Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole

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More Brits are living off benefits today than at any other time since the establishment of the welfare state. Many claimants have spent longer on benefits than in work. Some have never known what it is to have a job and others have found that work simply does not pay. This new four-part documentary series lifts the lid on the reality of life on benefits in Britain.

Episode Description

1

Big Family Special

First of a two-part documentary about large families on welfare. In Hastings, Mandy has ten kids by five fathers. She is unrepentent about not working and receives thousands of pounds from the state. Meanwhile in Portsmouth, Sarah has seven children by two fathers, but works two night shifts a week and only claims benefits because she cannot manage without.

2

Me & My 14 Kids

Concluding half of a two-part special looks at life for some of the largest families in the UK whose income is provided by the state.. 39-year-old Tom and 40-year-old Stacey Shaw have 14 kids, and their big family life is supported by the welfare state to the tune of an estimated £70,000 a year. Five of the kids were born after Tom gave up his job as a postman 10 years ago to become a full-time carer for one of his older sons, who has a potentially life-threatening medical condition. The ever-growing family has depended on handouts ever since.

3

Jailbird Boys Going Straight

The show takes a look at the lives of ex-prisoners attempting to go straight on the welfare state.

4

Portsmouth

The documentary focuses on people living on state welfare in Portsmouth. Chris says he is looking for work, but that there are more shops closing down than opening up, while Carly and Drew spend their time playing darts, shopping and looking after their children, but they long for a better future. Barbara has a foot injury and is stuck between two benefit categories, meaning she has no money to live on, and Robert works as a part-time cleaner, but is stressed by the pressure the job centre is putting on him and the amount of rejection he faces as he searches for more work

5

Benefits Special: 18 Kids and Claiming

Documentary series looking at people trying to get by on benefits, including Maria who has five children with five different dads, and Kate in Weymouth who gets almost £30,000 a year in benefits for her and her seven kids.
Episode Description

1

Benefits Brits By The Sea

Documentary examining the lives of people dependent on state welfare in the Norfolk seaside town of Great Yarmouth, where the majority of work is seasonal. Leona and Lee worry about their three-month-old daughter's future when their payments are cut because they failed to fill in the correct forms, while Jordan McDonald has his benefits halved after the job centre discovers he has not attended a government work programme.

2

Benefits House - Me and My 22 Kids

This edition of the programme focuses on large families who depend on the benefits system, including 64-year-old Peter Rolfe, whose children - by 15 different women - range in ages from three to 43, of which he is the sole carer for six. He has been fighting his council in the Isle of Wight for a much bigger house and is also at loggerheads with the benefits office for capping his weekly payment. West Midlands mother-of-eight Marie Buchanan has recently split from her partner and is looking for a larger home, while Ipswich couple the Fisks have been in dispute with their neighbours, who objected to two houses being knocked into one to accommodate them and their 13 children.

3

Benefits, Babies and Jail

The documentary examining the lives of unemployed people visits South Yorkshire, which has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK and where benefits caps, sanctions and the bedroom tax are hitting those at the poorer end of society. Larry is a 60-year-old ex-steelworker and desperate for work, but says no one wants to hire him as he is considered too old, while father-of-three Kevin is long-term unemployed and back living with his parents in the bedroom he occupied as a teenager.

4

Episode 4

The documentary examining the lives of unemployed people visits Hull, which has one of the highest unemployment rates and lowest average weekly wages in the UK. Rebecca is 16 and expecting her first baby with 17-year-old boyfriend Sonny, who is adamant he will be in work by the time the child arrives, while her foster mother Anita is concerned she will be unable to afford her house when her children move out. Gordon has not worked in decades and has very strong political views as to why employment has eluded him and many others in the north of England.

5

Episode 5

The documentary examining the lives of individuals on the dole in the UK follows the stories of Roma people who moved to the UK and are now surviving on payments from the welfare state. Ion is from Romania and wants to make £40,000 from benefits to help him build a new house for his family back in his home village, while Katarina arrived from Slovakia seven years ago and has 11 children and 11 grandchildren living in and around an estate in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Nottingham resident Viorel is 25 and lost both legs in an accident in his native Romania when he was seven, and now wants to pursue a career in the movies.

6

Episode 6

The final episode of the series meets 38-year-old Heather, who has 11 children and whose family live in a knocked-through council house on the outskirts of Gloucester. Heather makes nearly £60,000 a year in benefits and many of her children also survive on welfare payments. Elsewhere, in Liverpool, Julie has six children, none of whom have jobs. She and her husband Vinnie earn roughly the minimum wage from benefits. Finally, in London, single mums Emma and Sophie support themselves in London's Zone 1 by claiming money from the state.
Episode Description

1

Episode 1

How the bedroom tax has affected people living on benefits.

2

Episode 2

In Blackpool, a mother-of-six is banned from the job centre.

3

Episode 3

We meet the immigrants who are claiming UK welfare to send back home.

4

Episode 4

Single mum Marie Buchan has been battling the system for years to get a bigger home as she currently has to share a three-bedroomed house with eight kids, all aged under 13. The family has now expanded further with the acquisition of a new dog called Patches. It looks as if Marie and the kids might have one of the best Christmases ever, as they have just received some good news – the family will finally move to a bigger housing association home in Birmingham. Until the move, however, life on benefits goes on. Marie is annoyed that her benefits are capped at £26,000 a year, but she says that nothing is going to spoil Christmas for the Buchans. “No matter what, claiming benefits or working, everybody deserves a Christmas Day."

5

Episode 5

Tony ʻScrapʼ Taylor is a well-known figure in the community doing odd jobs and collecting scrap. He claims just £51.40 a week but does odd jobs for food, enabling his benefits money to go a bit further. If you need something in Jaywick then Tony is the man who can sort it out! Engaged twenty somethings Claire and Luke have recently moved to Jaywick from Canning Town in search of a better life. They have a baby son called Louis and Claire has two older children from a previous relationship. They all live in a two-bedroom house alongside a host of animals including two dogs, three snakes and guinea pigs – all supported by benefits. Claire has been on benefits for most of her life and Luke finds it hard to get a job as he has a criminal record. Claire does not see the point in working as she would earn no more then she already gets on benefits. “I used to be able to earn a thousand something a month, but I get that on benefits so whatʼs the point of me working?” she asks. Michelle moved to Jaywick from Chelmsford. She has a lengthy criminal record and was first called up in front of a judge when she was only 12. Michelle has a ten-year-old son whom she rarely sees, a fact which she finds very upsetting. A cycle of drinking, aggression and fighting has led to her being fined for abusing police officers and she has been given an electronic tag following her latest attack on a fireman. When her house is burgled Michelle must stay somewhere else for the night, but the tag is registered to her home address, which gets her into trouble with the police again. Stuck between poverty and the police and always close to returning to prison, Michelle is walking a tightrope.

6

Episode 6

Dean, an 18-year-old from Harlow in Essex, made sure that he signed on as soon as he was old enough, regarding benefits as “free money”. He still lives at home with his mum, has zero ambition, spends his days in bed until 2pm and plays on his phone the rest of the time. His mum does everything for him and his benefits are spent on booze and fags. A brief stint in a reality show gave him a taste of fame and left him with no intention of getting a normal job – until he is sanctioned. Danielle, 21, and boyfriend Josh, 25, moved to Blackpool to make a new start. Both suffer from anxiety and depression, which prevents them from working. They have four children between them from previous relationships, though none live with them. They are struggling to make ends meet on benefits of £52 a week each and with a fifth baby due in five monthsʼ time, they will not have enough to survive. Like many young people on benefits, Josh has turned to crime, selling drugs to supplement their income. Joshʼs partner-in-crime is 22-year-old Paul, aka Titch. He came to Blackpool with Danielle and Josh and stays a couple of nights a week in a converted cupboard in their bedsit. Money is tight, even with everyone pulling together, and they already owe all their benefits money to friends who have helped them out. Four days before the benefits are due, the food runs out. Danielle goes to the food bank, but needs to register before she can take any away with her. After filling in the referral forms, she is forced to leave empty-handed. In Sheffield, 25-year-old single mum-of-two Steph faces a common dilemma. She wants a job but also wants to watch her children grow up. With childcare so expensive, benefits seem the only option, although she always needs more. Steph dreams of a better life – off benefits and in work. Stephʼs new best friend, 18-year-old Travis, dreams of better things. Like Dean in Harlow, she also wants the big money and bright lights of showbiz. In the meantime, Steph gets a call out of the blue offering her compensation as a result of an accident. With a cheque for £2,000 on its way, will this be the boost Steph needs to get out of her rut, or will it be frittered away?

7

Episode 7

Life on the dole north of the border with a pair of wannabe pop stars, a globetrotter who has invented her own new age Chakra swing, and a woman who is convinced that her weight is stopping her from getting a job.

8

Episode 8

This time we're at the seaside. Debbie suffers from numerous disabilities, while single mum Stacie is living in a small flat with a three-month-old baby. We also meet Dave, a firearms fanatic who hasn't worked for two years and lives in a two-bedroom home with his mother.

9

Episode 9

A man whose partner earned too much on a zero hour contract.

10

Episode 10

11

Episode 11

Tom and Stacey have 14 children and claim £70,000 a year.

12

Jailbirds On Benefits

Ex-prisoners trying to go straight on the welfare state.