Angry campaigners have accused the BBC of jumping on the poverty porn bandwagon with a new show which has parallels with the Hunger Games.
‘Britain’s Hardest Grafter’ will pit benefits claimants, migrant workers and people on the minimum wage against each other in a competition to see who can work the hardest. One of the aims of the show is to answer the question: ‘Is the benefits system providing many with a reason not to work’.
The BBC is currently seeking participants for the programme and offering a cash prize to the winner of £15,500, equivalent to a year’s income on the minimum wage. The 25 chosen contestants must currently be getting wages or benefits totalling not more than £15,500 a year.
They will then battle against each other in a fake factory built by the BBC with licence payers money. The least productive workers will be expelled in each episode until only one is left standing.
The BBC has denied that this is exploitative entertainment designed to mock the poor and reinforce ugly stereotypes. Instead they claim that:
“The series will tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low?
Is the benefits system providing many with a reason not to work or hindering their working opportunity?
Is the hidden truth about immigrants simply that they work harder than Brits – and we need them as much as they need us – or are they simply prepared to work for a lower wage?
And have the young simply not inherited the work ethic of older generations or have working conditions just got too hard? Who in Britain still knows how to graft? It’s time to find out.”
The claim that this is somehow a scientific examination of social issues is a jaw-droppingly cynical piece of marketing.
In reality, ‘Britain’s Hardest Grafter’ is simply an opportunity to steal ratings on the back of stirring up more prejudice against young people, ethnic minorities and anyone struggling to survive in austerity Britain.
A petition against the programme being shown has gathered 13,000 signatures on Change.org.
Meanwhile, Benefits and Work is hoping to see a cast of 25 recently unemployed MPs being chosen to do a hard day’s graft, possibly for the first time in their lives.
Source – Benefits & Work, 29 May 2015
A Citizens Advice leader in Hartlepool say benefits claimants are struggling to survive while they await the outcome of appeals.
Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau says more and more sick and disabled people are getting into debt while they wait for an answer from officials for their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claims.
Research found some claimants are left without money as they wait between six and 14 weeks for the outcome to a second opinion from benefits chiefs.
And the advice service says switching claimants to Jobseeker’s Allowance while they wait for a decisions is costing taxpayers almost £30 million a year.
Joe Michna, manager of Hartlepool CAB, said:
“We see very many people coming to us with problems about Employment and Support Allowance.
“The mandatory reconsideration process (review process) is leaving people desperately battling living costs.
“The system is confusing and many people do not wish to claim Jobseekers Allowance pending the outcome of their review request as they do not consider they are fit for work.
“To claim Jobseekers Allowance a person must be fit for work.
“People we advise cannot see the logic of claiming Jobseekers Allowance when they are challenging a decision on their medical fitness for work.
“We’ve seen increases in personal debt as people fight to get by.”
Changes to the rules on getting a second opinion came into force last June in an attempt to improve the process by making decisions quicker and better communicated.
But a Citizens Advice survey of 200 of its advisors found an increase in claimants contesting fit for work decisions, difficulties in claimants being able to contact the Department of Work and Pensions and problems due to delays.
Mr Michna added:
“We need to see as p urgent financial help now for people caught in the appeals process.
“We are joining the national Citizens Advice campaign to have the current system reformed.
“People should be able to continue to claim ESA until the outcome of their review and subsequent appeal if the decision is not changed after the first stage review.
“Employment and Support Allowance still has a long way to go to prove it is actually fit for purpose.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 06 Mar 2015
The Guardian is reporting that payday loan comparison sites are hiding £75 charges for their services in their small print and are specifically targeting benefits claimants.
Visitors, who often do not even get a loan, are having the money taken from their account and their bank details passed on to up to 200 other payday loan brokers, who may also try to take money from the same accounts.
In August alone, Nat West says that there were a million attempts by payday loan brokers to take money from customers’ accounts.
Astonishingly, the scammers are usually authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, who have given over 5,000 licences to payday loan brokers before actually beginning to check up on them.
According to the Guardian:
“NatWest said it is seeing as many as 640 complaints a day from customers who say that sums, usually in the range of £50 to £75, have been taken from their accounts by companies they do not recognise but are in fact payday loan brokers.”
The banks also claim that scammers:
“. . .push their charges through bank payment processing systems between midnight and 3am, knowing that state benefit payments are added to accounts just after midnight. When the person living on unemployment or disability benefit wakes in the morning, they find their money has already vanished.”
Source – Benefits & Work, 29 Oct 2014
Scottish National Party (SNP) Press Release:
The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK government for failing benefits claimants with mental health problems.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate today [7 May 2014] on Improving the Employment and Support Allowance application process for people with mental health problems, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP will condemn the UK government’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for its shortcomings with regard to people with mental health conditions.
According to a Freedom of Information request, in 2013, 58% (6 out of 10) ESA claimants hit by sanctions were vulnerable people with a mental health condition or learning difficulty – an increase from 35% of sanctioned claimants in 2009 – indicating that people with mental health problems are being inappropriately sanctioned.
Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:
“The UK government must do more to help some of society’s most vulnerable people.
“I have seen an increasing stream of people with quite serious mental illnesses over the last couple of years who are falling through our now very frayed social safety net because of Welfare Reforms. I’m sure it goes without saying that many people with a mental illness won’t ever need to depend on the benefits system. But some of those with more severe mental illnesses do require support, and some of them are extremely vulnerable.
“A key problem is that too often assessors and decision makers have little or no relevant background information about claimants’ complex medical histories, and too rarely seek input or opinions from claimants’ clinicians.
“A report recently published by the Scottish Association for Mental Health, SAMH, details findings on how the experiences of living in poverty affect peoples’ mental health, and how SAMH service users with mental health problems have been affected by UK government welfare reforms. A truly shocking finding was that 98% of respondents said that welfare reforms were impacting on their mental health, including increased stress and anxiety, while 79% were facing financial impacts such as reduced income.
“In six cases reported to the 2013 survey, SAMH staff had to carry out suicide interventions directly related to the welfare reforms.
“The information is there in black and white, and the UK government cannot continue to ignore it.”
> I’ll bet you anything that they can…
Source – Welfare News Service 08 May 2014