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Guest blog: The Daily Mail implies that the Philpott tragedy is the logical outcome of 'benefits culture' - shame on them.

(160 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 03-Apr-13 16:01:13

In a guest post today, MN blogger Rachel Coldbreath responds to today's Daily Mail front page.

Stop the press! Life's certainties have been updated. They now include death, taxes, and the Daily Mail trotting out a dollop of poorly-written hate speech, directed against the most vulnerable group imaginable.

On top of their already dreadful burden, today the Philpotts' surviving children have had to look at a front page that proclaims that they were 'bred... to milk the benefits system'.

We can only guess what must they think about their place in society and their worth to anyone. They are not alone in suffering as a consequence of these headlines, though. The Daily Mail's focus is as much on the notion that people on benefits are 'evil', as on the terrible crimes of the Philpotts and their friend Paul Mosley.

With the Mail insisting that Philpott's 17 children existed to 'net him £60,000 a year in benefits' (that figure is the Mail's), it is easy to lose sight of the fact that a large part of those benefits were for the care - the feeding, the housing, the clothing - of his children. Rather than a life of tax-payer-funded, sextastic Riley, the Philpott's living arrangements look more like crushing poverty.

They lived in a three bed semi with a third adult, Lisa Willis, and her children. Before Willis left that house (taking her children with her), there were three adults and eleven children living together. Even if we assume that the arrangement was cosy enough that all three adults shared a bed, that leaves two bedrooms split between eleven children. I am not sure under what circumstances this setup would be regarded as adequate housing. I am certain that it would not be regarded by any sane person as an incentive to stop working.

When Lisa Willis left the Philpotts' house, the DM informs us that she took with her 'more than £1,000 a month in benefit payments'. We are supposed to think this is an enormous amount of money. It's worth doing the maths here: between Willis and her five children, that £1000 is £166 per month, per person.

Each of those human beings was living on about £37 a week.

Yet the Daily Mail's headlines on this case suggest that murdering six of your children is almost the logical outcome of receiving benefits. As if people who are unemployed or poor for other reasons (disability, illness, being a carer for a sick relative), are an evil-eyed bunch, dodging their responsibilities, churning out children as fast as possible and, behind dirty net curtains, plotting their deaths for fun and profit while raking in great drifts of creased notes.

These headlines are perverse primarily for the fact that they paint Philpott's unique wickedness as an inevitable result of the system designed to pick us all up when we fall. And most of us fall, at some point.

Even as I type this with the BBC News channel on in the background, the presenter has just asked Ann Widdecombe: 'to what extent is [Philpott] representative of people on benefits?'

I am fed up to the back teeth with this rhetoric.

Anyone can lose their job. In fact, with the goverment eroding employee rights it becomes more likely every year. The job market is small and ferocious. Even if you are willing to take a zero-hour contract or part time work. 1,700 people famously applied for eight jobs at Costa, recently. There are 2.5m unemployed, and the government is cheerfully trumpeting about having created a million jobs, many of which are part time and of little help to people with children to feed (and 140,000 of which are people on unpaid internships, training schemes, apprenticeships and workfare schemes, and therefore still receiving benefit), while demonising the 1.5m people for whom there simply is no job.

The Daily Mail is singing backing vocals against the main melody coming out of the Palace of Westminster, from both leading parties. We hear of 'workers and shirkers', 'strivers and skivers'.

What we don't hear about is the people who are too ill or too disabled to work, or who are trapped in a jobless state by having to care for others who are. We hear about people dropping off the disability benefits list - always couched in terms that suggest that they were there fraudulently, never that their condition may have improved. We don't hear about people's already difficult lives being made impossible by the 'bedroom tax' and by ATOS assessments. Westminster and press rhetoric are complicit in the steep rise in the number of hate crimes and attacks against the disabled. We don't hear about that from the Daily Mail.

We don't hear about the people who are on benefits because they work, but are simply not earning enough to survive. Nearly a million households are in this position, and this group forms the majority of benefit claimants.

We don't hear about the people desperately searching for work, and failing to find it.

What we do hear about is the 120,000 'troubled families' the government is investing money in. We hear about the 190 families (out of a population of 56 million) with more than 10 kids, who are on benefits.

And we hear about Philpott. Not in the context of his being a violent human being who knowingly ended the lives of six of his children in order to 'get back at' a woman; but instead we hear him described in terms of how much welfare he took.

It is worth pointing out that the DWP's own figures place benefit fraud at 0.7%. There is little doubt that Philpott himself was in that 0.7%. He was a healthy man who simply did not wish to work. But to hold him up as an example of a whole class of people, the majority of which are on benefits AND working, is a vile trick to play on society. Its effects - not just on the poorest in society, but on us all - are profound. We are sold the same story again and again: that poverty is a choice and it is an immoral choice. That the poor are therefore immoral. That we should require them to suffer for having made this choice, that poverty is not sufficient punishment, they should also, as a class, be loathed.

This attitude fractures our society at its most fundamental level: the assumption that everyone else in it is a human being, that a stranger who falls in front of you on the street should be helped up, not kicked as you pass by.

Finally, I would urge you to read this excellent piece by Ricky Tomlinson. If only there were more like it.

Rachel Coldbreath spent 20 years working internationally as a technical specialist for law firms, before becoming disabled. She blogs on a variety of topics - from the news and politics, to gardening and how very annoying it is being disabled - over here. She tweets @Chiller

FrubesOnTheCouch Wed 03-Apr-13 20:17:46

great post

mercibucket Wed 03-Apr-13 20:26:43

shame on them and those who agree with them

moondog Wed 03-Apr-13 20:31:17

I look forward to the time when Mumsnet puts up a sticky from a blogger with an opposing view.
Nah, thought not...... the George Foreman grill effort is about as challenging as it gets.
Not quite as morally indignant but equally important

nancerama Wed 03-Apr-13 20:54:14

There have always been awful, depraved, evil people in the world. There were no benefits in Victorian England, yet the debauched underbelly of society is well documented. That the benefits system should be blamed for what happened to those poor children is disgusting.

nenevomito Wed 03-Apr-13 21:09:58

I'm a hardworking mother who gets disability benefits. I've never wanted to screw someone else over so badly that I end up killing my own children.

That's not because I work full time, therefore somehow negating the evil nature that claiming benefits bestows upon me.

It's because I'm not an abusive, murderous cunt.

I'm a hardworking mother who gets disability benefits. I've never wanted to screw someone else over so badly that I end up killing my own children.

That's not because I work full time, therefore somehow negating the evil nature that claiming benefits bestows upon me.

It's because I'm not an abusive, murderous cunt

me too, babyheave, well said

letsgetreadytoramble Wed 03-Apr-13 21:39:52

Excellent blog - we all need to raise our heads above the parapet with regard to this topic in order to prevent society becoming all about the rise of the individual - I don't see the point of existing as a human being if I don't support others who are less fortunate - it's morally reprehensible (to say the least) to make people on benefits feel even worse than they already do.

ReturnOfEmeraldGreen Wed 03-Apr-13 22:28:24

I am thinking about lodging a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission, but I have looked up their code online and it is about much use as a chocolate teapot. Anyone else done this or considering it?

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Wed 03-Apr-13 23:53:40

Great blog, we need voices raised to counter the insidious rise of hate in this country.

"I'm a hardworking mother who gets disability benefits. I've never wanted to screw someone else over so badly that I end up killing my own children." me too I thought i was the only one in the world, after all the media tells me people like me don't exist!

Shame on us for daring to be disabled and continuing to exist. I see people judging me everyday... And talking to me on very different ways depending on what they decide I am.

Am I a dirty freak show disabled scrounger who is a bottom feeder at the deep dark depths of society? Or am I a valued, productive professional who therefore can't make people understand how ill & crushing my life is?

I feel like 2 completely different people, and both aren't great places to be.

ReturnOfEmeraldGreen Thu 04-Apr-13 00:07:05

I did complain to PCC after all, identified 7 breaches of code. If anyone would like a copy, pls feel free to PM me.

mamakirsty Thu 04-Apr-13 06:14:18

It beggars belief. shock
what an awful publication! One would think these people were actually educated.
What kind of social agenda is this?
A vile human was responsible for killing his children ... not his income or how it was received! This is absolutely disgusting "

Great job highlighting this!!! May it long last till they see sense and apologize for being so juvenile and disgusting

insanityscratching Thu 04-Apr-13 09:22:17

Great blog post. Shame on the DM for treating the deaths of six children so shabbily and shame on their readers and advertisers for supporting them in this.

katett77 Thu 04-Apr-13 14:20:50

Excellent article highlighting the never ending 'bashing' of the welfare state.

The Mail using the deaths of these innocent children and the case of a psychotic sexual predator to further this attack on the welfare state is truly hideous......

FantasticDay Thu 04-Apr-13 14:37:42

Just as an aside, if anyone would like to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about the DM tarring tens of thousands of people struggling to survive on benefits due to unemployment or disability with the same brush as this degenerate man then there is a link here:

FantasticDay Thu 04-Apr-13 14:40:20

Return of Emerald Green - yes, I have. I think the Mail violates 1i of the code by being misleading and 1iii by conflating opinion and fact.

FunnysInLaJardin Thu 04-Apr-13 15:01:48

very good post OP, very concise. I can't bear this divide and rule tactic by the govenment

SarahHillWheeler Thu 04-Apr-13 16:19:03

Thanks FantasticDay, agree. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell difference between Daily Mail front page and Daily Mail spoof. However, real tragedy is how these children died, nothing to do with benefits.

Xenia Thu 04-Apr-13 16:57:33

Most people in the UK want things done to remove the benefits culture and the DM seems to have caught the spirit of the nation despite the views on mumsnet.

letsgetreadytoramble Thu 04-Apr-13 17:17:53

You can also sign this petition to boycott the Daily Fail for blaming the Philpott killings on the welfare state -

Philpott is quite probably a sociopath / has sociopathic tendencies that has bugger all to do with the welfare state.

The death of those children did not occur because of the welfare state.

SunnyCarrie Thu 04-Apr-13 21:08:39

You would not believe how offensive the Daily Mail feels to people like me,disabled since birth, unable to pull my own pants up etc.I have genuine compassion,perception of others struggles,have a degree in Psychology, took uni finals whilst having my latest annual major surgery and belive in trying all out whenever and however I can.I have great compassion for tax payers struggles,the system is unfair to them occasionally ,and I am tuned in with the plight of the unemployed but most of all I am so desperately worried for all groups of children who are affected by this feeling of hatred towards others,who are learning to be incredibly dark,self opinionated individuals who may one day need compassion themselves and find they are in a world of terror to even go outside. The UK should feel ashamed,thank goodness for this blogger and other mumsnettets.I am scared,scared when am in and out of work,terrified when my organs and joints are attacked over night and I have to return on benefits and have major surgery,terrified when am working because I need DLA to have someone help in the loo and I am yet to meet those that really grasp this is one of several benefits given to individuals in or out of work. I am terrified for my two year old who has a mother that is frightened to be seen smiling or trying to play in the park with him,frightened to meet others,we don't go to parent and baby groups where I need a carer to help me get out with my son and then because we will be judged by the healthy as being scroungers. Sometimes I consider giving my son to my doctor sister and taking an overdose of my morphine, I would give up all my money ,sallary or benefits to just feel compassion and support but to be honest I feel I need to protect my child..I don't know if one day we will have to hide under floor boards because we are not far off from the hatred of Jews in the World War Two, the propagander machine has been rolling and working nicely, line up the masses to hate minorities and what on earth is the next step?!?

Xenia Thu 04-Apr-13 22:17:53

Ah my calculation that he got £91k of income before tax equivalent (£60k net) was off the mark. In fact is it £100,000 equivalent. this must stop. Even the new benefits cap is far far too high ad £34k of before tax income.

"Killer father Philpott banked cash equal to wage of £100,000

A jobless father facing jail today for killing six children in an arson attack received the equivalent of a £100,000 salary in benefits and wages that he forced his wife and mistress to pay into his bank account.

Mick Philpott, a violent drug user, spent most of his days watching television in the home he shared with his wife, Mairead, his lover, Lisa Willis, and their 11 children.

But the former soldier, who fathered 17 children by five women, had the only bank account in his household, so all benefits and earnings were paid to him.

Philpott and his wife set fire to the family home in Derby in an attempt to frame Ms Willis and secure a larger council house. The exact amount received by Philpott has not been disclosed, but the manslaughter trial at Nottingham Crown Court was told that he lost £1,000 a month when Ms Willis moved out of the family home with her five children.

Philpott had been receiving £20.30 a week child benefit for the eldest of the 11 children in the house and £13.40 for the other ten, totalling £8,023.60 a year. His wife and Ms Willis had cleaning jobs. According to the HM Revenue & Customs website, his wife, with six children, was entitled to up to £20,560 a year in tax credits, and Ms Willis to up to £17,870 a year, totalling £38,430.

So Philpott, who had not worked since 2004, could have been receiving up to £46,453 in benefits as well as his wives’ wages, which could have taken his “income” to about £60,000 a year. Housing benefit covered the estimated £150-a-week in rent for the three-bedroom house — a further £7,800.

Working tax credits and child benefits were paid tax free, meaning that Philpott’s account could have been similar to that of a man earning about £100,000 a year, putting him in the top 2 per cent of earners."

Dawndonna Thu 04-Apr-13 22:44:13

Most people in the UK want things done to remove the benefits culture and the DM seems to have caught the spirit of the nation despite the views on mumsnet.
Empirical evidence for your statement, please.

AnAirOfHope Fri 05-Apr-13 00:47:06

Xale i do not agree with you. I do not want to lose the welfare system.

The money was to house, clothe and feed the children. How much would it cost the government to have fostered these children? You cant stop people from having children as its a human right to repoduce.

Would you be ok to see children homeless living on the streets begging for food and blankets? Because you want to cap benefits to two children so parents must chose with child to feed and which to make homeless or put into care as they cant afford them?

Where is the money to pay foster carers, build childrens homes?

These will lead to civil unrest, crime and a brakedown of sociaty.

Its the same as “One German killed Jews so all Germans want to kill Jews“ it wasnt right then and this is not right now. People on benefits dont have children to get more benefits, most people would not set fire to the house their children were asleep in.

Xales you can bang your drum as often and as loud as you like but you will still be wrong.

AnAirOfHope Fri 05-Apr-13 00:48:19

Sorry iphone my post was to Xenia

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