Being a man of leisure, I am now able to further my career as a writer of letters, or "emails" as they are now known, to institutions. What follows is the email I have just sent to the BBC concerning their programme The Future State of Welfare with John Humphrys.
The Future State of Welfare with John Humphrys chose its interviewees, not as a representative sample of the UK's population, but in order to confirm commonly held prejudices about the kinds of people who are supposedly "being given something for nothing in this country", unrepresentative of the vast majority of claimants but always brought up in conversation by people who are well off themselves and not interested in finding out the whole story of who gets welfare and whether it is, in many cases, enough to live on.
There was the newly immigrant family who are receiving an incredibly high amount in housing benefit for a spacious, extremely habitable looking flat in Islington. This panders to the prejudice we hear time and time again of immigrants jumping to the front of the housing queue and living in expensive properties.
There was the single mother with seven children living on benefits which panders to the prejudice that thousands of young women keep giving birth just because they know they'll be looked after by the state no matter how many children they have.
There was the woman on incapacity benefit living with ME, or "yuppie flu"as the prejudiced might say when asked what sort of people are getting benefits when there is nothing seriously wrong with them.
The programme did not qualify as impartial, saying that there was a consensus amongst political parties in the UK about welfare, ignoring the millions of people who are not represented by the main political parties. The programme looked for welfare solutions from the USA, hardly a good example for the eradication of "squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease" which was the aim of the Beveridge Report.
Opinion was taken not from just America but also from young Poles working in this country who were of the opinion that welfare in the UK was too generous as compared to Poland where it is not possible to live on state benefits. Nothing was said about poverty in the UK and the difficulties millions of people have making ends meet not just on welfare but on the poor minimum wage and above. Although two of the interviewees said it was not worth their while working because they would end up with very little more in their pockets, the obvious solution of a higher minimum wage was not mentioned. It was all about making life more miserable for people, not about giving them a decent standard of living.
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