who don't need to pay rent or bills so who's benefit is like pocket money to them. They give the rest of the unemployed a bad name and everyone knows about this. As long as the unemployed is treated by categories instead of individuals there will always be "saints & scroungers"

    1. True, but you give no numbers (because nobody can put a figure on it). And that contributes to the problem.

    2. I'd be amazed if you can find one line from the government emphasising the saints, Helen.

    3. Helen, if I were to say "all white men are paedophiles" based on a number of high profile cases such as Garry Glitter, Jonathan King and of course Jimmy Saville, you'd say I'd be making an outrageous claim and painting an entire group with the same broad brush.

      Or suppose I were to claim that ALL businesses try to bend the tax rules because of the antics of Google, Starbucks and Amazon. You'd say I was stigmatising an entire group unfairly.

      And you'd be right!

      This is similar-ish to how jobseekers and disabled claimants are treated. According to the Guardian, "families with more than five children account for just 1% of out-of-work benefit claims" yet such large families claiming benefits are meat and drink to the tabloids such as the infamous Mick Philpot for example.

      Again, we always hear of "scroungers" having Sky TV. Just because you see a satellite dish, don't always assume there is a Sky package attached to it. I have a dish outside my home for example. Do I have Sky? Do I heck! I have the subscription free Freesat instead that I got for a mere 20 quid as part of the digital switchover.

      When it comes to issues of employment / unemployment, governments usually have a negative agenda. Sadly, much of the media lazily follows their lead.

    4. "Trouble is there are people out there who don't want jobs & want to stay on benefits"

      Good! The fewer people looking for jobs the better. The country is not suffering from a shortage of labour, it's suffering from a shortage of jobs. If someone, who can survive on minimum benefits, takes a job, they are in effect taking it from someone on maximum benefits who needs it more. It doesn't even make economic sense.

  4. It's funny to read about the M16 ad (well to some extent) and strange the lady mentions 'vetting' which is exactly what I have written to my MP about today. We were told to put up our cv to Monster. When reading t and c's saw their was a risk, and that we took it at our own risk, and that there was no way that they could validate all advertisers - well that made me worry straight away. I wrote to ask who vets the universal job matching employers, and who provides this service? We were told to put our cv on, we are not given a choice or told that you do not need to do it now, we were told, as we had trouble getting an id gateway number, etc, to make an appointment to come in and do it. We were in on Wed, Sat this week and then to make an appt on Monday to do the ID gateway - what I am thinking is my hubby has worked over 34 years or so, paid in, made redundant five months ago, and this is how you get treated, the last job where he came 2nd they told him the last job they advertised had 2500 applicants and that is par for the course these days.!!
    So, if there are 16 yearolds looking for work uploading to Monster there are risks theirin. Told today that the jobcentre vets these employer's by the job centre but I shall await my MPS reply. Do you have to upload your cv or is it a choice? They can tell how long u r searching, what fields you select, and it is all in anticipation of the proof of 35 hours a week job searching that people will need next april to receive any monies at all. It is said that some will be called in occasionally to sit at computers for 35 hours a week, and those at home will be 'clocked' via the universal job match - this is just what people on streets are saying, but no smoke without fire I guess. talk about big brothr There will be less and less jobs advertised, and more posts will be filled by work programmes, and at such low costs. You certainly feel scapegoated when unemployed. The disability claimants and ESA claimants are having a terrible time and up to 70 people a week are dying due to the stress of this, and this can be googled and confirmed. Great fb page under that name and it is shocking how these vulnerable people are being treated, but fantastic advice is also on this fb.


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