Benefit claimants without a past or history wanted. Really.

A few thoughts:

I was at a thing last week which had a media session.

One of the speakers made a pertinent, but dispiriting, point.

The speaker said that it was important to make sure that people who received benefits didn’t have a problematic past if they decided to speak to the media – that those people didn’t have a history of fraud, or unsavoury behaviours that the rightwing might dig up.

It’s a line that depresses me. A lot of the people I interview have a past. Everybody has a past. My own past wouldn’t stand scrutiny at all. With the people I interview – there can be drug and alcohol problems, jail records, histories of broken relationships, a list of jobs started and lost – all kinds of things. Life is harsh. It gets a lot of people.

The main thing these people have in common is that they don’t have any money. They don’t have the sort of money you need to paper over cracks. They don’t have rich parents to live with when a job goes, or money for smart lawyers if they get caught dealing, or stealing, or whatever.

Point is – these people are utterly excluded from public conversation, for the very simple reason they don’t measure up in a spotlight. They’re thought to make the social security cause look bad. That angers me.

The political class, meanwhile, bursts with fraudsters – thugs, crooks, charlatans who flip houses and bullies who don’t declare properties and don’t pay tax, and all the rest. They get a free pass on it all.

Nobody tells that lot to avoid the limelight.

This is really starting to irritate me – the rules regarding who should and shouldn’t be heard.

73 thoughts on “Benefit claimants without a past or history wanted. Really.

  1. I used to have lots of skeletons in my cupboard, but I can no longer afford a cupboard, I had to sell it to pay my Council Tax.

    • Lol trev I will have to remember that one, as a practicing minimalist I also felt purged when I sold my possessions.

      • I once found a real human skeleton (or parts of several skeletons to be more precise) in a bin liner in the basement of a flat I’d just moved in to, but that’s another story….

          • I was there 9 years. The bones were subsequently examined by a forensic archaeologist Professor at Bradford Uni, who said parts were Medical skeleton, parts were not, and there were fragments of 3 (or 4?) different skulls. They said to take them to the hospital and ask for them to be incinerated, and that the Police wouldn’t be interested as there’s loads of old bones kicking about out there. I gave them to another student who was studying forensic illustration. I though if I threw them in a skip I might spark a murder hunt! they had been placed there by another tenant who was a sculptor and who made theatrical prosthetics. Funnily enough, several years later the Police did search my garden twice looking for remains of a missing local woman killed by sick narcissist and all round weirdo Steven Griffiths (aka “the Crossbow Cannibal”).

          • !!!!!!!!

            At least you didn’t find a nerve agent when you moved in.

            I found a bone by the river at low tide. I’m told it’s from the leg of a horse or cow. I keep it on display in my flat.

      • I should have said I sold my landlady’s cupboard to buy some Crack (JOKE!) I’m sure the Rightwing press & muckrakers would have a field day with my chequered past!

        • What do you want crack for? (JOKE) I’d rather spend the money on a £9 breakfast!

          I don’t think my landlady’s wardrobe is worth anything because it’s the cheapest piece of plywood in the world, covered in cracks (not the drug!) and dents and makeshift repairs. It’s literally falling apart.

  2. Totally agree, not many people truly come without baggage of some kind.

    Danial Blake did the same thing with portraying the main character as almost saint like and therefore worthy of our empathy, Implying in effect that there is also sub class of the undeserving.

    I am generally seen as undeserving when I express my views, I have been accused on more than one occasion of sullying the righteous cause.

    The left can be equally as snobbish as the right in my experience and those caught between are just pawns, useful to a point.

    It is often it is those who have all this baggage that bear the full brunt of austerity and often have the most interesting and harrowing accounts to tell about how really fucked up the whole system is, if the mainstream media is ignoring them then no one really is getting the full picture, just a sanitised version.

    • Society as a whole seems to have become a lot more judgemental, and it’s just hypocrisy; “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    • This sanitized attitude also extends to the world of job-seeking. Apparently it’s fine to include sports, or even watching tv, among your hobbies & interests on your CV, but not good to mention your interest in the subjects of esoteric Occult philosophy, the Paranormal, Spiritualism or UFOs, as that would be too “controversial”, or so I’ve been told by various employment advisers. Why is it that social taboos exist applied to what a person may or may not be interested in? And who gets to decide? We’re expected to conform to dominant cultural constructs, and those who don’t are seen as transgressors who are then ‘othered’ & marginalized.

      • You could break the mould. Put your real interests on your CV. Perhaps it’ll make you stand out from the crowd.

        If they won’t give you a job because you’re interested in the occult, they clearly have far too many CVs to choose from.

        These rules about what to put on your CV have really proliferated since the days when it was difficult to find staff.

        • Yes and the point is that people, or society, is fundamentally judgemental. It would be perfectlyaccptable to say you have an interest in Graphic Art, & Design but not good to say that you’re very interested in crop circle formations. You could say that you have an interest in History, but not in Past-life Recall, or you’d be judged. All these social taboos by which people can be undermined, ridiculed, ignored, or not taken seriously. Like with Corbyn and his allotment, though no one took the piss about Heath’s yacht. Anyone differentattracts scorn & criticism.

          • My friend has a real personality disorder, but she doesn’t have unusual interests. She has difficulty dealing with things in daily life, like sleep, housework, food, differences of opinion… Personality disorders are complicated things, but they’re not to do with having unusual interests. Someone with unusual interests is an excentric.

          • Well I can say is my mistrust of NHS extends to the mental health service both do more good than harm in the long run.

            Another scandal just broke near me Aston hall where a doctor could have abused thousands of children after putting them in straitjackets and using a paralysing truth serum to render them helpless.

          • I wondered if you’d mention that scandal, actually, Sourchimp.

            My friend and I both use the NHS and its mental health services, so we both know that it is largely good and can be trusted (although it should be easier and faster to GET services and the administration is patchy). I saw a psychiatrist in June and she was excellent!

            Sadly, it’s not the great practice that makes the news.

          • We can’t win, can we? Whether it’s unusual interests or spending too much in a restaurant. As they say, you can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.

          • Actually Alison I was told tha t having strange beliefs is part of Borderline Personali ty Disorder, the Doctors don’t believe in things like Astral Travel and so assume tha t you’re either imagining it or making it up. They think O.O.B.E.s are just disassociative panic attacks, but I’ve experienced both and they are comple tely different things.

          • I have always been interested in metaphysics.

            I love dreams where I am flying, I feel a strong wind blowing towards me then I run forwards and dive then I am up on the air flying using breast stroke motions rather than flapping the arms, always feel invigorated and happy after those dreams.

            Then I have those moments where I am falling and wake up startled.

            I also have those occasions when your brain wakes up but the body doesn’t and feels like I am paralysed. Scary at first but now when it happens I just relax and wait for my body to kick in, one time seemed to last a good 10 mins or so.

            Astral travel ? Demons on my chest ? Mental Health Issues ? a glitch in the matrix ?

            All I know is pills which are often given as a solution cannot answer any those questions and just suppresses them.

          • Sourchimp, what you’re describing is the effects of cannabis use on your dreams, thoughts and emotions.

          • What I am describing is the experience of many people throughout the world and ages and has nothing to do with drugs at all.

            I mainly had these dreams when I was younger and slowly grew out of them.
            Cannabis can aid sleep, it does not disrupt it, like say alcohol does.

          • OK then. I stand corrected.

            I did have more nightmares as a child and they were more vivid. I guess I grew out of them too.

          • It’s definitely nothing to do with drugs, I began Astral Flying at age 9. Since then have had full-on O.O.B.E.s , one time floated above the bed and observed myself sleeping. I have also noted over the years that when out-of-body the light switch doesn’t work. It feels like you are pressing the switch but the light doesn’t come on. I have also walked straight through a closed door in this state. I have also consciously visited the past on several occasions whilst out-of-body, in one case meeting my former self in a past life. So obviously I am crazy/insane/delusional then, so where’s my sick note? The Doctors say it’s all in the mind but won’t put their money where their mouth is and give me sick note. they can’t have it both ways. Either I’m delusional or I’m not (and I know I’m not).

          • I have tried to astral travel through lucid dreaming but I just fall for dreams hook line and sinker. I have also tried to unsuccessfully to consciously astral travel using meditation.
            I do not dismiss the idea it is possible from my own experience and probably quantum mechanics could even explain the science behind it.

            If you were called as a defence witness to sort of crime the prosecution could bring into question your evidence and credability for your beliefs painting you as some sort of lunatic but yet if you were a Christian it would only be brought to the attention to show how credible and reliable you are.

          • YEs, but in an Eastern context such beliefs are entirely credible,in Indian /Tiber tan Hinduism/Buddhism for example. It’s all down to Cultural context.

          • Most Asian people already have a job and work very long hours compared to British people. Even in school, Asian families have their children do long hours of homework and extra study. My classmate’s Indian mum had her do maths every single day of the Christmas holiday. She was only 9.

            “Child Genius” was won by a girl of Indian heritage for 2 years in a row.

            I would guess that employers notice their hard work and high qualifications and then don’t really care what they’re interested in in their spare time.

          • Adventurous nightsAlison , it doesn’t happen often, certainly not every night, such experiences can be years apart.

    • I think that “I Daniel Blake” was an extremely good and accurate film, because it really showed the complete lack of empathy which exists within the DWP (except for the one person who tried to help and was rprimanded by the supervisor). There were people crying when they came out of the cinema.
      As Kate has pointed out, our political class gets away with murder (literally), abuse, fraud, and at any one time nobody can tell the lies from the truth.
      We are supposed to believe that 2 people were injured (followed exactly 4 months later by 1 injured 1 dead) by a military nerve agent. This has dominated the news for 5 months now, yet the 450 plus deaths at Gosport Hospital have been forgotten by the press – how did that happen? What is happening with the Grenfell Tower enquiry where scores of people died, most probably because of corruption where politicians were involved?

      • I watched “I, Daniel Blake” with my fairly new partner. He kept glancing at me during the movie. At one point I paused it (we were streaming it) and said, “Why do you keep looking at me?” He replied, “I’m waiting for you to say something like, ‘This is a bit of an exaggeration'”. I carefully explained that, although I was only on JSA for a very short time while appealing an ESA decision, my experience of the benefits system as it applies to people who are disabled/chronically ill is very much like the film shows. He looked at me in a way that made me think he didn’t quite believe me.

        8 months later he came to my PIP assessment with me. When I got the report back, he read it. Then he apologised to me. When I asked why he apologised, he said, “All this time I’ve been thinking that you’ve been exaggerating how the benefits system treats people, out of anger, or maybe just to be a bit dramatic. Now I know that you were completely truthful, and I’m apologising for not believing you.”

  3. Everyone has a past, some don’t like their past and try to keep it hidden, many MP’s couldn’t get credit to save their lives that’s why they have Ministerial credit cards.

    • Yes Credit cards are useful tools to have when they need something to buy then chop up the coke with.

      Drugs are rife in parliament about time they were also regularly drugged tested, recently they found some crack in the home office toilets.

          • You’re lucky they don’t give you a drug test in order to claim your benefits.

          • There has been talk of the same thing in the USA. For the record, I don’t support it.

          • They’ll be doing it soon here then and if so it will cause further chaos and hardship. Unless of course that would mean that anyone tested positive for illegal drugs and disqualified from JSA would by definition be entitled to a Sick note? They can’t have it both ways! There are lots of people forced to signing on who ought to be on the sick.

          • If someone is receiving treatment for drug addiction, a benefit must be available to pay bills. Employers cannot hire known drug addicts for health and safety reasons.

          • Ive known someone who was an alcoholic & heroin user with a DV T who was on JSA signing on as fi t for work, and not surprisingly was Sanctionsed.

          • They did start drug-testing benefits claimants in the US. It’s unclear whether it’s worth it.

      • A couple of years ago a PhD student at one of the London unis did a study. I saved the pdf, but I can’t find it (grumble). Anyway. It turns out that 97% of the card scanners in the sample of London buses they tested were positive for cocaine. Huh.

        • If one million people ride a London bus over the fortnight between cleaning, it’s not surprising if one person’s card had cocaine on it.

          While we’re on the subject of immigration, drugs mules ride the buses too, you know!

          • Alison your the only one really that keeps bringing up the subject of immigration. Majority of drug mules bringing drugs into the country are generally UK citizens.

            Prohibition has never worked and is responsible for many of drug related problems such as gang murders.

            Overnight many of these problems would be solved if regulated sensibly but too many people in power have too much lose.

            The UK had the largest ever cocaine seizure recently weighing two tonnes – valued at hundreds of millions of pounds. It never even put a dent in the supply of cocaine.

  4. Anyone delving into my past would be bored stiff after 5 minutes then in tears in 10. No criminal activities, no deeds of heroism just wading through everyone else’s mire trying to survive. Was it worth it you may ask, no is the answer to be honest but I am pleased in a strange way that I have thus survived so far by my own wiles and ways but not sure anymore that I was right and maybe should have let go long ago. I think it’s called survival.

  5. I agree, the point made was a pertinent, if somewhat dispiriting.

    However, when in such a situation surely any journalist worth their salt could also dig up some juicy bit of scandal attached to any right-wing wannabe ‘moralist’. Most of us have things we would rather not be common knowledge, and sometimes those who seem to think themselves better than the rest of us need to be reminded that sleeping dogs are best left as such, or some other apposite metaphor.

    • The problem I have is that those rightwing arsehats DO get away with it even when people find out what they’ve been up to. What happened to Jeremy Hunt and his accidental/forgotten purchase of luxury flats? He was rewarded with the foreign office. He should be chained up somewhere in a foul correctional facility.

      • Um, yes Trev, indeed *grins* I’m sure the sleeping dogs would enjoy the bones too, once they’ve woken up!

  6. If media don’t like comments from unsavoury people, why do they report what unnamed DWP spokesmen say?

    Westminster has recently gained some additional anonymity for any of their ‘genuine mistakes’

    Even if there were such a genuine person, would they not try to spin it or misrepresent it or plant an undercover seduction cop

    “corrupt, corrupt from the bottom to the top and they tell me it’s the law” (nick burbridge)

  7. Recently a chap called Alex started a food bank challenge on twitter how he was suffering because of Universal Credit, after a few celebs took up the challenge he quickly started to gain a lot of followers and exposure, as this was happening a media outlet picked up the story and interviewed him to run a story. In between all that someone exposed his past with threats to kill people at his local mosque ( he was a Muslim convert and suffering from mental health issues). So the media outlet did not publish his story. Cannot remember if they eventually did his stories do not get the exposure he would have if he were squeaky clean.

    • Had the story been published, it would have raised A LOT of comments about Muslims being in Britain. I’m not sure that would have been a positive outcome from the point of view of anyone who’s opposed to racism. I expect the issue of Universal Credit would have been forgotten or would have turned into “immigrants stealing our benefits”, especially if the Daily Mail/Daily Express/Sun got hold of the story.

      • Hi Everyone, Alex here. Thanks for the kind comments. I saw this as it was sending traffic to my blog. This is a fascinating article.

        SourChimp the New Statesman decided to publish it in the end as I was so open about my past.

        I’ve learnt to ignore the trolls and now have been published in New Statesman, search “My Universal Credit Diary” the BBC ran my story as the top story on news at ten and now a few others.

        After they researched the case and actually spoke to me they decided it was ok. I have a past which I’m very open about. I made a mistake and now I just have to prove people wrong.

        I now include my past with the link to my article explaining it in detail if people ask for my thoughts. They can then make their own informed choice which I totally respect if it’s too much.

        People aren’t perfect and this media perception we must be in my opinion is misrepresentative.

        Anyway I’ve rambled but solidarity with you all.

        Alex @RespectIsVital

        • Thanks for filling in some of the blanks Alex and glad to note you finally got through the morality filters.

          If karma were a currency I would say you have paid your debt many times over by the good work you have done with your foodbank challenge, highlighting the flaws in the cruel benefit system and joining in the fight against the DWP and associated cronies.

  8. My past (and present) are full of things that people would raise eyebrows at.

    When I was a teenager I shoplifted, once, because I realised that I’d never done anything illegal (yeah, I was a weirdo).

    I did a bunch of drugs as an undergrad, but I now realise (after a ton of therapy) that I was self-medicating and trying to escape memories of trauma.

    I slept with a couple of people I wish I hadn’t, back in the day, including my friend’s partner (cringe).

    I still vape, even though I’m on benefits, but I just can’t seem to kick the addiction to nicotine. I’ve tried SO many times. At least vaping is less harmful and cheaper than ciggies, right?

    Occasionally I get really depressed and buy a bottle of cheap vodka, which I then drink far too much of. I always feel ashamed of it when I sober up and my mood lifts, but depressed-me doesn’t care – d-m just wants the pain to go away.

    Of course, many people who *aren’t* on benefits do similar things, but nobody investigates their pasts, do they?

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