Opinion: what living on benefits really means

Rachel writes:

Every time I hear the phrase “a life on benefits”, it’s like a slap in the face to my brother, who lives in my spare room while looking for a job. He’s not lazy or a scrounger, he just can’t find a job. As Sarah Teather said two weeks ago

the term “scroungers” has become so pervasive in social consciousness that even those on benefits do not attempt to debunk the entire category, only to excuse themselves from the label.

I asked my brother if he was willing to share what his life on benefits was like:

Jonny writes:

Jonny ColemanI have been on benefits for over three years. I apply to two or three jobs each week, making a proper effort to sell myself as best as I can with each one. It’s a very discouraging task: every role is oversubscribed, and the rare times I get as far as interviews I am always beaten by someone with more recent experience. It’s hard to convince myself each application isn’t just a waste of time.

I have volunteered at a charity shop for over two years, and though this varied and challenging work experience has not led to employment, it is emotionally rewarding and one of the few reasons I have to get up each day.

For food, I buy the cheapest healthy food I can, only getting nicer food when it is sufficiently reduced. For entertainment, I have the computer I use for job applications and the broadband in my sister’s house. I only buy myself clothes from the cheapest shops. I try to save a little from each month, against unexpected expenses such as bike or computer repairs.

I’m always conscious of my restrictions:

  • I can’t go on holiday.
  • I can’t drink with friends in the pub: if I do go I stick to tap water.
  • I can’t eat out more than once a month, and then only in cheap places.
  • I can’t afford train tickets to see distant friends.
  • I can’t go to see shows or films more than a few times a year.
  • I can’t join any club that requires a subscription.
  • I always feel guilty if I spend more than £5 on anything.
  • Though I do manage a life on benefits, it’s not a good life and it’s not my choice to be unemployed.

    Rachel writes:

    I admire my brother’s care with money and his resilience under the constant grind of jobhunting. Even so, I worry for him now that the Benefits Uprating Bill has passed its third reading. A 1% rise in his JSA is not comparable to the 1% rise my salary will see this year, because my starting point is so much better. We’ll both have to absorb a real-terms cut in income, but what I will hardly notice, he will struggle with.

    * Rachel Coleman Finch is a LibDem activist in Cambridge. Jonny Coleman is a LibDem supporter.

    * Rachel Coleman Finch is a LibDem activist in Cambridge. She blogs here

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    91 Comments

    • Although he seems very sensible, it sounds to me like he’s set his standards too high. I am pretty sure you could get a simple job in a factory or as a cleaner and surely that’s better than being on benefits for two years.

    • >and people who’ve already been lucky enough to get some experience on their CV are always preferred over those who haven’t.

      More correctly those already in employment are always preferred over those who aren’t,

      Mike does have point, but in selecting jobs you need a reason for going for something that is outside of your CV. A friend after his business collapsed worked on the shop floor in a bakery for 6+ months, it enabled him to mentally unwind and re-engage with ‘normal’ people before looking for a more appropriate and fulfilling position.

      My suggestion would be for Jonny to take a couple of weeks break from the job application grind to give himself a little space to reflect (you’re entitled to a holiday!). There are probably some things he is doing right in order to get to interview and to potentially be offered a job, the question is what are they and what more is required and hence am I actually playing to my strengths.

      I found it useful to actually phone people up and ask directly for feedback! (Many years of 360 reviews and customer feedback on my projects helps here!) Whilst many will try and avoid your call and be reluctant, if you are professional and treat the conversation as if it were an internal performance review, you can get some useful information, plus it gives you experience of being the interviewer and potentially finding out about other vacancies/opportunities…

      On another point 3 years is both a dangerous and opportune time: Dangerous because most work experience can seem like ancient history but then opportune because it is in the past – does Jonny have an interest or passion (other than applying for jobs) that could interest a potential benefactor/employer? I put no constraints on what this may be, so this could be a project associated with jobs being applied for or something else totally such as writing, the important thing is that it creates the opportunity for new social network connections.

    • Great thread, it shows the reality and why the Bill was so wrong. I wish your brother the very best with his job hunting.

    • “Mike does have point, but in selecting jobs you need a reason for going for something that is outside of your CV”

      How do you get round the simple fact that there are about six people unemployed for every vacancy?

    • James Sandbach 25th Jan '13 - 2:53pm

      Great post – reducing dependency, increasing employment, an controlling welfare spend are all perfectly good aspirations for policy, but we don’t tell the human story enough, if at all…benefits are a literally a lifeline for claimants, whilst also being hopelessy inedaquete and demeaning to live on, but getting from welfare to work is horribly difficult in any circumstance… . The dehumanising of the language we use to discuss these problems has led to a dehumanising of the policy approaches adopted

    • Richard Dean 25th Jan '13 - 3:13pm

      One of the things Jonny appears to be saying is that the present benefits are adequate to live on with the assistance of family. This is a familiar story. But this kind of arrangement should only be a temporary measure. It certainly ought not to be going on for so long.

      It is clearly not Jonny’s fault that there is so little work available. Why then should Jonny suffer from something that was caused by others? It really is someone else’s fault, and one looks in the general directions of government and financial services, and by rights they ought to be compensating Jonny significantly more for the damage hey are doing to his life and career prospects. In a litigious culture, should Jonny be able to sue for damages?

      A question arises – why does Jonny not start his own business? Or become a writer of books, newspaper articles, learn IT programming, etc? Some unhelpful answers bubble up – no money, no opportunities to learn, and any new business is going to compete with someone else and may simply transfer the problem elsewhere. But surely the government has resources to address these issues? It really wouldn’t be all that expensive …

      Over to Vince Cable perhaps …

      Well done Rachel, and Good luck Jonny!

    • @Chris
      >How do you get round the simple fact that there are about six people unemployed for every vacancy?
      Not relevant, particularly when your CV will be one in a pile of 40 plus. Hence one of the reasons why you need to focus your efforts, the other is to reduce unproductive work.
      The bigger problem is that many recruitment agencies have disappeared on-line and so the opportunity to build rapport with a recruiter and have them putting your CV on top of the pile is much reduced.

      @Rachel
      I think you will find that DWP will allow Jonny a holiday if he provides notice. Alternatively as what I was proposing is directly related to job hunting, he should be able to fill out the log/diary accordingly…

      One of things in Jonny’s favour is that he has the family assisting him with accommodation (I assume he is claiming housing benefit) and the daily interaction this brings.

      Something I found very helpful years back was attending public speaking evening classes (even got a LAMDA medal!), the confidence it gave has paid dividends time-and-time again. So basically Jonny needs to be looking at himself and developing/growing even though his career is on hold.

      @Richard
      > why does Jonny not start his own business?
      Good question but there is the small problem of funding, DWP will point him at Businesslink etc. but as soon as he effectively stops job hunting, ie. seriously starts working on his business, they will stop his benefits. So no income until such time his first client pays their invoice – in my partner’s case this was nearly 8 months, during much of this time she was bidding for funding in partnership with her primary client – hence incurring costs which whilst can be set against earnings still have to be paid out when incurred …

    • @Rachel
      Is Jonny in contact with Henry Stewart (http://www.happy.co.uk/) who is a fully signed-up contributor to LibDemVoice?

    • Roland

      The point I’m making is that people can give all the advice in the world about self-improvement and job-hunting tactics, but when there are so many more unemployed people than vacancies the majority are not going to be successful in getting employment.

    • Thank you for all your helpful suggestions, not all of which are new, but the thought is appreciated.

      It’s interesting how much people have gravitated to making helpful suggestions to me as an individual rather than ways to make life on benefits less miserable. Maybe it’s too hard a problem and it’s easier to try to fix the things you think I might be doing wrong with my jobhunt.

    • CP, I am volunteering by choice rather than mandate.
      The charity shop pays only its manager, the rest goes to its cause.

    • Andrew Suffield 25th Jan '13 - 8:13pm

      How do you get round the simple fact that there are about six people unemployed for every vacancy?

      Careful there – watch those numbers! Thought experiment: if the rate at which people obtain and lose jobs are equal, and every unemployed person receives a job on their sixth interview, then how many unemployed people are there for every vacancy?

      That’s not precisely what’s happening, but you need to separate the population into the transient unemployed and the long-term unemployed. Transient unemployment is important for a healthy economy and is not really a problem, but it does inflate that number you’re thinking of. What you want to look at is the number of long-term unemployed and the number of vacancies that could suit them – but these numbers are harder to obtain.

      More correctly those already in employment are always preferred over those who aren’t

      This is true, and this is why the very best thing that any unemployed person with little or no CV can do is to get on an apprenticeship. That’s why Lib Dems in government have made such a big effort to make lots more of these available to young people. It’s not just training, it’s your ticket to getting your next job.

    • @Rachel

      Thanks for the clarification, I was uncertain of the current rules around siblings. My implied point was that if he was getting housing benefit then there would be a little more money coming in. Certainly I was NOT implying that he should live elsewhere, in fact I thought I was supportive and positive of the arrangement you have, as one of the big challenges Jonny has is maintaining his mental health.

      Before children and marriage, I had a regular stream of friends or siblings of neighbours(!) occupying my spare room. The housing benefit was used for food, so for a while I got regular sunday dinners cooked by my neighbour’s wife and at other times by my lodgers. I also got the benefit of often coming back on a friday night after being away all week to welcoming house!

      @Jonny
      Unless benefits were substantially higher, it will be very hard to remove the money pressure that is constantly hanging over you, along with the constant thought “I would like to do that but can’t afford it”. Which is why in part I recommend you need to remember to still attend to you and your development.

      One other observation, I note that on Rachel’s blog she doesn’t include a link to your LinkedIn profile, not much I know, but the important links in your social network aren’t the people you know but the people they know that probably don’t yet know you!

    • @ Rachael: As someone who did a three month internship and had to live off with his sister during that time, I know your brother will really appreciate what you are doing for him.

      As for this, these sort of stories are what we need more of; I use to work for CAB and during that time I met many people who were on benefits for many different reasons and very rarely were those reasons anything to do with a lack of will for work. One would hope should a Victorian view of the world would have died off by now.

      I think that the fact we have come to a place where, it is not just expected, but in fact is basically a requirement for people to now do 3 to 4 months unpaid work after they graduate if they want any chance of a job shows just how broken our country has become. May I ask what kind of work your brother wishes to do? Whatever it is, I wish him all the best with the job search.

    • @ CP

      “The high level of graduate unemployment indicates that the problem is not so much to do with skills, as something else.”

      Quite the opposite, graduates may have “skills” from their courses that is not the same as the skills required in most jobs. After some time in employment graduates become much more employable. Being away from the labour market for a prolonged time harms perception of having the skills for work, as graduates find out.

      This may be affecting Jonny here as the longer you are unemployed the more an employer will fear that you have lost some of those skills (though the charity shop shold indicate this is less likley). That is the reason employers prefer to hire people currently in work, or very recently unemployed.

    • @Psi, very true. One of the major flaws in Labour’s insane 50% graduate policy was that they did not provide education to students about what they should study. They were determined that people should to University, but never provided the 16/17 years doing this with the advice they needed on career development.

      This is how we ended with 90,000 thousand law students a year, but a massive blackhole in our maths and science departments. One of the most tragic results of this is that in a time where is employment is so hard to find, there are a number of industries out there which are actually struggling to find employees and actually have more jobs than applicants.

    • “Careful there – watch those numbers! Thought experiment: if the rate at which people obtain and lose jobs are equal, and every unemployed person receives a job on their sixth interview, then how many unemployed people are there for every vacancy?”

      Six, as I said.

    • Richard Dean 26th Jan '13 - 11:26am

      CANDIDATES MUST ANSWER EVERY QUESTION
      QUESTION 1.
      A thousand and one employable people live in Wonderland, and the working week is six days a week. One person is fired every day – well, even heaven can’t be perfect, and anyway some people enjoy the experience.

      But one person is hired every day too – well, the firing creates a vacancy, you see. Interviews are conducted every day, and the people employed as statisticians have worked out that every unemployed person gets one interview per day on average, and gets a job on their sixth interview.

      So how many unemployed people are there in Wonderland, and what is the unemployment rate?

    • @Richard

      A case can be made for there being on average at least 6 people unemployed at any one time, with there actually being between 1 and 1000 people unemployed on any one particular day – we have to assume that the interviewer is actually employed….

      Regards
      :)

    • Matthew Huntbac 26th Jan '13 - 10:53pm


      Although he seems very sensible, it sounds to me like he’s set his standards too high

      My wife was out of work for three years. Any job she applied for which was below her previous level was in effect met with “you’re too skilled/qualified/experienced for this job”. One job she applied for was actually working for someone who had known her in a previous role, knew her work in that role and thought very highly of her. This person actually said to her “This job is below you, I can’t take you on, you can just walk into a better job than this”. That was one year into my wife’s unemployment. As it happened the person who was employed instead didn’t even really want the job and walked out in a few weeks. So the person who turned down my wife would have had the benefit of her experience at a salary level well below what she thought my wife was worth for at least two years.

      If you apply for a job in a different area than your own as a career shift, you are almost always rejected in favour of those with more direct experience. If you apply in your own area, you are seen as lacking in ambition and hence not worth employing if you go for a post below your previous level. In my wife’s case she did apply for every job going at her level in her area. Every application took several days to prepare, carefully doing research into the exact specialty of the particular job, going over and over again the words in the application. The reality however was that most jobs were going to internal applicants, the public advertising was just a formality. This is what happens when posts are frozen – it may be that no-one is actually thrown out of their job, but if you happen to be out of a job it makes it almost impossible to get back in.


      This may be affecting Jonny here as the longer you are unemployed the more an employer will fear that you have lost some of those skills

      Yup, this was definitely the case.

      why does Jonny not start his own business?

      Yup, we tried that as well. Threw a few thousand into it, but it was plain we would not even recover that money let alone move to making a profit from it. In so many areas now the big boys have it all sewn up. You can’t just set up a business and compete with them when they have the advantage of economy of scale.

    • daft h'a'porth 26th Jan '13 - 11:59pm

      @Andrew Suffield
      “>More correctly those already in employment are always preferred over those who aren’t”
      “This is true, and this is why the very best thing that any unemployed person with little or no CV can do is to get on an apprenticeship. That’s why Lib Dems in government have made such a big effort to make lots more of these available to young people. ”
      There’s a non sequitur right there.
      1. Roland said: The already employed are preferred over those who aren’t.
      2. You suggest: Thus, the unemployed benefit from apprenticeship
      3. You suggest: Thus, the Lib Dems have made more apprenticeships available to the young.

      You seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that those who are not currently employed are bound to be young. It’s nice that the Lib Dems have apparently done something to help 18-25s or so, but people can get made redundant for all sorts of reasons at any stage(s) during their careers, and deserve help at any stage(s) during their careers. They all suffer from the sorts of phenomena described by Roland or Matthew Huntbach: jobless is seen to equal damaged goods by default, they are specialised due to existing experience, are trapped in a niche, employers assume that they can do better and would not stay in underpaid work etc…

      What has this government done to improve the lives, employment opportunities and ability to cope financially or emotionally with their situations of the many motivated, talented, capable people who lose their jobs later in their careers ? I reckon the answer is ‘nothing’ (or more plausibly, ‘a negative impact, due to spiraling cost of retraining, facilitating large-scale redundancy and sneering contempt’, but perhaps I may be pleasantly surprised by a raft of positive measures?

    • Richard Dean 27th Jan '13 - 2:19am

      Why doesn’t Jonny start his own business? … threw thousands into it … economy of scale.

      Vince Cable ought to have been able to help with a bit of finance and a bit of very simple advice – don’t copy. The advice would have been far more important than the finance. If you copy, you will be up against people who have been at it longer, do have finance, and have advantages and economies of several types including scale.

      If you want to start a business, it has to be something that you’ll have customers for, not something that someone else has customers for. You have to like it, or learn to, because it won’t necessarily be you favourite activity. You have look for a niche market where there are customers who want something that they can’t get at the moment. It’s easiest if they know they want it, but sometimes they don’t, so you have to do a bit of market research and testing.

      Also, if you start a business, it’s often best to do it with at least one other person. For morale, to avoid wishful thinking, to increase resources by sharing, to give a bank a bit of confidence, and so that tasks can be split once a niche and some customers are found.

      But, it seems that Jonny is effectively now asking for someone to manage him – Jonny will do what the manager says in exchange for a wage. Probably many unemployed people are like this – I was, until I realised I wasn’t getting anywhere and the only way forward for me was to do that market research.

      If that is how it is for most people, then Vince Cable needs to provide (1) un-serviced niches, or advice on how to find them, and (2) managers. Where will he get the niches from? Well, what else does he have staff for? Where will he get managers from? Other Jonnies I guess. After all, why manage a risky new venture if you’re already employed managing one that’s working?

      So, again, over to Vince for some action, please ….

    • Tony Dawson 27th Jan '13 - 7:59pm

      Rachel is right. Most of he politicians who are contemplating pushing those living on benefits into greater hardship as part of a ‘sharing’ of the pain have little direct or recent personal identification with the realities of life in the UK based upon that level of income.

      Like Rachel, I have saved the state Housing Benefit for a couple of years, by housing one of my brothers in my spare bedroom when his income was low. It means, of course, shared heating, TV licence and water charges as well as real social support. Only a small fraction of those who are unemployed are able to benefit from this.

      Ono of the problems of a horse-trading Coalition is that measures which disproportionately hit the poorest, which would probably not be passed by a majority of MPs in a free vote of Parliament, get pushed through.

    • Daniel Henry 27th Jan '13 - 8:32pm

      I’ve been in a similar position to Jonny for the last three years. Been hopping between low paid jobs and benefits. The lack of jobs makes it difficult, with ones I’d have walked into just a few years before now being really competitive. I’ve gotten lucky now, an opportunity landed and now I could be comfortably set. Still makes my eyes narrow when people casually blame unemployment on the unemployed themselves.

    • Daniel Henry 27th Jan '13 - 8:39pm

      Jonny, I’m sure you’ve heard more than enough well-meaning advice in this thread, but since no one else has put this case forward, let me share my own experience.

      I personally think that the best thing you could do is to build up a wide range of contacts, let them know your situation, and that’s your best bet to eventually getting a job. My evidence for this conclusion is as follows:

      1) When I was on JSA, I went to a presentation session where they showed the statistics of people leaving JSA. Apparently about 20% found a job through the usual avenues, compared to 37% who found a job through inside contacts.

      2) My own best opportunities have ALWAYS been through knowing an inside contact. My mum and dad assisted me getting places in their schools, a fellow Lib Dem had work for me in his own small business. My eventual job was as a political assistant, not directly employed by Lib Dems I’d worked with in the past, but I’m certain that a fair few must have put in a good word for me. Having inside contacts don’t garauntee you a job, but they often lead to rare opportunities within this very closed job market.

      3) When I talk to people in managerial positions, I’m often shocked to see that they’re finding it hard to find the right staff. I would have thought that it’s an employer’s market, but still many struggle to find the ideal candidate for their needs. Employers need you more than you realise, they just haven’t gotten to know you yet. The more personal connections you make, the more you get word out that you’re available, the sooner word is going to reach someone who’s going to be extremely glad they found you.

    • Matthew Huntbach 27th Jan '13 - 9:31pm

      Richard Dean

      Why doesn’t Jonny start his own business? … threw thousands into it … economy of scale.

      If you want to start a business, it has to be something that you’ll have customers for, not something that someone else has customers for. You have to like it, or learn to, because it won’t necessarily be you favourite activity. You have look for a niche market where there are customers who want something that they can’t get at the moment.

      Oh, for heaven’s sake, you really don’t get it , do you?

      As it happens, the small business my wife tried to start up with my assistance WAS in a niche market we had identified. Perhaps if we had pushed harder and thrown more money into it, we could have got somewhere.

      The first point is that we are now moving from the original suggestion that anyone who is unemployed could start up a small business easy-peasy, they are lazy slobs if they do not, towards accepting that it isn’t that easy, you do need a lot of skills and expertise, wisdom and intelligence, to manage that tricky part of identifying a niche market. Perhaps all of us aren’t given such skills. The rise of big business DOES mean that areas where in the past a small business could have been set up are now more difficult, for example, the sort of small shop that in the past many did set up now cannot compete with supermarkets, big on-line traders etc. The sort of specialist niche market where a small supplier might be able to thrive tends to be dealing with wealthy people who can afford to pay the extra for something a bit unusual. So if you don’t come from a wealthy background, don’t have the links to be able to work your way into that sort of community, how are you supposed to do it? Some ok-yah type sets up a specialist business providing quality goods to fellow ok-yah types, and then says why can’t kids from the council estates do the same?

      The second point is that if you are already struggling financially, it makes you LESS willing to take on a risk. If you have a wealthy background, plenty to fall back on if what looked like a good niche market idea didn’t work out when you tried it, well, it isn’t a disaster. If borrowing more money MIGHT get you there, but might mean you lose EVERYTHING, you think twice about it. Maybe my wife and I could have remortgaged our home to get some serious money to promote the business, get it going, and then maybe it might have worked out. But if it didn’t, we’d end up homeless. It would have been different if we had rich relatives we knew would bail us out if it just didn’t work out. Setting up a small business is a HUGE risk, even if you think you have it all planned out and have identified your niche. If you are rich you can afford to take that risk, if you are poor, you can’t.

      Do you KNOW how it sounds to poor people when wealthy privileged types preach down to them with a message which is essentially “Why can’t you be like us, ok-yah?”. And do not appear to know that there is an obvious answer to that question.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 3:47am

      I certainly get it. As indeed may be verified anyone who reads my contribution. Or by anyone who reads what the coalition has to say about small and medium sized businesses being the keys to recovery.

      My contribution included the suggestion that the government should provide assistance in finance, in the task of finding a niche to exploit, and even in providing management skills to new businesses. There are very many examples of businesses that started with someone who had virtually no money. Look at Honda in Japan, DreamWorks in the US, Alan Sugar with his wheelbarrow, and that well renowned high-school dropout Richard Branson.

      I realise, of course, that all of these people had to reach a point of desperation in order to achieve the humility and determination that eventually made them successes, but not everyone has to go that far.

      If the government believes that new businesses and SMEs are the only way out of this triple-dip recession, then one of their strategies should be to provide the Jonnies of this world with the assistance they need to achieve that without needing to first experience the same desperate states..

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 4:29am

      If someone is to be blamed for unemployment, then we might try blaming the employed. After all, if the employed were to work less for proportionately less pay, employers would need to employ more people, wouldn’t they?

      Or we might try blaming unemployment on an absence of organization. After all, large groups of people can and do self-organize to create wealth – for instance a country’s population does it. So one idea could be for government (VC again?) to provide assistance in organizing to create wealth.

      Or we might try blaming it on an absence of confidence, which seems to be what the government is doing – absence of investor confidence in the UK economy.

      Or could there be longer-term causes? For several centuries the countries now in crisis have been plundering the third world, and much of our historic wealth probably comes from that plunder. Now that the third world is more aware and beginning to fight back, economically, and our previous model of wealth-creation may need radical change.

    • Something “urgent” needs to be done about the colossal costs in phoning the DWP.

      On Friday, I had to call the benefits office on a 0845 number to discuss my benefits.

      The first call, I was on hold for 21 Minutes costing me £1.60
      I was supposed to receive call back from someone in the department, but they never called me back.
      So my 2nd call to them, I was on hold for 31 minutes costing me £2.27

      That’s £3.87 it cost me on “one” day trying to contact the benefit department due to problems with my benefit.

      This morning I thought I would catch the phone lines early by phoning at 8am and I was on hold again for 26 Minutes.
      {Don’t know how much that call cost yet as I can not check online}
      I am supposed to be getting a call back before 10am. If not I have no choice but to call them again.

      There has been outrage about the amount of time HMRC Keeps people on holding and paying extortionate costs in calls.

      It’s about time something was done with the DWP. Surely it can not be right for the department to expect those people on welfare who are on limited incomes to have to pay out for 0845 numbers, especially when they keep you on hold for ridiculous amount of time.

    • *update* not that anyone is probably interested

      No call back received again by 10am. Called the DWP again at 10.40am on 0845 number, on hold for 17 minutes. Had to request yet another call back.
      That’s another £3.23 it has cost me to ring the DWP today to sort out problems with my benefits.

      £7.10 in total so far and I have not yet been able to discuss my claim with anyone.

      Good Job us poor, vulnerable and disabled people are not being targeted with cuts isn’t it.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 12:09pm

      There are some freephone lines, for instance the following website says that “Calls to 0800 numbers are free from BT landlines but you may have to pay if you use another phone company, a mobile phone, or if you are calling from abroad” http://www.dwp.gov.uk/employment-and-support/

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 12:12pm

      Richard Dean

      There are very many examples of businesses that started with someone who had virtually no money. Look at Honda in Japan, DreamWorks in the US, Alan Sugar with his wheelbarrow, and that well renowned high-school dropout Richard Branson.

      Yes, and for how many of these are there people who started small businesses that did not build up to become multi-nationals? Sorry, pointing out these cases makes about as much sense as suggesting someone buys a lottery ticket, as who knows, they might just get lucky.

    • @ Richard Dean

      If you read the following page
      http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121121/debtext/121121-0004.htm

      You will see that the government provides an 0800 number for new claimants requesting a claim pack.

      But people in receipt of benefits, who need to speak to a person from the DWP about an existing claim have to call 0845 numbers.

      The government claims that it would cost them £12 Million to allow everyone access to an 0800 number.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 12:35pm

      Matthew Huntbach

      I should think there are hundreds of thousands of small businesses that started in the same desperate state, of one person with no money, and are now SMEs with a few or a few tens of employees.

      Anyway, there is at least one – it is my business!

      Good luck.

    • David Allen 28th Jan '13 - 1:06pm

      Richard,

      How much did you have to borrow, or else draw down from personal savings, in your start-up phase? How long did it take before you paid off the loan?

    • Finally got my call back this afternoon and everything has been sorted. It does not change the fact though that 6.5% of my Employment and Support allowance this week has had to be spent in phone calls to the DWP.

    • Re: Why doesn’t Jonny start his own business? and variations on this theme.

      I would be very interested in getting some hard facts about the actual number of businesses started by those who have been long term on benefits and the number of those that were ‘successfully’ still trading at least one year later. I suspect in terms of success we may be talking about some very small numbers… But in reality the DWP will only record that someone has gained employment or become self-employed and will have done zero follow up so the data won’t exist.

      It is not that people who have been on long term unemployment benefits aren’t capable people, I just doubt it is a favourable starting point, both financially and mentally.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:11pm

      David Allen, you don’t get to be a successful small business by dabbling. You have to be desperate enough to risk everything you have, plus. So yes, it’s not for everyone, and the ones who don’t take those risks will be unemployed until someone takes a risk on them. But if there are enough risk-takers, sooner or later there will be enough jobs.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:14pm

      matt. Patience is a virtue. It looks like it would have saved you a significant amount of money. DWP can’t spend all the time on the phone, they have to do the paperwork sometimes, which may be why the 0845 isn’t free. Good luck.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:17pm

      Roland, you may be right about mentally. JSA is perhaps only for people who are looking for risk-takers, not for risk-takers themselves. At least two of the entrepreneurs I mentioned weren’t receiving it when they started out.

    • @Richard Dean

      With all due respects Richard you have no idea what it is like until your put in that situation.

      On Friday I received a new form for ESA and medical, which had to be completed within 10 days.

      1) I should not have received this form from ATOS in the first place, as I had already been placed into the Support Group in December 2012 for (2 years)
      2) I am supported by Disability Rights Charity, who always helps with my forms and supplies an advocacy service if I have to have a medical. These services are under a huge amount of pressure due to lack of resources and cuts in funding, So for me to contact them and expect them to be able to see me within 10 days is totally unrealistic.
      3) Before relying on Disability Rights, I needed to speak to someone from Employment and Support Allowance to find out what the heck was going on and why had this form in the first place.
      4) This leaves me no option but to call the DWP on an 0845 number because I am an existing claimant and can not use the 0800 number.
      5) Now baring in mind that I received this letter on Friday, giving me just 10 days to complete {failure to do so could see my benefit stopped} it was Imperative that I speak to someone from ESA pronto.
      6) I had no option but to “pursue” the DWP to sort out what the heck was going on, which ended up costing me in total 6.5% of my Benefit this week in phone calls.

      So I am sorry Richard, but patience is not part of the equation here. The point is, why should people like me in receipt of benefits who are struggling to make ends meet as it is, should then have to foot the cost of chasing the benefits office for their own mistakes.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:35pm

      I think Honda had nothing, plus he was operating in post-war Japan where no one had any money to buy anything much. George Lucas has $2000 saved and that was everything he had. Sugar had a wheelbarrow. Branson had a place in a hippie squat, if I remember right what I read. It seems that Chet Atkins may have had a broken guitar.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:43pm

      @matt
      It looks like you received a letter on Friday and got seen to on Monday. That is fantastic service from the DWP, and you should be thanking them for it, not complaining. It was ten times worse when I was in a similar situation, a long time ago now. Most of the expense you had was your choice!

    • David Allen 28th Jan '13 - 2:48pm

      Richard, I didn’t ask whether Chet Atkins had a broken guitar, because I wasn’t interested in the tiny minority of people who coped from starting with nothing. I asked what your own circumstances were.

      OK, you may not want to publish financial details. So, can we just assume that you did need a large loan from somewhere, and that consequently, your advice is simply not applicable to most unemployed people like Jonny?

    • @Richard Dean

      Have you ever been in a position were you had to claim welfare?

      You don’t seem able to comprehend the situation at all.

      1) When I first Called them on Friday, because it has to go through to a separate department that deals with my claim, They have to put through a request for a call back. This was supposed to be by (1.30pm) because they never called back, I had to phone through to the 0845 number again to request another call back. this was supposed to happen by 4.30pm. but they never did.
      2) Monday morning at 8am I had to call again and request a new call back, this was supposed to have been put on a priority basis and I was supposed to get a urgent call back by 10am
      3) by 10.40am I still had no call back so I had no choice but to phone again and request yet again.
      4) this time I did get my call back and an apology because apparently the (first request I made this morning had not been logged by the operator properly)

      If I had not made those calls, {I would not have got a response}
      And remember I was on a dead line to get this sorted out.

      So how you can possible claim that this expense was by my own choice is just absolute nonsense

    • @Richard
      You do realise that you’re providing a reason for why the worst thing Nick can do for his children’s future chances of success is to send them to private school… :)

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 2:58pm

      It’s the tiny minority of people who are the key to the recovery, if we are to believe the government when it says that business startups and SMEs will lead the recovery.

      Why are you thinking of a large loan? Most businesses start small, as one or two person operations. The successful ones discover a market niche which is too large for them to service alone, and by that discovery they have achieved what a bank needs to be confident enough to lend money. The un-successful ones go bust and start again, and again, until they succeed.

      It’s fine if Jonny prefers the security of his sister’s home, but there has to be other Jonny’s who are willing to take bigger risks, and fail, and fail, and fail until they succeed.

    • @Matt
      Your problem is largely due to the DWP having no concept of the value of it’s customers time and also it being in their interest for you to miss the deadline.

      When I had dealings with the DWP some years back, I got very negative feedback when I used normal business time and appointment management skills – as far as they were concerned I was unemployed and hence had no reason to be anywhere else and if it was that important then I shouldn’t be signing on…

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 3:11pm

      Yes, Roland, now that you mention it, I do, although perhaps those Posh Little Eton Boys would have another viewpoint! :-)

    • @Richard
      Don’t know about you but in some ways I envy Jonny’s situation, he is young, single and has “the security of his sister’s home”, so is in some ways is a perfect place to take risks. But first he has to escape the daily grind of applying for jobs (which he is doing largely to satisfy some meaningless benchmark set by the DWP) and start to take back meaningful chunks of his time.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 3:30pm

      Roland. Perhaps you are correct. What does Jonny think about all his debate?

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 3:30pm

      his -> this

    • David Allen 28th Jan '13 - 3:32pm

      Richard,

      I said “Can we just assume that you did need a large loan from somewhere?”

      You said “Most businesses start small… The successful ones … have achieved what a bank needs to be confident enough to lend money.”

      I’ll take that as a Yes then!

    • @Roland

      “Your problem is largely due to the DWP having no concept of the value of it’s customers time and also it being in their interest for you to miss the deadline.”

      I agree. And they do not seem to care either that I am disabled and on “Disability Benefits” and I am not able to just trot on down to the local Job Centre Plus office to discuss my claim in person, besides which would be totally futile because I have to talk to someone from the Benefits Delivery Centre which is in Basildon and not Norwich where I live.

      I am afraid people like Richard Dean have no concept whatsoever when it comes to understanding issues some people face with the DWP.

      I was highlighting my point because it was relevant to the subject title “opinion what living on benefits really means”

      But that seems to go completely over the top of some peoples heads for some reason

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 4:15pm

      David Allen. I am a liberal, so as far as I am concerned you are welcome to fool yourself in any way you choose.

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 4:29pm

      Richard Dean

      David Allen, you don’t get to be a successful small business by dabbling. You have to be desperate enough to risk everything you have, plus

      It helps to have a big safety net, so that if you lose, you do not lose everything. It helps to have access to cash and contacts and the like to be able to build things up. All of this is MUCH harder if you do not not come from a wealthy and privileged background.

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 4:34pm

      Richard Dean

      It’s fine if Jonny prefers the security of his sister’s home, but there has to be other Jonny’s who are willing to take bigger risks, and fail, and fail, and fail until they succeed.

      Yes, and how are you supposed to do that if you’re a kid from the a council estate? It’s ok if you’re a millionaire’s kid, mummy and daddy are there to bail you out, and to get you a list of contacts who have the money to afford your niche products to help you get going, and can slip you a few tens of thousands to help with that as well. Most people aren’t in that category.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 4:37pm

      Quite correct Matthew. Well said. Neither I nor several of the entrepreneurs I mentioned previously had a safety net or came from a wealthy and privileged background. Poor Mr Honda came from a bombed-out background I believe. I came from a gutter. But people are softer than we are, so you are correct also that some additional assistance should be provided. To that end, as I mentioned previously, when is Vince Cable going to join this discussion?

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 4:58pm

      Richard Dean

      Why are you thinking of a large loan? Most businesses start small, as one or two person operations. The successful ones discover a market niche which is too large for them to service alone, and by that discovery they have achieved what a bank needs to be confident enough to lend money

      And the unsuccessful ones?

      Look, can’t you see the point I’m making? If you’re from a background where you have a few thousands or tens of thousands to spare to try and see if the niche you’ve identified really is there and there really is a market for the product you have to offer, this can be done. Buying equipment, making samples to start off, getting a bit of advertising going doesn’t come cheap. If you’re using your savings, or your credit card to do it, you have one chance. If it doesn’t come off, you’re finished. You’ve blown your savings and blown your credit history.

      There’s a big gamble here, you yourself have admitted it. There isn’t some sure fire way to tell whether what looks like some new niche idea really will take off. I can see this myself in my own High Street when so many small business open up, you see the people running them sitting around not getting many customers, you see the place closed down again a short time later. Maybe one or two of them will go on to bigger things. Maybe one or two of the similar small businesses across the country that succeeded locally will go on to national success. But the vast majority will not. The vast majority will leave those who tried just with bigger debts and/or fewer savings.

      So to put this forward as something anyone who is unemployed could just do, and they shouldn’t moan about being jobless because starting a small business is easy-peasy and they are just lazy slobs if they don’t do it, is to show a complete lack of understanding of real life for most people. If you are poor, those little bits of savings you have are precious. That little bit of credit record you have is precious. You can’t afford to take the risk of throwing them away on trying a small business idea which might or might not work, but the chances of it working while not negligible are small.

      We DO live in a world where many of the opportunities that used to exist for starting small businesses have gone thanks to the domination of the market by big businesses who can employ economy of scale. Amazon, for example, has killed the small bookshop. The sort of barrow-boy market stalls where many started off now can’t compete with the big supermarkets. We’re talking about an ordinary person who’s lost their job and can’t get another – this is not someone with specialist technical knowledge who might be able to exploit some new area opening up.

    • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jan '13 - 5:19pm

      Richard Dean

      Poor Mr Honda came from a bombed-out background I believe. I came from a gutter.

      I’ve checked Mr Honda on Wiki. It seems he benefited from having a Mr Shichiro to give him initial finance, and from establishing contacts with the Japanese war machine. He was helped by living in an era where the things he produced could be made by a small group of people in a shack. It’s easier when there is a scattered market of small producers, as presumably was the case with the Japanese motorcyle industry immediately post-war, than it is when the market is dominated by huge companies with huge production facilities. Even so, how many small engineering companies around at that time did NOT make it to become the Honda Motor Company?

      What are the market sectors now where existing suppliers are small and scattered, so an individual starting a new business would not have a huge economy of scale to have to break through to succeed? Software products have been through that stage and left it. The unfortunate thing is that once one becomes dominant it becomes the standard and so squeezes all others out, even if it isn’t actually much good – which is why we are stuck with Microsoft software. If it’s all easy-peasy, any unemployed Jonny could go out and make his fortune, you ought at least to have some idea of the sectors where the openings are. So where are they?

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 6:19pm

      Matthew, thank you, at last are seeing my point. Please could you re-read the following and say what you now think.
      http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-what-living-on-benefits-really-means-32852.html#comment-237243

    • Richard Dean and Michael Huntbach,

      You are each very passionate about the subject of starting a business, having come from differing and defining experiences. Were I to consider starting one you would both be amongst the people I would approach for advice.

      Though my business knowledge is limited, I am sure that in order for someone to start a business they would at least need the finance, the idea, the motivation and the skills. At present I do not have all four of these, so it is not a feasible solution for now.

    • Richard Dean 28th Jan '13 - 7:04pm

      All you need is motivation. The rest will follow.

    • *Matthew Huntbach
      My sincere apologies, a virus has dampened my internal spellcheck.

    • Jonny,

      If it’s any consolation, the sheer professionalism of your latest post – succinct, polite but direct – knocks the rest of us into a cocked hat!

    • Not every business requires a lot of capital. My own business (teaching English) was started by me delivering leaflets to get the first students. Most of the businesses in your local yellow pages are not part of big chains. But yes, starting a business is not a solution for everyone.

      I realise I am joining the list of people saying “If only you would do the same as me.”, and about to do it with a record-length post, but as Jonny has some kind of level of education possibly university (we are told he is overqualified for at least some jobs) then he should consider coming abroad to teach English (not starting a school, just working for one) because as a “real” English teacher (i.e. one from England) he would be in demand in a lot of places, regardless of not having previous experience or relevant qualifications, particularly for students who can already speak a bit but want to get better. At one time I had loads of teachers working for me who were refugees from the UK economy (particularly those who had done courses that thousands of people were doing but without thousands of jobs available – e.g. journalism, politics). Now unfortunately (as I am in a university town in the EU) I have a waiting list of Browne report refugees (which from my point of view are better, because they are here for 5 years, not just a year or so while they apply for what they really want to do back home), so I can’t help directly, but there are other places where they are looking for people. Once you start living abroad then other opportunities arise – for example at the age of 24 I didn’t speak any other languages besides English, now I know the local language here (Slovak) and am a top translator. Becoming a top translator is much easier than it sounds, because to translate you only need to be able to understand the source text (in my case a Slovak text), and to be able to write naturally in the target language (in my or your case it would be English), so you normally translate only into your own language (looking up things in the source text that you have never come across before as you go along). As there are so few people whose native language is English who have sufficient knowledge of foreign languages (other than the most common school ones) you end up with non-English people translating backwards (i.e. out of their native language into English) with incoherent results. So you are very quickly going to be among the best available – for example, if you look on the website for the press releases for the Kosice 2013 European Capital of Culture, you will probably be able to tell pretty quickly which ones were done by me and which ones were done by locals. So that is a niche that exists in any country, and there is plenty of room in mine still.

      @matt – wouldn’t it be more useful for you to hear an engaged tone when you ring the DWP and not pay, rather than have to pay (I presume) to listen to dreary music? Maybe someone should take this up with a minister.

    • @Richard S

      ” wouldn’t it be more useful for you to hear an engaged tone when you ring the DWP and not pay, rather than have to pay (I presume) to listen to dreary music? Maybe someone should take this up with a minister.”

      Yes it would Richard, or even going back to the good ol days when they told you where in a cue, what place in the cue you , and how long it would be before they could take your call. At lest that way you can make an informed choice if you wished to continue to hold or hang up and try again later.

    • It angers me that there is always outrage about HMRC using 0845 numbers and keeping people on hold for unacceptable lengths of time, which in return raises revenue for them. The media is full of stories about it in todays print.

      But there are no articles about the DWP doing exactly the same thing to it’s claimants, who are in a even less fortunate position to be able to afford to pay for these excessive call charges.

    • Richard Dean 29th Jan '13 - 10:57am

      One of the very interesting, for me, questions that comes out of this discussion seems to the question of how much risk we should expect people to take on board in respect of employment. Another is, what should we do to mitigate the downsides, which in Jonny’s case include spending too much unproductive time finding a job and no productive time doing one, and in Matt’s case include spending too much time and money on the phone.

      I suspect that Matthew Huntbach would prefer little risk, and that his view is likely to be what most people would prefer. This is great for people who want to be employees, so that their income is sorted and they can get on with the interesting parts of life, like raising a family. Jonny seems to want to do rather careful planning before anything – which is great for being a manager. I like to take risks, which might or might not be what entrepreneurs do. But what is civilization for, if it is not for reducing risk?

      But risk is probably inherent in any economy that wants to grow faster than the population. Growth requires new ideas and new products and services and management and employment structure, and no-one can predict with certainty whether these new things will succeed or fail.

      Risk also seems to be inherent in the capitalist model of doing things – which links low risk to low rewards and high risk to high rewards. In this model, if a population refuses to take risks, then it must necessarily accept low rewards, which I suppose would translate into low wages.

      But things seem to be worse in a command economy, like the Soviet Union used to be, because without the fear-factor of the downside of risk, it seems that we as human beings lapse into inefficiency and waste. Farmers in Siberia used to not bother maintaining their tractors, and leave them out in all weathers, because they would get a new one next year if the old one was broken beyond repair!

      So I wonder what course we should aim for in respect of risk?

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 10:58am

      Richard Dean

      Matthew, thank you, at last are seeing my point. Please could you re-read the following and say what you now think.
      http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-what-living-on-benefits-really-means-32852.html#comment-237243

      The same as I have already written. Nothing you have written has caused me at all to change my viewpoint, so if you think I have, it is only that I have been forced by your lack of understanding of the points I was making to explain them in more detail.

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 11:15am

      Richard Dean

      I suspect that Matthew Huntbach would prefer little risk, and that his view is likely to be what most people would prefer. This is great for people who want to be employees, so that their income is sorted and they can get on with the interesting parts of life, like raising a family.

      The point is that if I take a risk and it fails, I am far more likely to be willing to do that if there is still some sort of comfortable life for me if it fails than if its failing means my life is ruined. So what for one person is an amount of time and effort that’s worth the risk taking to try a new business idea is for another person not worth it even if it’s the same amount of time and money. The difference is when for the second person it’s their lifetime’s savings or a mortgage which means they lose their home if the risk doesn’t work, while for the first person it’s spare money, they will still have something left at the end, they’ll still have a roof over their heads if the risk does not work.

      My point remains – I think many people from a wealthy background don’t appreciate how different the sort of risk-taking you advocate is if you don’t have anything to fall back on. Also I don’t think there’s an appreciation of how the sort of knowledge and contacts people with wealth tend to have reduces the sort of risk we are talking about here. The complex nature of the modern world does cut off a lot of the ways in which a person in the past could have earnt a reasonable living without being a wage slave.

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 11:22am

      Richard Dean

      But things seem to be worse in a command economy, like the Soviet Union used to be, because without the fear-factor of the downside of risk, it seems that we as human beings lapse into inefficiency and waste.

      But you also need to see it the other way round, which is that a strong safety net makes risk-taking easier. When I was a teenager, my father tried to make a living as an artist. He worked part time, spent the rest of his time making his paintings, sold a few of them, but it was never going to be enough to live on. It was a risk, just maybe it could have taken off, but it didn’t. He was able to do this because we lived in a council house, because there were free school meals to feed us, and so on. If he was paying a mortgage, he couldn’t have afforded to take this risk. If we kids might have starved, if there were medical bills he would have had to pay for us because no NHS, he couldn’t have afforded to take that risk.

    • Richard Dean 29th Jan '13 - 11:30am

      You are not taking a risk if there is no possibility of a downside. Risk really does mean you sometimes lose, and that is so whether you are wealthy or not. There are plenty of erstwhile wealthy people who end up poor.

      People with money to spare have no motive to take risks. They just put it somewhere safe. For the people who do actually take risks, it does actually matter whether they succeed or not.

    • Richard Dean 29th Jan '13 - 11:35am

      Your father wasn’t a risk-taker, Matthew. He was a rich person – the things he wanted were all cheap. Risk really does mean that you end up in some form of serious unpleasantness if things don’t work out. The possibility of the downside focusses attention wonderfully, so that amateur painters learn how do to it professionally, and Soviet farmers take care of their tractors, and factory workers accept a discipline if it means they avoid bad results.

    • Richard Dean and Matthew Huntbach

      You have not been able to convince each other of your respective points of view. I would ask that you move your debate to another part of the internet or agree to disagree before this moves further off-topic.

    • Richard Dean 29th Jan '13 - 2:33pm

      Why, Jonny? Where is the problem? If we are the only debaters, why should we be restricted in that way? And if we aren’t, then what harm do we do?

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 11:05pm

      Richard Dean

      Your father wasn’t a risk-taker, Matthew. He was a rich person – the things he wanted were all cheap.

      I am not sure what point you are making here, my father was an unskilled manual worker on wages council income.

      Risk really does mean that you end up in some form of serious unpleasantness if things don’t work out. The possibility of the downside focusses attention wonderfully

      You seem to have lost the point you were originally making. You are now saying the unpleasantness in itself is a good thing. That is not the same as you started with, which is that people taking some initiative and trying to put together their own business is a good thing.

      You say the possibility of the downside focusses attention wonderfully. Yes, if you are doing ok, not wonderfully, but ok, it stops you from trying something new. That is, if there’s a choice between the certainty of a low but steady income and the possibility of striking it rich through trying something new though the much greater possibility of it leading to absolute destitution, you’re more likely to keep on the low but steady income.

      This was how it was for my wife. Did she stop applying for jobs, did we put all of our savings into this business and try to get it going? If it still did not get going, it would have been extreme unpleasantness for us. If I had more income so we really did not need an income from her and I was able to put more into trying to support her, she would have been able to carry on trying this innovation she was working on. So she opted for the safety of carrying on applying for jobs until she got one.

      If the world worked in the way you claim it does, most of the people at the top would come from poor backgrounds. But it does not work that way, most of the people at the top come from wealthy and privileged backgrounds.

    • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 11:06pm

      Jonny

      You have not been able to convince each other of your respective points of view. I would ask that you move your debate to another part of the internet or agree to disagree before this moves further off-topic.

      Well why don’t YOU settle it for us then?

    • David Allen 30th Jan '13 - 1:27pm

      Richard Dean said: “Why, Jonny? Where is the problem? …what harm do we do?”

      Quite a lot, actually. Rachel and Jonny wrote a posting to raise everybody’s awareness of how difficult it is to cope with long term unemployment. You have hijacked the columns to advertise how proud you are of your own achievement in personally avoiding unemployment. Though you don’t actually say so, the logical consequence of what you say is that the unemployed should blame themselves for their plight, while the political parties should happily leave them to sink or swim. (To be fair, I think Matthew’s contribution has been to point out the flaws in your arguments, but it seems to have fallen on deaf ears.)

    • I am really furious

      During today’s PMQ Labour MP Michael McCann asked the PM if Atos has found “Richard III fit to work”
      This was received by a round of laughter from all sides of the house.

      I am disgusted that a Labour MP wasted his question to make such a crass joke, especially considering the seriousness of the matter in respect to ATOS failing hundreds of thousands of sick and disabled people up and down the county.
      He should have used his valuable question to highlite the very serious failings of the system which is and has affected real people up and down the country.
      This cheap shot was crass and a wasted opportunity.
      And the loud bellows of laughter from ALL sides of the house shows just how out of touch these people are.

      I will be writing to Edd Milliband myself to express my disgust and disappointment.

    • matt – “I will be writing to Edd Milliband myself to express my disgust and disappointment.”

      It’s nice to be able to agree with you for once.

    • Richard Dean 6th Feb '13 - 1:42pm

      David Allen, You have misunderstood completely. Everyone in government has been saying that new business startups and SMEs are the way out of the recession. New business startups means we need to find new people to start businesses, and one rich source might be people who are skilled, intelligent, persistent, and unemployed. My comments are exploring what might be needed to utilize this resource.

    • @Tabman

      I have always said that I belong to No political party {though many do not believe me I am suer} , so I am certainly no troll or tribalist.

      I am so offended by what that Labour MP said. especially considering that there are many vulnerable people up and down the country who have been in such a dark place that they have contemplated suicide due to ATOS and the welfare reforms. Not to mention the many grieving families who have lost loved ones.

      I found it obscene and extremely offensive. And I am socked that an MP would resort to ugly humour in an attempt to talk about such a serious and sensitive issue for many vulnerable people up and down this country.

      Though I am glad we have found common ground to agree for once Tabman

    • @David Allen,

      I totally disagree that the original poster, whether an MP, a LDV regular or a member of the public like Jonny should be allowed to close down discussion under their article.

    • David Allen 8th Feb '13 - 6:40pm

      Richard S, but don’t you think discussion ought to stay on topic?

      Suppose a rape victim wrote an article, and some bloke went on and on commenting about how to protect yourself by dressing sensibly – don’t you think that would “do harm”?

    • @David Allen – but the discussion is on topic. How easy or hard we think it is to get a job or find other work (such as by starting a business) has a big impact on how much or how little we care about the lifestyles of people living on benefits, and how we would prioritise their problems against, for example, the problems of poorer people living abroad or other areas of government spending.

      As for the example you give about the rape article. Well unfortunately the views you describe are on topic (if not then under what article do they belong?), even if they they are ones we all disagree with * find appalling and would destroy by argumentation.

      * except when the FCO gives advice to women travelling abroad

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    • User Avatarmalc 31st Oct - 11:47pm
      The best odds on the parties to win Rochester: UKIP 1/11 Tories 10/1 Labour 80/1 Greens 500/1 Britain First 750/1 LibDems 1000/1
    • User AvatarRoland 31st Oct - 11:27pm
      @Stuart, I get your point of view and broadly agree with your assessment of the news worthiness of a public figure's sexuality. However with respect...