I was watching TV last night and a programme I watch called "Benefits Street" came on. This is a programme that, since it's first series aired last year, has been subject to huge controversy and it fuelled the fire of the debate in to the UK's dependency on the welfare state. There have been various different documentary series and debates on how the UK benefit system should work and often, they showed just the "typical" benefits claimants who just cheated the system to avoid doing a day's hard work. It can make for infuriating watching sometimes.
The typical portrayal of a young British person who claims a benefit is that of a person who lives in a filthy council house or flat. They're shown to take illegal drugs, drink booze all day and generally not do a lot while the taxpayer picks up the tab. No one seems to note that this probably only shows a small proportion of benefits claimants. We hear all the time about how people commit benefit fraud or families that just keep growing to maintain and grow their wealth and status symbol. Often shows like this show families who have to sell everything they own just to get by, usually due to substance abuse, mental health or criminal pasts.
It's often a very biased view on "life on the dole" and it often forgets to show the people who have done everything in their power to find work but couldn't get anything this week. People who had to make the choice of whether to heat their home or feed their kids and those who have to live on next to nothing due to unfair and inconsistent sanctioning of their payment. Fair enough if someone on Job Seekers Allowance (the clue is in the name here) hasn't bothered to look for work and they have violated their end of the contract, but making people go in to the Job Centre on a daily basis to sit and use a computer and then when they have an emergency come up (say the illness of a family member) and can't attend, they then have to live on £30 a week or even have no money whatsoever. I think that the benefit system is vastly overbalanced and they need to make a decision on what constitutes a sanction and what doesn't and this should be consistent throughout the country.
Most of the people I know are on benefits of some kind. I am on Employment and Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance myself. This is not because I choose not to work. This is because I can't work due to my health problems and the fact that I am pretty much unable to judge my condition from day to day. This can be really annoying for me as it is hard to have a normal social life and I do spent up to 2-3 weeks in hospital when my asthma flares up too much. It's not something I am choosing for myself. It isn't something I can really help. It is just the way it is. I would have loved to have been able to work and was gutted when my "dream job" came up about 6 months ago but I wouldn't have been able to take it due to my conditions. I guess my blog is the closest thing I get to publishing my work at the moment, but I do find it humbling when I get positive feedback.
One thing that really got me this time around was the relationship with one lady and her disabled son. He was shown daily love and compassion by his mother as well as the other people in the community, because it is true that people make a community, and when he slipped away, everyone came to pay their respects and show their love. I think that nowadays where people don't sit around and socialise the way they did 20 years ago (I remember when I was a kid and my mum and all the other mums in the street used to get together and chat, in and out of each other's houses and the neighbours were like an extended family) is a shame. I think that it would be great for everyone in an area to get together and help each other out. Around where I live, I do try and sit out in the garden when the weather is nice with the animals out. If the kids are good, I will let them come and see the animals as well and that is enriching for them and for the animals too. My pets tend to be very social creatures anyway and they love being picked up and cuddled.
I love my home, and I feel more and more happy as days go on and I venture out in to the living room more and more. It's weird that I have all this space again and I am sat here wondering what on earth I am supposed to actually be doing out here!
3 years ago