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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

Xenia Tue 09-Apr-13 13:46:20

That's the debate. The right would say policies which force the poor to help themselves work much better at taking people out of poverty -0 as indeed Thatcher achieved. We have never returned to the poverty of the 1970s. Living standards are much better for all since we had those policies in place.

I genuine don't see why there are more disabled people now than there ever were when medical advance increase, 90% of down's children are aborted etc etc. Surely there should be many manyfewer people with disabilities. I think 25% of those claiming have depression and I know that lack of good foods and sunlight and moving makes people more depressed I suppose the diet of junk food and never getting of a chair has in part increase the mental illness rates.

fuzzypicklehead Mon 08-Apr-13 17:56:00

jennywren no, I never said the surviving kids wouldn't be screwed up by what happened. What I said is that it isn't ok for anybody to decide to kick bereaved youngsters when they're already down.

flaminhoopsaloolah Mon 08-Apr-13 14:55:26

Medical advances can get rid of permenant disability can it? Would you mind naming a few, Xenia?. Perhaps there are more people on disability because it has been realised that some conditions that are debilitating mean in reality for the person suffering form them that they cannot hold down a job no matter how hard they try.

Most people on disability, who are able to judge their position with a reasoning mind, would swap places with an able bodied person any day.

letsgetreadytoramble Mon 08-Apr-13 09:11:34

Ah, a house building programme etc - I can see the queues at the job centres decreasing before my eyes.

Not really sure why you think advances in medical science would reduce the number of people with disabilities - 20 years is not a long time in the world of medical science. Don't insult disabled people by implying that, if they suddenly got a miraculous cure, they'd still claim their benefits.

Most importantly Xenia, in the words of Suzanne Zeedyk, practical solutions are not achieved when we focus on who is to blame. Moral debate typically distracts us from being effective. Solutions are more likely to be achieved when we focus on how to lift ourselves and our neighbours out of misery. Poverty is not inevitable and it is not about punishability.

Xenia Mon 08-Apr-13 08:21:23

The Tories have a house buidling programme etc and Labour certainly has not created the climate for wealth creation - if you take over half of what people earn away they stop bothering to create jobs. Labour high taxes did nothing for the economy.

Apparently 1 in 17 are on disability benefits - 3 x when they first came out and yet medical advances surely mean fewer not more people are disabled. They obtained them until the rules change for life often without future assessment - that was plain stupid as plenty of people recover quickly and should be off them right away.

Other countries are cutting benefits and instead our benefits are going up by 1% and rise every single year when workers' pay has been dropping sometimes by 20%.

letsgetreadytoramble Mon 08-Apr-13 07:53:05

Interesting point about helping people out of dependence Xenia - funnily enough, one of the best ways to do that is by stimulating the economy so that more jobs are created - that is one of Labours main aims. It is most certainly not the Con's aim. Their rhetoric is all about making things 'fair' for people who are currently in work - there's nothing about creating jobs for those unfortunate enough to be in receipt of benefits. So if you truly do want to help people to get off benefits and into jobs, you'd be better voting for the party who actually want to achieve that.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 19:39:45

And how do you suggest making work pay, Xenia? I can't see the likes of Tescos and Starbucks wanting to pay a living wage any time soon....

Xenia Sun 07-Apr-13 19:15:59

It's wise to have confidentiality clauses because yo do not want people at your premises telling others about all kinds of secret things from formulae to prices to internal business matters. You are very unwise if you have anyone to work for you without imposing confidentiality clauses.

The deaths of the Philpot children are very very sad and I am sure their parents did not intend them to die. No one suggests otherwise . However it has certainly helped all political parties to see just how many people are in favour of reduction in benefits - it is a massive vote winner in all surveys at present. If some good comes from the deaths it may be that the system is changed to mean that work pays and we can help people not into dependence but into independence and having to make their own way which is much much better for people than the current system which simply keeps them down.

Darkesteyes Sun 07-Apr-13 16:31:42

Xenia i just caught your comment about the Philpot case being "a brilliant case for benefits"

That has to be the most despicable thing ive ever seen on this site.

Darkesteyes Sun 07-Apr-13 16:26:38

Xenia i wasnt talking about a normal employment contract. I was talkiing about workfare.
You said most people are in favour so if thats the case A4e would NOT need claimants to sign confidentiality clauses.

Xenia Sun 07-Apr-13 14:36:00

IDS says most people who lose their job claim benefits for 1 - 2 years on average. Most people agree that your past national insurance contributions should support you in such a case. It is the longer termed unemployed which are the bigger problems and the fact we draw state pensions for 30 not the 3 years we used to. Hence my retirement age is nearly 70 I think and will get older and older as time goes on.
There seems plenty of support for limiting benefits to two children although Philpott could have had 2 children with 10 women all living separately so that would not help - we might need to link it to one child per parent perhaps.

practicality Sun 07-Apr-13 12:26:12

flam I totally support the welfare state and the system in the sense that it was set up -as a safety net but not as a life style choice.

For families who fall on hard times then they should be fully supported. Absolutely.

I think if you choose to have a child/Ren whilst on benefits then that is wrong. You are adding strain to a system already overloaded and as such shouldn't be supported in, frankly, what is a choice.
Vouchers etc could be offered in this instance or a harder line of -this is the limit of support offered -two children.

I should imagine that the vast majority of people on here are recipients of government support in one way or another, or have been, whether they have had jobseekers, working tax credit or child benefit or any of the other sources of support for their families. A lot of people have limited their families in line with their limited incomes.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 11:31:21

However, being on benefits does not make me want to have more children, milk the system or set fire to my house and yet I am a product of the benefits system too at the moment.

It didn't do it to me, either, Jake. I used to dream about being about to get a full time job that paid enough so I didn't have to claim - I used to dream about having my self-respect back.

I'm beginning to wonder how many of the people I've encountered on here in the past few days who are; lumping claimants in with Phillpott; and calling for cuts; and saying taxpayers are being fleeced; and everything else they're saying about claimants being lazy and not trying hard enough, have actually been on both sides of the fence and actually know what they are talking about.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 11:13:21

That was supposed to be:

...that I WOULDN'T do it - apologies for the glaring typing error.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 11:12:11

People generally modify their behaviour depending on their financial limitations

To a point. To suggest that people generally modify their behaviour ad infinitum depending on their finances is ridiculous and oversimplifying. Psychology is way more complicated than that (even someone like me without a degree in it knows that psychology is not purely based on environment alone). I KNOW that if tomorrow, someone said I could have £60,000 for life free if I just killed a couple of people or so and was guaranteed to get away with it, that I'd do it. Why? Because I'm not Mick Phillpott, that's why, or any other sociopathic/psychopathic narcissist with absolutely no moral compass what so ever. And for every Mick Phillpott there are several like me - decent, honest, caring.

JakeBullet Sun 07-Apr-13 10:56:12

...and flamin you are right...that is WHY we cannot have a knee jerk reaction to this despicable, abusive and controlling man because he is massively outweighed by those who are on benefits through no fault of their own and who are not like Philpott.

People can look all they like at others and say "why isn't he/she working, why are they on benefits"? Fact is that unless you are living that person's life you cannot ever truly understand why.

People might well look at me, single parent, one child (autistic) and wonder why I am not in work when other parents with similar children manage. All I can tell you is that after several years of not enough sleep I began to make mistake after mistake. I had to leave before I made a major error of judgement. If I tell you I was a nurse who specialised in child protection you will understand why.

However, being on benefits does not make me want to have more children, milk the system or set fire to my house and yet I am a product of the benefits system too at the moment. This is why the headline was so lumps everyone who has to claim benefits in with an abusive man who would have behaved in the same manner regardless.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 10:38:25

Practicality - what would you do with those families who fell on hard times (partner has an accident, job losses, some other unforeseeable disaster) and have more than two children? They most certainly can't be blamed for having more than two children as a means to get more money now can they? Or is it just tough luck for them - funding for two children only while you desperately try to get back on your feet and through lack of money have the barriers to work fall down one by one as you have less and less money to do things like, oh, get to the job centre etc etc?

Xenia Sun 07-Apr-13 10:38:19

Dark, have never seen an employment contract in my life without confidentiality clauses and I have seen a vast number over 30 years. It is an employment contract without one which would be the aberration.

I was asked "If most people as you say are for benefit reforms and in favour of workfare (as you suggested on another thread) then why do A4e and their ilk make workfarers sign confidentiality clauses."

Most people are not on work fare or unemployed. Most people work or are pensioners so the Government of the day has to keep workers and old people happy if it want to get elected which is what tends to drive Labour and Tory policies.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 10:33:49

Practicality - then I apologise and am sorry you have direct experience. However, to equate this man with what is wrong with the benefits system is simply wrong. He's a small minority and this is the governments perfect golden opportunity to tar anyone who is completely or partly reliant on benefits with the same brush and drive them further into a hole. Wrong. Very very wrong. People who take the piss will do it no matter what walk of life they are in - the overwhelming vast majority of people who have to claim benefits are honest and don't want to be there

practicality Sun 07-Apr-13 10:16:01

flam actually I do have direct experience.

practicality Sun 07-Apr-13 10:13:12

I totally agree darkesteyes that he was abusive. He was a violent unscrupulous individual who financially abused his partners too.

An abuser with violent tendencies shouldn't be given the option to raise children in that environment. Unfortunately, he was funded in his choices and harmed as a result.

I don't believe he had children because he really felt a 'calling' but because they afforded him a certain lifestyle and an ability to control the women he was with.

If the money wasn't available allowing him to sire more children than he was able to even part support, it is plausible he would have made different choices. Evidence from other countries seems to support this.

People,generally,modify their behaviour depending on their financial limitations.

The actions of somebody who has a genuine concern for his children's welfare is not to ram them in sardine like and carry on procreating in already overcrowded circumstances. It is not with the children's interests in mind that already exist to continue having more with already vastly overstretched means. He was unwilling to make any effort to support them through work himself and his care for them was lacking from the accounts given in court.

I would like one day for it to be possible that a violent abusive person is considered not to be an acceptable person for children to live in a household with and that we actually do something about it.

I think limiting resources to two children in future would be, potentially, something that would affect change. Obviously not for the children that already exist. Maybe one other way would be to provide vouchers for clothing/food/fuel etc that have to be used to support the children the money is for. It would be less open to abuse.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 09:55:06

Practicality - you are completely oversimplifying the situation. You clearly have little to no idea about DV and what it involves. Phillpott is vile, unhinged, arrogant, selfish, dangerous, narcissistic. Beneftis did not make him that way - it's who he is. And frankly I'm getting sick of people focusing on what benefits his children got that he stole. He's an abusive bastard and would have been an abusive bastard no matter which path he tread.

flaminhoopsaloolah Sun 07-Apr-13 09:50:33

Can I make a suggestion? Perhaps it is better to simply ignore certain people who obviously actually have no clue about real life (except for those who are lucky enough to be working 60 hours a week in a job that obviously pays way more than the national minimum wage so they can afford the, what was it? 14k for childcare a year) outside of their own blinkered reality?

If a working mother on NMW worked 60 hours a week (and good luck finding the hours) she would earn approx. £360 a week before tax and NI - hardly enough to pay that 14k in childcare without having to rely on free resources and, oh yes...benefits.

BagCat Sun 07-Apr-13 04:33:38

Well said Darkesteyes, custardo etc.

It is ugly to see the horrific abuse this man doled out, being ignored in favour of trying to grabbingly calculate how much benefits he might have claimed those times he abused whilst not in work (because we're not blaming benefits for those times he stabbed women whilst in employment, are we? And we're to discount the fact that both women worked, yes? Two of the many facts that don't fit in with the 'benefits to blame' theory.).

This thread is chock-full of hypocrisy, post upon post haughtily ignoring the facts of the case like they don't exist and somehow attempting to nail the comments of the judge (who was privvy to all of the evidence) as being opinion. Oh yes. We are discounting all of that, in favour of a deliberately slanted newspaper headline? Really?

And it's not about left or right either. It's about understanding the basic, black and white facts, and not trying to desperately create invisible links to fit the prejudices which already exist in the people who are attempting to make those links.

On that note, I bow out of the thread as I find comments supportive of this 'benefits theory' completely vile and they only serve to detract from the fact that a vengeful man took the lives of six of his children.

Darkesteyes Sun 07-Apr-13 02:17:45

practicality his reason for having children was to use the women in his life being continually pregnant as a means of controlling them
Im getting really fucking pissed off with the domestic abuse aspect of this case being brushed under the carpet.
And only last year people were wondering how Savile got away with his crimes for so long.
Philpott targeted 14 year old girls too.
With the Philpott case society is brushing the domestic abuse issue and the fact that these children were killed under the carpet and focussing and frothing and pearl clutching about benefits.
With the Savile case he kept offending and getting away with it for years because people were focusing on his celebrity.
Philpott case.....blinded by benefits
Savile case .......blinded by celebrity.
When is society going to wake the fuck up?!!!

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