Thursday, 3 May 2012

What Is Wrong With The Future State Of Welfare (Part 2)

The summary of what is wrong with The Future State Of Welfare With John Humphrys continues. For a documentary, what is striking is how information-sparse it is whilst being claim-dense. 

16. The presenter tells the audience that there are now more than 800,000 people who have been out of work for more than a year. The presenter does not mention that over the past decade, the numbers of long-term unemployed have fallen.

17. To get this figure the presenter must also lump in claimants for benefits where they are economically inactive and not expected to seek work.

18. The presenter summarises the Beveridge Report. Omits to mention that William Beveridge's ideas of social insurance relied upon full employment as national economic policy, which Britain has not followed since the 70s. He continues on by repeating an opinion that it's the welfare system itself that is the problem.

19. The presenter sets up the argument that lack of jobs causes high unemployment and then instead of addressing it brings on the Mayor of Middlesbrough Ray Mallon to say that 18,000 out of a population of 88,000 in Middlesbrough are on some form of benefit. It's a figure which again requires many benefits to be lumped together. Rather than actually producing a coherent point, the opinion about there being a widespread culture of not working but staying on benefits is repeated. No critical comment is made of this.

20. The presenter is driving around a neighborhood commenting on the number of young men. They refuse to talk to him but he assumes anyway that none of them have jobs. This is asserted as fact, punctuated with the word 'obviously'. As soon as he does find someone prepared to look ridiculous on television he doesn't hold back on demonising them to the audience in a voice over so they can't answer back.

21. The couple are Steve Brown and Paula Mort. The presenter asks them leading questions, maneuvering Steve into accepting the narrative of the benefits culture he keeps insisting is widespread. At no point are Working Tax Credits mentions or the figures actually added up to see if the couple would in fact be better off if at least one of them went to work. Steve cottons on to what's happening and falls back on sentiment; he doesn't want to work because he'd miss his kids. If that sounds bizarre, bare in mind that he's now not able to back out of indulging in some Daily Mail pontificating where he unwittingly implicated himself in being 'workshy' so he now has to simply mitigate. The audience will be left with the impression that the presenter just keeps finding these people. Virtually every claimant featured in the programme conforms to a tabloid stereotype of benefit claimants.

22. The presenter repeats the word-twisting with Paula Mort. Neither of the interviewees have actually revealed much about themselves or given informative information about benefits but this doesn't appear to be the presenter's goal; which seems to be to keep re-affirming the angle he's selling.

23. The presenter claims in a voice-over that Steve Brown has made a straightforward calculation. The calculation and figures involved are not shown. But it's unlikely Steven actually knows enough about the benefits system to make such a calculation, especially as the presenter has made no effort himself to try it. I should note that last year the welfare to work provider A4e tried to sub-contract the Citizens Advice Bureau for the Work Programme and they specifically wanted CAB to do benefit calculations like this. They wanted CAB for this because the maths is actually rather complicated and CAB owns licenses for specialist software; A4e knew that it would be cheaper to contract CAB to do it than to fork out for the software themselves and then hire people qualified to use it. The presenter having failed at any point to actually work out the figures himself is now impressing on the audience that an uneducated unemployed Middlesbrough man easily led on was able to do this with a 'straightforward' calculation.

24. The presenter concludes from what he has seen/twisted/cherry-picked thus far that the problem is distinguishing between those who can't work(even though he has not acknowledged anyone he has spoken to fits this category) and those who won't. He then equivocates this with 'from Beveridge's time' the concept of the 'deserving and undeserving poor'. He does so in such a way that actually makes the concept palatable and in doing so misleads the audience about history. The deserving and undeserving poor had nothing to do with willingness to work and everything to do with the prejudices of the workhouse owners and committees that the poor had to beg in front of. The worst the presenter manages to describe it is 'highly controversial'.

25. Following a short segment at a job club, Gavin Poole from the Centre For Social Justice is shown stating that since 1997, the number of workless households has doubled. This figure is not challenged. It's down to a demographic shift because the main benefits it would cover did not rise over that period: it's simply that around the same number of benefit claimants live in more households. The audience is left with the impression that unemployment, particularly due to 'workshyness' had been rising.

26. Gavin Poole is allowed to repeat the claim that it is better for many people to be out of work living on benefits. This is not challenged, nor is he asked to provide any evidence. The rest of the conversation between Poole and the presenter is rambling and goes nowhere, essentially agreeing that sanctions are needed.

27. The presenter states that the reason why some eastern Europeans come to Britain is because back home the out of work benefits are so low that you can not afford to live on them. No evidence is provided, but the presenter interviews two Polish men.

28. The men make unqualified statements that are never clarified. First it's asserted that in Poland a jobless benefit claimant would get £150 a month but it's not stated if this is the equivalent of £150 a month or something actually comparable to £150 nominally. This is never resolved but the presenter chips in...

29. "..where as here you might get £150 a week." No single out-of-work benefit in Britain pays £150 a week. You'd have to claim multiple benefits but the presenter fails to investigate and establish just how far Poland's social security actually goes. OECD figures show Poland spends around the same proportion of its GDP on it as Britain does. Poland was previously generous enough with social security that means-testing only for families was only introduced relatively recently, whilst Britain has means-tested for almost the entire time for most benefits.

30. The presenter asserts it as fact that our benefits system is more generous than Poland's, on the basis of a chat with two guys who answered no specific detailed questions.


  1. When words fail-

    Get some rest now,

  2. I am glad I did not see this programme -there is a throbbing vein about to explode even in its retelling-scurillous imbecilic uncivilised misanthropic crap(the programme not your account)


  4. If there's anything the impact assessments can tell us, it's the extent to which the government has not listened to consultation. I might write a post on some of the frankly groundless assertions pushed by the minister in that document.

  5. This from Guardian thread which you may find useful, as it has contact details:

    8 May 2012 4:32PM
    Date: April 26, 2012

    Subject: Inflammatory Media Attacks On Sick And Disabled People In The U.K.

    Dear Leveson Inquiry,

    I am a 55-year-old Disability Studies specialist, stock market trader, and a disabled person (born with cerebral palsy) from Montreal, Canada. For the past several months, I've been reporting to the UN Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SRCPD), in New York City, regarding Britain's Welfare Reform Bill and the plight of the long-term disabled and seriously ill population in your country.

    I've also been reporting to the UN SCRPD on the inflammatory media attacks on long-term sick and disabled people in the U.K. Suffice it to say that The Sun's "benefit cheats" campaign does incalculable harm, slandering genuine sick and disabled people by implication and likely is a contributing factor to the rise in disability hate crime (physical and verbal attacks). I've read numerous benefit articles, and on no occasion have either Lord Freud or Disability Minister Maria Miller made an effort to defend the reputation of the genuine sick and disabled—the vast majority of whom are not benefit cheats. (When I e-mailed Maria Maria on February 28, 2012, I received an auto-reply but never a formal response. I had requested that she send the offending newspapers—the Daily Mail also has published similar benefit cheat stories—cease and desist letters.)

    The recent revelations (the undue influence of the government on the press) from this Inquiry beg the question: Did the government merely "endorse" The Sun's benefit cheats campaign or did it impose it?

    I humbly request that the Inquiry not reject this brief letter outright due to my perceived lack of standing in British affairs. This blog piece (, which also contains a recent letter that I wrote to Minister Chris Grayling, adequately summarizes my background and involvement in the fore-mentioned crisis. I firmly believe that my fore-mentioned concerns are justified and need to be heard, even though I reside across the pond.

    Thanking you for listening.

    Samuel Miller.

    Samuel Miller
    Blog: Hephaestus: Disability Studies
    Blog: My Disability Studies Blackboard
    (Montreal, Canada)

  6. Thank you for that Samuel. Someone in that thread complained about your post being deleted. It doesn't break the community guidelines as far as I can see and I see it was your first CiF post. Don't be discouraged from conversing on CiF in future.

  7. Arec

    I posted the comment from Samuel Miller here because I thought it would be useful to you and your readers.

    Sorry for the unintended confusion.

    I think CiF considers any comment which contains email contacts or links to personal websites and blogs as spam - however clearly this is not the case.

    I also think they consider comments posted to be their personal property and hate the idea that people might join together to talk behind their back.

    Again, sorry for not being clear and best wishes in all your endeavours.

    - Atomboy