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Fear and Scrounging

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never actually watched it before (and with good reason), but having my breakfast I just accidentally caught five minutes of BBC’s Saints and Scroungers. My god, I just had to put finger to key and mash!

In about half an hour I have to catch a bus to town to do my shopping; how do I know there won’t be some DWP private dick hiding in a car watching me. How do I know he won’t be filing a report saying “well, he can walk and carry shopping, clearly he can work!” That’s the point: who else is the target audience but the daytime unemployed. The people the media criticise for consuming daytime media. Be afraid.

In the space of the five minutes I exposed myself to, I have gone from calm to shit scared. This is what this awful propagandist populist (you can tell, it’s hosted by Matt Allwright) rubbish has done to me. This is what black and white Third Man style stock ‘reconstruction’ footage of investigators with long lenses or sat in cars with clipboards has achieved. This is the aim: to create a sense of fear. This wouldn’t be out of place in a Philip K Dick novel: it’s almost pre-crime.

It’s easy then to imply that there are 100% of scroungers in the system because 100% of the ‘scroungers’ on the show are guilty. That’s what you are expected to think and to take away from this. You are meant to infer the same conditions in the real world: that 100% of claimants are scroungers.

Most of it seems to be pointless ‘reconstruction’ shots: the investigative montage, the closeup of a pen ticking a box the representation of the correct procedure of reporting things to the DWP. There’s even a DWP man on hand to recount the tale, in a tedious clipped monotone, of one particular scrounger who dared to claim while cleaning windows. Now to be fair, I had to switch off at this point because I couldn’t tolerate anymore of this fascist nonsense. It may be that the ‘scrounger’ was secretly trafficking children through his vast underground network of murderous window cleaners while claiming JSA as a front.

Or it may be that he just wanted to get on with his life and have a decent bit of money in his pocket. Compared to the likes of Eon, Amazon, Starbucks, Vodafone, and the countless array of corporate filth and rich scum that avoid and evade millions I can’t really find it within me to castigate this evil doer.

Yet the programme has served its purpose; make me scared. Frighten people from claiming what they might well be due, never mind breaking the law. Compare and contrast; that’s the point. Here’s a young lad that’s struggling to look for work (though they choose to show footage of him playing xbox with his cousin) who, no doubt, succeeded in the end (again I switched off). Then here’s another scrounger. The saints look all the more divine and the scroungers look all the more greedy and heinous. That’s the idea – and all it takes is a bit of elbow grease (though not cleaning windows) determination and diligence and you’ll succeed at finding a job. Though the real message is there’s now one less job in the economy thanks to that kid getting a job.

Never mind a flatlined economy. Never mind austerity. Never mind divide and rule. Never mind that the labour market is nothing but short term morsels and not careers and vocations. Just keep on applying. Do some workfare, we’ll call it work experience. That way people can see how committed you are. It’s the race to the bottom live on your screen.


  1. I went through a really bad phase of this when I had to finish work. I was convinced that I was being watched.

    My physio has encouraged me to do short periods of exercise to halt the muscle wastage. I receive a news booklet from the organisation that administer my care, and there was a photograph of a disabled person being helped to do a little gardening. I can sit in a chair and do literally a couple of minutes; that's all I can do, but if someone photographs me, what then?

    I also go out to meet friends once a month, but if someone is in the pub that I don't know, I get scared that I'm being watched. It's obvious that I have a disability, but in people's eyes, if you're fit enough to go to the pub, you're fit enough to work. What they don't see is the state I'm in weeks after going out. I can hardly walk because of my last trip out 3 weeks ago as I can't straighten my legs. Really, that's just when I should go out perhaps, then they can really see what agony any physical effort causes me.

    But do you know; I feel now that even when people do see the evidence of your illness before their eyes, the propaganda over the last few years has brought about much prejudice and jealousy. After working most of my life, why shouldn't I be able to go out now and again, or have a bottle of wine at the weekend? As a chronically long termed disabled person, does this mean I'm expected to stay in and live a subsistence for the rest of my life?

    A friend of mine is in a terrible state at the moment; he daren't leave the house because he thinks he will get into trouble with the DWP. He has severe social anxiety problems in any case, but to add to that, to stop him going on the odd day when he can psych himself up to it is disgraceful. I told him that nowhere in the disability rules does it state that disabled people cannot leave their home. Today, for the first time since just after xmas, he has gone to visit a very ill friend in hospital as his friend supported him in the past. I'm glad, but I wish it could have been to do something that he finds pleasurable.

    I'm saying this, but I too have been put off doing things in case I get photographed. You could be doing something that you're only capable of doing for a minute or so, but a photograph of it suggests that you care capable full stop.

    It's bad enough coping with long term illnesses and all the accompanying suffering, the continual care/financial/physical assessments that now take up most of a disabled person's life, without also facing being stuck at home for the rest of your life.

    1. This society is cruel to the overly sensitive (or just the sensitive). I udnerstand entirely what that's like.

      There are two modes in society: the unfit and the fit for work and you are only one or the other. There is a vast gulf inbetween where real life fits that the system cannot seem to approach. To be the former, you have to be laid up in bed with obvious evidence of an understood malady, otherwise you are the latter. If that's the case whatever problems and issues exist in your life are ignored: I can go to the shops (even if i feel wobbly doing so) therefore I can hold down a stable job day in day out. That too crosses an enormous gulf.

      Where the likes of the Work Programme should be helping they instead seem happy to abrogate their responsibilities. Instead of support which I suspect they know they cannot give they throw it back in your face " well what are YOU doing about your issues?". We pay them money, we have a right to expect some help.

      In the end the message seems to be that you should sink or swim on your own. Support is a sign of weakness.

      I've no doubt there are things I could do, but again that's not the same as holding down a stable job. For instance why can't I get support to work from home, for example? Is that so unreasonable in the 21st century?

      The pursuit of work is entirely reactive; the unemployed are at the whim of a labour market itself at the whim of economic hurricanes. How is that any place to put people who need help or are merely unemployed? What protects them from the turbulence therein? If people across the land are already being made redundant, how does it help them to just toss them back into that storm?

    2. Yes, there's a vast chasm of being able to work and absolutely not being able to work (although the changes to all the names of the disability benefits in my estimation suggest disability denial).

      And, we should be encouraged to be able to do something! When the idea of UC first came out, and believe me, I'm NO Tory or Lib supporter, I thought to myself, 'hey, perhaps now and again then, I could do a little from home'. The gov made out that people like us, could do a few hours a week, and this certainly would have encouraged me to at least try.

      For example, I was a trained musician with a degree in music, and I could possibly teach from home for perhaps an hour or two a week; the only problem being that sometimes I could be completely laid out for weeks after a spasm.

      Apart from that, I have developed my art, and people really like what I do. It is very very painful for me to do it, and I perhaps am only able to do a very small canvas about 4 times a year. I give them away though because to even admit to doing that, might suggest that I am in fact fit to do some kind of physical job. I've not recovered from doing my last canvas in November lol so I can hardly sustain even a part time job.

      But if the DWP were to support me in my venture, I know that I could sell my canvasses. It wouldn't bring me much income, only perhaps a couple of hundred a year, but that would be something to help replace household items (like my washer that's about to conk).

      I've said before here, I actually get a decent income from ESA/DLA (for now at least), but I have to hand more than half back for my care, and now an extra £100 a month for bedroom tax. Earned income for care purposes however is disregarded. I can also earn £20 per week, but it has to be 'approved work', and I don't think art would be approved do you?

      I know that you've also tried to do something creative at home, albeit that it's hard for you in your present circumstances with all the worry (it's sapping my creativity completely). Why do the DWP have to make it so difficult for people to aspire to something? I wonder what would happen if they completely changed tack, and offered support and encouragement for people to find something they'd like to do, not something they're forced to do?

      We have millions of unemployed and millions of disabled people. Given the right set of circumstances, those millions of people could change this country's whole situation. But yet again, we have people consigned to the scrap heap. When it's obvious that these millions are not going to find work, a citizen's income, given in return for doing something either in the community or pursuing a project at home, could end this constant fear/divide/rule.

      In one Scandinavian country, I think it's Sweden, a person with an arts degree gets a guaranteed income for the state so that they can pursue their art; otherwise, it would only be offspring of rich people who had the chance to paint, compose, write, sculpt etc. Taxes are higher, but their education and welfare programmes are far superior to ours.

      Whatever vision the UK had, it's just gone. We're 'stock' as far as they're concerned to be prodded along to nowhere. It's not going to stop me from at least trying to do something though. My illness dominates at present however, and I'm fit to do nothing, only type a few words here and there.

      Thanks again; I always enjoy your posts.

    3. Sweden, if that is the place, is indeed a very switched on place in that case. That would be something we could introduce here; I think i've mentioned something similar before. There could be an archive of the work of 'unemployed' artists and the like that could be paid for on subscription or something. It's not rocket science (if we must put a price on art, as that's the way of the world it seems). Such people could easily contribute to society, as the paradigm demands. Yet such ideas are not even tabled.

      The reality is that there are a lot of people, myself included I fear, that will never be part of this society. Until this fact is recognised and accepted (and not exploited) nothing will change.

      The DWP are no help at all. The first thing peopel realise when they deal with JC+ for the first time is that they are not there to help. At best they are administrators and clerks. Even including services such as Work Psychologists they still don't have anything. I still wonder what a Work Psychologist actually does as it could have been very helpful. Ultimately claimants are left to their own devices and still expected to thrive in the labour market, yet the JC+ are all too happy to find fault and criticise your performance. The Work Programme is so obviously no better. The only thing you can say about that is nothing: it does and offers nothing.

      The problem with welfare reform, or even UC, isn't its aspiration, no matter how lofty. It's that it's ideological and that it's hiding the real motive of the tories which is to further manipulate and massage the claimant count.

      I asked the WP about working from home. They didn't have a clue.

      Thanks for the reply.


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