Smoking cannabis, orgies, illiteracy and fifteen children: this is the common perception held by society of those claiming benefits from the state. But exactly how often are these stereotypes an accurate reflection of what really goes on behind the closed doors of thousands of vulnerable people in the UK?
I’m a young woman-and I’m proud to come from a hardworking and forward-thinking family. And yet, when I reveal to peers that I was raised on benefits for a good number of years, the reaction is usually one of shock and horror-“But you don’t seem like that kind of person”, they’ll say, usually over sharpening a pencil or highlighting a textbook.
But what exactly is that kind of person? Is there a type?
According to the Sun, the Daily Mail and other such propaganda, the answer is yes. And if you were to turn to one of these sources in desire of an informed opinion, you’d most likely be sorely disappointed to stumble across something like this:
So why do so many people take this as the truth? After all, two pages further in, we’re faced with bare breasts, photo-shopped images and misogyny.
The reality is this: anyone can trip over the hurdles that life throws. For us, we became financially insecure when my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer; malignant melanoma. Up until that point, my mum had always worked. We were never rich, but we had enough to get by. I’ve never known a more decent and hardworking woman.
Receiving benefits was never a case of “playing the system”. In fact, the not-so-grand total the Welfare State payed for a mother to look after a terminally ill man and an eight year old child was £70 a week. It’s hardly the idealistic, luxurious lifestyle that is portrayed on the TV dramas..
We were just unlucky-along with the other hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants in the Isles. Disabled, mentally ill, carers: these are the vulnerable in society. And we have, as more fortunate citizens, a duty of care and social empathy.
I’m not-for one minute-proposing that there aren’t those who play the system through sheer idleness: but they’re a tiny minority, magnified by a right wing press on behalf of a Tory government. If anything, why aren’t we more concerned about the multi-billion pound corporations that dodge millions of tax a year?
The truth needs to be exposed.
I’m a product of Benefits Britain, a caring sixteen year old with a great sense of justice and social responsibility.
One day, I would like to change the world.
Thank you for reading! As always, I welcome and encourage comments, regardless of our similarities or differences 🙂