Benefit Britain 1949: Episode 3

The third episode of Benefit Britain 1949 did not disappoint. Three candidates put themselves forward to a week on 1949’s benefits. This week presented 19-year old rapper, Ashley, an unemployed mother-of-three, Vanessa, and Mike an unemployed forklift driver.

Ashley had never had a full-time job and had turned down offers. He was a so-called NEET (Not in Education or Employment or Training). In 1949 he would have been expected to get a proper job but his lazy attitude meant that he turned down offers from 1949’s Welfare Office. He originally said: “In 1949 I do think life was simpler because they didn’t really have all the stresses and worries that we have today.” Obviously in 1949 we were not overcoming the economic stress of a war then? Or developing the Welfare State? That said, in the end he pulled his socks up and worked alongside builders and gained an apprenticeship saying that he know knew he needed to financially and mentally support himself. Ashley said: “I think the methods in 1949 were pretty affective.” because the government worked at getting people back to work.

Mother-of-three, Vanessa, had not worked for 14 years and had no intention of going back to work due to suffering with a bad back from the manual work she had previously done. The benefit system of 1949 did not take kindly to the so-called scroungers of 2013 and gave her very little money to look after herself and her family. She proved she had severe back pain hen she went back into manual work and managed only a two hour shift. The following day she could barely move, and I have to say I sympathised with her. She seemed genuine and I would hate to think of my own mother in that position. It turned out well in the end though. She ended up in an office working part time, her smile said it all. She was beaming and well dressed, complete attitude change and more money in her back pocket.

However, the person I felt the most for throughout this episode, was Mike, an out of work fork-lift driver. He had not worked for nearly three years and his confidence was at rock bottom. He seemed to have given up on his working career and as only just into his forties. He said: “I feel like I have just been chucked onto the rubbish pile.” He would search for jobs day in, day out and never find anything close enough for him to go for an interview. He went for one day trial, at a factory, on his fork-lift truck and his whole outlook seemed to have changed.

It is true what people say; working, doing something useful and bringing home money, makes you feel more worthwhile. All three of this weeks candidates had changed their outlook and really looked forward to working and doing something positive with their time.

The series has uncovered a lot of things that we should learn from 1949. perhaps means-tested benefits would be a more economical way of doing things, deciding who needs and not simply who wants them. The biggest thing we can take from the series though, is that people need support getting back into work, where their confidence is low or they simply doubt themselves and what they are capable of doing. 1949 taught us that everyone is capable, and everyone has a place.


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