Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford have been brought together once again to explore the complex British benefits system. Nick is a former PR man and Margaret an ex-City solicitor and together they are going to scrutinise the fabrication of the benefit claimants being “cheating, lazy scroungers trying to exploit the system, by putting together four claimants and four taxpayers to examine each other’s lives”.
Margaret has said that “The image we get from some of the media is rather distorted – that everyone on benefits has 27 children and lives in a mansion”, however this is not the case as she continues to explain that “Actually, very few people defraud the system and most struggle to make ends meet”. Margaret highlights how different the reality is in comparison to the stereotype as people on benefits as she says “I wasn’t aware of how much money you needed in order to have a very basic – and fairly grim actually lifestyle”. It’s also important to recognise how difficult it is to get a job with the economic recession, as there are too few jobs in comparison to the number of people who are unemployed. Benefit claimants are said to in fact only take about 10% of the national £200 billion welfare budget and with around 50 percent of that going on pensions.
Ipswich was chosen for the investigation due to its number of unemployed and number of jobs being near to the average. Margaret found that none of the individuals she met were living at ease as many would be “reliant on food parcels to feed their families”, for example. One man they met had gone from being a home owning and employed coach driver to the “breadline” in a rapid few months. This was because of illness and thus something out of his control. However he found that the benefits he was receiving were not enough to pay off his mortgage or to feed his family, and this forced them to become dependent on charity food parcels. Nick went on to add that the man “was desperately worried he’d lose his house because they wouldn’t be able to keep up mortgage payments”.
It is imperative to acknowledge that not all benefit claimants are worthy of sympathy. Nick Sterner meets a father who refused to work away during the week and return at weekends because, being a modern father he wanted to see his children.
Benefits, in my opinion, should be used as a stepping stone to being able to provide for yourself or as a bridge to aid people in hard times when they are for example made redundant. It is always crucial to strive to provide for yourself and your family as there will always be people in need. So if you can work, don’t sit back and relax, tackle the problems in front of you before you get yourself in too much of a pickle.