Benefit scroungers or society’s victims?


The perfect celebrity face for the Sun’s recently launched “war on benefit scroungers”, Sun columnist and TV presenter, Jeremy Kyle, has been praising the UK coalition’s austerity cuts and effectively positioning himself as its Benefits Czar. Whatever your view of Kyle, what his TV show does highlight is staggering levels of nastiness, unpleasantness and general bad behaviour.

On the rare occasions I have watched the program, my thoughts have not been with Kyle and his bullying but with the unfortunate, vulnerable people on it. Some seem to want to change but just do not know how. Others seem content in their intransigence. They don’t all appear the victims of laziness or alcohol, however, but of a lack of education, self-worth and access to counselling to help them understand their self-destructing lives.



Whatever the case, it’s safe to say they have received little effective assistance from teachers, social workers and state agencies. But for me, Kyle isn’t really the issue. The point is how can these people be helped to help themselves? Kyle himself has said it’s a sad indictment of our society that for some their only real chance of counselling or rehab is through his TV show – one sponsored by internet bingo and subsidised by ambulance chasing and debt consolidation adverts!

Welfare in the UK is a problem, but policy needs to be set by experts not hacks. The system needs to be tightened and people need proper help without making themselves worse off. But it’s not all about making savings; for example, the disabled and carers need more help and support. They and the newly-unemployed certainly don’t need wealthy, middle-class talk show hosts to make them feel worse.

But perhaps in the spirit of fairness, Kyle should focus on the feckless rich too. For instance, a daytime show on bankers, who can’t handle the responsibility and run to the government for handouts to support their failing system, and non-dom tax dodgers (swindling more than all benefit cheats) who oppose welfare unless it’s to bail them out:

”So Tristram, you really think you can continue like this: cheating the country, robbing decent, taxpaying working folk to maintain your obscenely wealthy lifestyle? You think you deserve massive bonuses for playing with people’s lives and not be held responsible? For pinning society’s failings on the poorest? You’re the one supposed to be setting an example, what sort of example are you?” But no worries – it’s only the poorest, most dysfunctional who get the contemporary Bedlam tour treatment.

Kyle should stick to what he’s good at: perhaps he’s frustrated with his limited role and wants to make a difference. I predict he’ll eventually become a Tory MP. But Benefits Czar? About as likely as Dawn French going on a crash diet.


Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code ( available at Amazon. Profits to Cudeca



CAPTION: Jeremy Kyle






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