Saturday, 22 August 2009

The Egregious Comet

I was right.


It’s nice to be feeing vindicated as it’s been a dodgy week self confidence-wise.

Thursday night’s Benefits Busters programme from the impeccably Left-wing Channel Four showed us a real-life (and much nicer) Egregious Pauline from A4E whose job is drying out and bucking up benefits mothers who are married to the state.

And doing it for Maggie. Yey.

How times have changed: when the BBC broadcast its last ever not completely welfare-adoring Panorama episode of that name, the United Left went ape. Ape: as in ‘Call out the biplanes and scour the Empire State Building till there’s not a hair of its bandy legs left.’ How dare single mothers be victimized in this way – the most vulnerable in society, etc, etc.’ But that was under a Tory administration in 1994 and was seen as somehow trying to bolster the Major Cabinet’s half-hearted (or vicious and deadly, depending) attempts to reduce welfare spending.

But thank goodness Flash Gordon (Aha! Saviour of the Universe) has busted us down so badly that Leftie Canalo Quattro admits (and shows in, like, visible figures that the viewers might just remember?) that the income tax and corporation tax together do not cover the social security bill. That’s equal to a quarter of HM Government’s annual expenditure.

Even The Guardian’s TV critic was only slightly sniffy about the posh bird who gets richer by putting spine and self-respect back into benefits mothers. And so C4 pushed this programme as ‘This government’s attempts to radically reform the welfare state’ – without mentioning who and what made the system so insane in the first place.

There they all were: the twitching bleach-blonde drunk denying that that’s exactly what she was and avoiding the ‘A’ word like it was a 40-hour minimum wage job on a plate, and then the little girl in the big, big body who’d created £75,000 of debt not for herself but to give her tellytubby-lookalike, Pringles-enlarged moppet the best of everything including the top Sky package so she could have all the cartoon channels - ‘I don’t have anything else but the telly’ – which was the biggest TV set I’d seen outside Hollywood blockbusters. Then there was the pinch-faced graduate who had at least been married and then abandoned and obviously hating every minute of being stuck in a classroom with her vulgar facially-pierced doley sisters as if she belonged with them when she clearly thought that she didn’t; and then the cheerful salt of the earth lass who was just like all the other cheerful salt of the earth lasses right down to the same dressed up to the nines for telly I’m on Songs of Praise look.

And the same excuses.

On the bright side, while these girls might not be adept at finding their way into job interviews they seem to have no problem locating the fridge at any time of the day or night: waking or sleeping; in sickness and in health; for ri-… for poorer or for poorer, including possibly in earthquake conditions. Under nuclear attack with Martians scrabbling about and blinded by triffids.

I have to confess that I nearly shed a tear of patriotic pride when I viewed these British porky munters when I realised that in the World Couch Potato Championships our own untrained and ill-equipped girls could likely hold their own in the Women’s’ Freestyle Cellulite against even North America’s best: the great Claudette Mousse de Foie Gras of Montreal, or the greater-still Harlette ‘Hashbrowns’ Winnebago of Lard Ass, IL, or even the truly stupendous Ayesha Benandjerry Washington, of Big Butte, AZ (formerly of New Orleans, LA.)

Hayley; herself a curvaceous Evans-coutured guardian shepherdess (or should that be vaquera?), was pretty touchy-feely and a hand-holder because to lead you have to speak your followers’ language (however mawkish), if only to tell them that they’re wrong. Right from the start she explained gently that if they felt unwell with a sick stomach or a headache and didn’t want to attend a particular session, then she would not understand and wouldn’t hesitate to use sanctions, ie, getting some of their benefit stopped. It felt good, hearing that.

This back-to-work programme is expensive – the company gets £100 per day per ‘mum’ instructed over a six-week course and there’s at least one internet page which rubbishes it as worthless; a website which I can’t find again accused the company from starting up with Ve Fatcher’s help, but do look at the comments thread here for a smorgasbord of defeatism and the responsibility-evading doley equivalent of the ‘universities of crime’ that we hear about from the prison abolition movement and you’ll see on part of what we’re all up against in this lousy system.

Here’s a bit of one thread edited for humour and brevity:

The Victim:


Im supposed to be starting this course next week and its for 13 weeks but now im thinking its just a waste of time, i would get anything i could right now if its either call centre, retail or wholesale but its kinda hard to find anything. Does anyone know if its possible to skip this course? If i just say im ill or dont go in because i have an interview or something and then i try to make another claim, will they just put me back on this course?

The Wise One:


CHOCK there is no way you will get out of it, if you skip it because of a interview you will be asked for proof of interview when you dont show that you will be put on whats called a sanction which means effectively you will get maximum £15 a week for 26 weeks which you will only recieve if you attend the course aswell, its a lot less leiant now then it was before but to cut a long story short there is no way to avoid it unless you have a job that can last in excess of 26 weeks because if you sign back on before 26 weeks you will be signed straight onto new deal to finish your course so there isnt a way out of it. Best advice i can give you is keep your head down and make

The Tribune of the People.


All a bit 'you vil go in ze gas chamber.' Screw 'em all. Claim stress, harassment, human rights anything. Play the sytem and don't let them intimidate you into going. Get the name of the New Deal 'adviser' who insists on sending you on this oh-so-inappropriate course and sue them.
Anyone who says 'they're only doing their job', again shades of Aushwitz except the Germans didn't have a choice. Some £16k a year adviser does.

Because obliging people to do something to find work to feed and clothe themselves is exactly the same as murdering innocent folk, right?

The Voice of Experience.


Be very careful about skipping the course. Don't say you are ill. they will take you off JSA and you then have to make a claim for sickness benefit (or whatever it is called now). A friend of mine was ill with a sick certificate and had to call the benefits people when he should have been in bed. He never got any money off them and each time he rang he was given excuses as to why they had not processed his claim. The final one was they claimed that they had not received his sickness certificate. He gave up in the end.
Don't assume you are going to get a job because you have an interview. I have had 5 interviews and still don't have a job.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Victim again.


I actually have an interview on the day this starts but the interview is in the afternoon, i didnt get a chance to ring up…

(Because the ubiquitous mobile phones don’t work on the dole, except when you produce the bills to prove financial hardship and apply for a Discretionary Living Allowance at The Housing)

…and ask this but does this mean i have to still go in and then they will let me go when its time for the interview?

Phew! Two lots of responsibility in the same day? It’s genocide, I tells yer.

So Haley blousily nagged and lectured and sympathised and got the women parroting positive-thinking slogans and listing goals as she cynically hectored them on how they used the kids as excuses not to work, and how she knew the routine, though she went all meeting-the-boss evangelical soppy at the thought of the MD’s motivational visit (which just has to be an all-time broadcasting coincidence right up there with the white supremacist’s black real father appearing in the studio on daytime television.)

She was right; if they wanted to work, then the takeaways are always recruiting and so what if the kids’d take the P – it’s a living.

And it is a living - for most of them (and the majority got jobs in Poundland in one fell swoop) the system is fixed so that you get more money than benefits at first when you work, and after a year at least you have the same-ish income as benefits plus self-respect and some blood and air circulation round your body. Except…

You have to work. Actually work.

The big girl with the big debts was offered a weekend job as a DJ but turned it down. She felt confident or cheeky enough to come back and lecture Haley that she really means it about getting work and she really, really wanted to be a DJ but the taxis don’t work late on Thursdays and Sundays in Dewsbury…And anyway she didn’t think she should have to work all the hours God sent for a low wage. If they paid her a lot to do the job of her dreams (for so DJing was) then okay, fair enough, she’d do it but she couldn’t think offhand of anyone who’d give her a lift to work. So, basically, the money’s a bit better but so what? It’s a bind and not a fortune, and everyone who’s trying to pay off £75,000 debt deserves good childcare and high wages and employer-provided transportation too, right?

So if you’re not ambitious or self-respecting, you might as well stay at home and watch Oprah (which I do myself from time to time just to remind myself just how lousy The Color Purple was and also to comfort myself with the thought of just how lousy a sequel would have been, Lord preserve us…)

Oh, and the system’s fixed until your family hits critical mass.

One of the salt of the earth cheerful girls had just had her benefits calculated and compared with what life would be like when working. In her case only, as she had 4 children, her earnings plus child benefit and child tax credit and working tax credit and housing benefit and council tax benefit and back to work bonus would not pay as much as child benefit and child tax credit only and housing benefit and council tax benefit do.

So she dropped out and stayed at home.

And that’s where the politicians – of any party at all – could load up votes by the truckload in marginal constituencies and landslide safe ones alike.

All they’d have to do is proclaim that they’re going to keep the system much the same as now, but that they’re going to stop paying extra at two children or after the third, and the whole inter-generational disaster of hereditary welfare dependency will end.

Most of these women can’t possibly look after, discipline, feed and deliver more than three kids safely and on time to schools which they will not immediately disrupt because mum’s too tired or useless or irresponsible to tell them all what’s right and what’s’ wrong and make it stick. Hard-working families would vote just to wipe the smug smiles off their stay-in-bed slacker neighbours’ faces as they have to trundle out to Poundland or wherever. Only the short-haired women and the long-haired men of the howling Left would object to capping generous benefits at replacement population plus one.

Only them…and the weird legislative fruitcake who originally thought up the idea of paying ever-greater child-related benefits when ‘families’ grew. He’s presumably out there somewhere: the Welfare State’s equivalent of the idiot engineer in the Pentagon’s Equipment Commissioning Bureau who insists that every smart pilotless aircraft: every self-programming mobile anti-personnel weapons-system; and every nuclear defence computer network must not only be able to do its basic job, but must also have the capability to become self-aware and rebel against its human masters in a ruthless war of extermination.

Even the latter-day urban mahout Haley agreed as the lass waddled off across the shaking metaphorical horizon to her own people that she couldn’t blame her: money talks.

And next week, the long-term unemployed: The Professionals.


James Higham said...

Gosh, I admire people who take the bit between the teeth and actually watch the idiot box.

Personally, I'd rather be here reading you.

ukbix said...

Pretty one sided, poor blogging to post only select qoutes from a forum that back up your side, you should at least post something like the one that said

"This is absolutely true. My friend got a job last October. Thenthe place he was working in started getting people for free via A4E so they cut his hours and then they told him the job was finished. He went to sign on and they have put him straight on to New Deal. He is desperately trying to avoid it as this is now the second time and he felt suicidal the first time. He has been applying for jobs all over Sheffield but had only one response."

Mark Wadsworth said...

That's a bit of a predicable bit of tilting at much the wrong targets, (A4E gets £123 million of taxpayers' money for not very much in end result for example) but I'd wholeheartedly agree at capping child-related benefits at the first three children per mother (I can see arguments for two as well, but I prefer three).

As to the rest, it's unfair to say that "benefits are too high" (which they probably are) without also saying that "means testing is too savage", what's the point in working if it makes you worse off?

North Northwester said...

Thank you James, I’m flattered as ever by your kind comment but I'm a very small fish in a big pond and I like to see how others in our huge and parasitic Welfare State are doing. It helped to give me some perspective, but it didn't change my mind about the fundamental flaws in the system. Do watch next week’s if you dare. I hope to, but as an insider I like to see what outsiders think. Including you. Go on - treat yourself next week to a bit of righteous indignation. I’ve got a dinner date that night and might not be able to watch the prog.

You go on ahead lad, I’m...I’m not going to make it.


North Northwester said...

ukbix: Welcome and thank you for your comment.

I did indeed link to the forum which included your quotation and any of my readers could look at it (which is why I included it) and see that some people on the dole have different viewpoints - and experiences - from mine on the Welfare State. You’ll note that I said I had edited it for brevity and humour, and TJ.AT is intended to be Right-wing humour, which it achieves at times.
TJ.AT isn't where they quote the Left-wing pressure group's [sorry, ‘poverty charity's’] view of a new report but they never link to the report when it comes from the 'Right-leaning' think-tank, etc. I like to let my readers read what I read and make up their own minds. Or better yet to read what I read, and then read some more, and debate some more and speak to people with personal experience, and THEN make up their own minds until better data or deeper cogitation comes along.
But so what – a fair few posters on that comment thread just plain don’t want to be involved with training and don’t seem embarrassed to say it. Still unemployed but not wanting to go on a course – do they really believe they’re good enough to find and get a job with existing skills? And what do they want to do if they don’t go on the course? Nothing's preventing them from looking at job sites on the internet and in papers at lunchtimes or evenings and weekends.
It seems possible that you think I’m shilling for A4E as a private company as a good Original Series Thatcherite should – you know; the private sector can knock spots off the public sector, and therefore any task that it undertakes has got to be okay/cheaper/better/more ideologically sound. But I wasn’t shilling for them, though I intended to say that most of the survivors of the course [about ½ of those who originally started] got a job at the end.
If you become familiar with my blog you’ll perhaps notice that I expect waste and inefficiency and downright paradoxical behaviour from most if not all governmental bodies and that goes for its private subcontractors too.
What I was really intending to have a go at as usual was the mad system that created the poverty trap for ‘single mothers’ in the first place; a system whose participants (living, breathing and sometimes suffering human beings) I meet and whose letters I read and to whom I speak and with whom I work every single day.
If you’re saying I left a lot out in a complicated matter, then there’s no argument because I certainly did.

For example, the ghost at the feast is the fathers – I won’t call them men.

North Northwester said...

Mark Wadsworth. Welcome back and thank you for your comments.
I’m not sure if I’ve understood your drift here, but you always blog and comment seriously and courteously and I’ll answer what I think/guess your criticisms are. You’re free to tell me I missed the point.

# I meet or read correspondence from or talk on the phone with people in this situation every working day, and I truly believe that they are the right target; not just in their own waste of others’ productivity and effort, but also in the poverty - intellectual and emotional - in which they live, but also in the grief they add to the lives of those around them. Their children are much more likely to go on being permanent welfare dependence, petty criminals or worse, fast –breeders and lifelong slackers. Everybody loses in this crazy set-up. And the programme was about single mothers, so there was some measure of focus there.

# A4E might indeed be a public/private trough-snouter and as per my answer to the honourable Ukbix above my piece wasn’t intended to argue they were excellent value for money or always right, etc, - those days are gone for me. But again, about 50% of a televised intake did find jobs. You can read almost any level of achievement on the company’s behalf into that, and I did make the point that this was a propaganda/marketing piece for the New Labour government, A4E and Channel Four throughout the post. But if they do get even a quarter or a fifth of their people into employment that sticks, it’s a lot better than the state bureaucracy seems to me to do. Whether that’s worth £123 mil, is another matter to which I don’t presently have an answer.

# Okay, we agree on capping, and have done since an exchange of comments last year, I think.

# I don’t know whether benefits are too high - by whose estimation might I calculate? My own feelings are just that – based upon ideological views of right and wrong. I admit (at least to myself) that perhaps my own beliefs and feelings are not Solomonically suited to judge all cases. But maybe I don’t accept means testing at all. If we assume that children ought to be brought up in most cases with at least the more willing parent of the two and that it’s also okay to some value of okay to support them for a while from taxes if adequately paid work is either unavailable or that - say - paternal support is not forthcoming, then I don’t necessarily see that means testing is such a great idea. Not in the sense of one that gets the approximately intended results for the immediate target and for the society as a whole.
Perhaps a flat rate would do it: take it or leave it. If you want to breed then that’s (£XXX.00) how much a week you’ll get.
And in that case, I think there’d have to be time limit on a lifetime’s child –related benefits.
Say ten years from the birth of the first child to the end – no matter how many children a woman has and with or without whom. It’s the way they stretch it out, getting pregnant at two or four or six year intervals that keeps them out of the workforce and elbow-deep in grungy prosperity that makes breeding on the dole both attractive and generally harmful.

Have I, ahem, missed your mark entirely with my answers?


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner