Wednesday, July 24, 2013

'We All Pay Your Benefits' must become a permanent TV fixture

From Brother Ivo:

The BBC documentary We All Pay Your Benefits has been an interesting and revealing exploration of attitudes between those drawing state benefits and those of similar status who go out to work, some for less net income than the claimants.

The twitter storm #WeAllPayYourBenefits that accompanied the broadcasting was also worth following, partly because it demonstrated outrage at some of the injustices of the anomalies revealed but also as a warning about how spiteful people can become when addressing issues of this kind. People may be making poor decisions; they maybe directed towards them by poor policy formulation; but a community which seeks to bring people into the fullness of civic participation, not least economically, needs to retain a degree of respect.

Not all the abuse was directed at claimants: Iain Duncan Smith, who has devoted more time to this issue than most of his detractors, was described as a 'self-righteous arrogant pig' by one twitter respondent. Whatever the merits of his policies, he has devoted some years to the problem of how to balance compassion for the needy with incentivising and stimulating those who have settled for a sedentary lifestyle rather than developing their God-given talents. He has, moreover, visited and engaged the people of the most deprived areas in direct dialogue to understand the issue better. The number of people who have that direct experience is smaller than those passing judgement.

The programme had good low-key presenters who took what they heard seriously and were plainly interested to understand rather than drive any predetermined agenda. Their contributions were not, however, the most telling.

The heroes and heroines of the programme for Brother Ivo were the ordinary working people who went to see the lives of their fellows in modest circumstances, and shared their knowledge, experiences, advice and encouragement. This is far more interesting and instructive than the tribal banter of the chattering classes. With some 75 per cent of all MPs qualifying as millionaires (and worryingly many not entering politics as such), we are going to learn far more of the needs, challenges, merits and faults of those estranged from work in the dialogue with those who share similar lives. Such folk can offer empathy where a problem is genuine, but they can also spot a bluff at a hundred yards.

If the welfare debate is to be intelligently advanced, we probably need this programme to become a permanent feature on television. A second season that included those within our ethnic communities, suitably paired with working folk from their own culture, would greatly add to our knowledge and perhaps dispel prejudices as we get to know the strangers in our midst better. It would help to know about those who have not learned English.

One of the aspects which the programme revealed was how long and hard some people have to work for a low take-home pay. This is a challenge for liberal and conservative alike.

Those on the Left turn to one of two policies: either the state must pay a supplementing benefit (or more often a confusing blend of benefits with differing rules, allowances and disqualifications which even the bureaucrats and experts cannot always reliably and predictably identify); or they propose a politically and arbitrararily selected minimum/'living' wage. The former carries the problems of the cost of bureaucratic infrastructure, arbitrary cut-off, fraud, and the 'poverty trap', whereby claimants are disincentivised from taking different or additional work through either consequent loss or unacceptable complexity. In sectors where international wages may compete, the latter carries the risk of pricing oneself out of a job.

On the Right, the free market does not always make for happy outcomes.

When a working population grows faster than either the economy or the housing supply there is a downward pressure on wages. 'A labourer is worthy of his hire', the Bible teaches us, implying a duty of care and concern for the welfare of those toiling long and hard to make ends meet.

Often the better off are the beneficiaries, as they can hire child care, workers, domestic staff etc without a pressure for higher wages, particularly when they support the free movement of labour. It is not xenophobic or racist to state that when immigration is liberalised in a context of welfare benefit availability, rents rise, wage pressure is downwards, and demands on healthcare, schools and other public services are felt most keenly by those who perhaps especially deserve our concern but often do not receive it.

In fairness to Archbishop John Sentamu (whom Brother Ivo has recently criticised) he has indicated an especial concern towards these folk individually. 

Economist Frances Cairncross recently described immigration as 'a sign of economic success', and at one level it is: the country has created jobs - but the majority have been taken by newcomers. This does not help the low-paid, and neither does it impact positively upon those amongst the 'underclass' who do not seek to work. It is easy to be either lazy or dispirited as a result of lengthy economic inactivity. This programme demonstrated that well.

There was an interesting response to the programe from The Guardian. Lucy Mangan plainly resents the unusual arrival on the nation's television screens of ordinary workers looking into the lives of the economically inactive and offering comment.

One can imagine Ms Mangan urgently telephoning Owen Jones about these ordinary folk and protesting the outrage: "They come on the telly, taking our jobs...!" Because that is the problem with the chattering classes. Whether of the Right or Left, they are not only remote and frequently poorly informed about the lives of those they discuss; they tend to use their relative economic advantage to buy off their consciences.

They might be able to afford an extra penny on the income tax pound, but the mother getting up at 6.00am to get her children off to school before spending the day sensitively delivering intimate care to the elderly and disabled cannot, and her indictment was all the more powerful of the young man who had been unemployed for nine years because would not take a job 'beneath' the 2:1 Media Studies degree of which he was inordinately proud, even though it had left him quite unsuited for gainful employment. He had internalised the 'entitlement' narrative all too prevalent among the client class of the Left and those who apologise for him.

If we are to have a national debate on these issues, the voices who will bring the greatest insights, the most telling observations, the most relevant experiences and the clearest challenges may well be those we see rarely on our screens. We need to hear from those who work just above the benefit line but are in sight of both their own insecurity and the abuses they can see within the communities in which they also live.

Brother Ivo knows that the likes of Ms Mangan may not like this. No doubt the commissioning editors of our broadcasters will privately express fear that such folk will prove inarticulate. Brother Ivo suspects that the real fear of the chattering classes is that they will not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was slightly disappointed in the left wing bias of the programme. The tripe highlighting only 10% of welfare spending goes on Unemployment benefit, with no mention of the council tax benefit, housing benefit, disability benefit...Luther is fit for some form of employment, even though hes in poor shape and unfit , its not irreversible.

24 July 2013 at 09:52  
Blogger Broadwood said...

There is no Biblical mandate for supporting healthy people in perpetual idleness - it is clearly corrrosive to their own wellbeing, and grossly unjust to those doing the supporting - the Levitical arrangments for assisting the poor were more analagous to a kind of start-up loan, and the aim was clearly to avoid dependancy.

Perhaps we need to return to some variant of the Victorian concept of the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor - but who is willing to grasp that nettle? IDS? I doubt it.

The other poisonous legacy of the welfare state is that it promotes family breakdown by rewarding faithless, selfish and reckless conduct and penalising committed spouses and parents.

How can Christians respond to Christ's mandate to help the poor (of which there are many) without exacerbating these problems? This is an issue of spiritual rather than simply material poverty. I think we're in a very similar situation to the one England was in when Wesley began his ministry - i.e. we have a underclass who chronically lack hope, vision and respect for themselves and their families.

Theodore Dalrymple (the son of an East European immigrant family) writes very movingly on this subject and from a position of great experience.

Throwing more money we haven't got at this problem will not make it go away.

24 July 2013 at 09:53  
Blogger Jon said...

I didn't see the programme, so come without any views of my own on the slant it took, but it's remarkable that Cranmer was able to see a programme for one thing, and many of the commenters on the Guardian article were able to see it for something completely different - more or less diametrically opposite in fact.

I know Carl will probably tell me that this is evidence that without an absolute standard of right and wrong to fall back on, we're all doomed etc., but since money and poverty are issues which Jesus attended to in great detail (as opposed to the extrapolations handed down by Dodo et al on gay marriage and their other personal betes noire) surely the Church should be as one on welfare reform?

24 July 2013 at 10:12  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

It was an interesting programme, I thought balanced and fair. Two presenters in Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford whose attitude seemed to change somewhat as it went on, who have some credibility and talked a lot of sense on the subject. Much more sense than politicians. They were prepared to accept the facts, unlike IDS. That 2.5 million unemployed do not fit into a fifth as many jobs. That wages are too low, etc.

24 July 2013 at 10:18  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

By the way, Brother Ivo might have derived some benefit from watching "Why don't you speak English?", which was screened last night, very similar and about immigrants re. your sixth paragraph.

24 July 2013 at 10:22  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 July 2013 at 10:38  
Blogger Flossie said...

As Brother Ivo's link doesn't appear to work, there are two episodes of this on BBC iPlayer:


24 July 2013 at 11:08  
Blogger Manfarang said...

"the 2:1 Media Studies degree of which he was inordinately proud, even though it had left him quite unsuited for gainful employment"
Of course it hasn't.What a wimp.
Do any job to get some money and then fly to Bangkok. Bingo you have a job.You are a freelance journalist.Easy to get a few contacts at the Ding Dong Bar and rooms are cheap as are bus fares and food.
If that doesn't answer then become a Buddhist monk.

24 July 2013 at 13:13  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

WE should not pay any benefits to anyone who is single in good health and under 50.

THe huge amount of money saved would offer most salary of 20K+ to do some of the jobs that are crying out to be done. Also we would at least save 50 billion a year.

simple solutions are often the best.


24 July 2013 at 13:35  
Blogger Manfarang said...

They don't want to pay any benefits to anyone who is single in bad health and is under 65.

24 July 2013 at 13:56  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

A second season that included those within our ethnic communities … would greatly add to our knowledge and perhaps dispel prejudices as we get to know the strangers in our midst better

I doubt there will be an ethnic season. It is supremely useful for the liberal Left to be able to dismiss the concerns of the native British as prejudice. An ethnic season would show that native concern is based on solid fact and is, thus, not prejudice at all.

For example, on page 13 of its 2004 survey Focus on Religion, the ONS says that Muslims are ‘more likely than other groups in Great Britain to be economically inactive’, with ‘More than two thirds (68 per cent) of Muslim women of working age’ being economically inactive. They have little time to spare, presumably, from the demands of perpetual pregnancy. Christian women were the least economically inactive, at 25 per cent.

The 2006 DWP report Barriers to employment for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain says: ‘Most households were large, and contained between three and six children. Several households also contained not the nuclear, but extended family; and it was common to see households of eight to ten people, including parents, in-laws, and married siblings and their children. The composition of households in this way meant it was common to see several adults living in the same household, easily leading to the condition of workless households.’

those who have not learned English

The same DWP report says: ‘Disadvantage at the individual level arises from the fact that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have substantial human capital problems. Human capital is the possession of high level qualifications, vocational skills and real world experience of work. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have the lowest level of English language proficiency of all the major ethnic minority groups.’

24 July 2013 at 14:12  
Blogger Richard Watterson said...


See above: there is one about immigrants called "why don't you speak English". Very interesting and enlightening. I hadn't realised foreigners are actually human beings.

24 July 2013 at 14:21  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ Richard Watterson (14:21)—A country is more likely to be at peace with itself the more similar its people. Sadly, the broad classification ‘human being’ does not produce sufficient similarity. As Aristotle says in his Politics:

‘Another cause of revolution is difference of races which do not at once acquire a common spirit; for a state is not the growth of a day, any more than it grows out of a multitude brought together by accident. Hence the reception of strangers in colonies, either at the time of their foundation or afterwards, has generally produced revolution’.

24 July 2013 at 14:52  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Among unequals what society
Can sort, what harmony, or true delight?

24 July 2013 at 15:31  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Johnny Rottenborough:

I was having a conversation with my wife the other day about the "economic inactivity" of mothers, and we both agreed that there was much to be said for women being able - if they so wished - to devote their time and energies to providing a solid and caring home. Isn't there evidence that doing so increases family cohesion and makes children more likely to academically succeed? Of course, linguistic difficulties may well efface any such advantage, but that should mean rolling the factors into the same boat.

A workless household is a terrible place to be, especially when unemployment is continuous and long-standing (whatever the reason for that state) - but the "economic inactivity" of one parent (or, to use the modern lingo, the "primary caregiver") is, or at least should be treated as, something quite different.

24 July 2013 at 15:45  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

My apologies: the final line of my first paragraph should read "that shouldn't mean rolling the factors into the same boat".

24 July 2013 at 15:46  
Blogger Timjam68 said...

I wasn't very keen on the lady (cleaning supervisor, I think) who thought it would be better, and more economical to buy chicken breasts rather than a whole chicken.

She also thought it strange that children should have two hot meals a day.

Not my idea of a good role model.

24 July 2013 at 16:52  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Johnny: "For example, on page 13 of its 2004 survey Focus on Religion, the ONS says that Muslims are ‘more likely than other groups in Great Britain to be economically inactive’, with ‘More than two thirds (68 per cent) of Muslim women of working age’ being economically inactive."

That Pew Report you linked to the other day had things to say about this. In fact, there was a table in there with the following title:

"Muslims More Concerned About Unemployment Than Religious and Cultural Issues"

24 July 2013 at 17:38  
Blogger Brother Ivo said...

Thank you for your assistance, Sister Flossie.

24 July 2013 at 17:47  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One really cannot bring himself to interest himself in the lives and wants (?) of our cosseted idlers as documented on television – not after a hard days work and not far from four decades of doing daily graft either…

The muslim community is probably per capita, one of the biggest drains on social security. One would go so far as to say they are very economically inactive. In this multi whatever town, it’s unusual to see them in the usual types of obvious employment . Rather like the Jamaicans in that respect. Yet one would wager good money that the muslim community is amongst the most air travelled group in the country. As entire families fly off to bring back a tragic arranged marriage victim or risk being crushed to death in one of their religious festivals.

One suspects the muslim women who do work in a family business are still registered as unemployed, and not even waged as such. Hard to be sure and for the authorities to monitor as they all look the same to this man, and that’s without that veil over their faces.

The only solution is to treat theses inevitable claimants not as individuals but as one family group. That way, we could perhaps quarter the money paid out to them and they wouldn’t starve. Arguably a racist move, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of good old fashioned racism. It’s why you lot don’t live in inner city immigrant ghettoes, preferring the company of your own race, and the educating of your children in establishments where English is not taught as a foreign language. Besides, the muslims are the biggest racists of the lot, considering us the infidel kaffir, and indeed, have a low opinion of our lives accordingly, which explains the many plots to bomb us to pieces.

Pip Pip !

24 July 2013 at 18:41  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ AnonymousInBelfast (15:45)—It used to be commonplace for women to be full-time housewives and mothers. Now, though, we have the anomaly of non-Muslims paying benefits to the stay-at-home Muslims who are outbreeding them. It hardly makes for good relations between the communities.

@ Dan (17:38)—It’s good that Muslims are concerned about unemployment but they persist with a way of life that mitigates against employment. The DWP report talks of Pakistanis’ and Bangladeshis’ ‘substantial human capital problems’ and Focus on Religion identifies poor health and disability as factors in Muslim unemployment. In all probability, low intellect, disability and poor health stem from the continuing practice of consanguineous marriage.

24 July 2013 at 18:55  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Johnny Rottenburgh. In all probability, low intellect, disability and poor health stem from the continuing practice of consanguineous marriage.

The Inspector spent eight or nine years keeping fancy mice. Seen it all with them...

24 July 2013 at 19:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muslims are also being encouraged to claim benefits from the kuffar.

"Jihad Seekers Allowance"

This is not funding idleness.
We pay. They plot.

24 July 2013 at 19:24  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Muslims. You mean those fellows who were the backbone of the British Indian Army in WW2.
In a letter addressed to US President Franklin Roosevelt, dated 4 March 1942, Winston Churchill wrote, ‘We must not on any account break with the Moslems, who represent a hundred million people, and the main army elements on which we must rely for the immediate fighting’.

25 July 2013 at 07:20  
Blogger IanCad said...

Thank you Brother Ivo and Flossie.

I have only had time to watch the first video. A real eye-opener to me.

We live in a remarkable country. How kind, charitable and non-judgemental the British are.
Truly a civilized people.
No wonder everyone wants to come here.

Long may it continue.

25 July 2013 at 12:19  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

The very same muslims who fought for the Imperial British Army, Manfarang. And co-incidentally the very same muslims who wanted the British out of India afterwards. And the very same muslims who grasped the opportunity to travel over to the UK when they could. Ant the very same muslims who are now serving long periods of time in British gaols for being, well, ‘muslim’…

25 July 2013 at 18:23  

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