Carl Havern is a model Big Society citizen. He volunteers for three different causes every week and cares passionately about improving his community. He is also a recovering heroin addict on benefits, who has spent much of the past decade in prison.I just love the idea that I’m working my guts out to provide tax revenue to these people… Sorry, these ‘vulnerable’ people!
Mr Havern is a member of a community group in Salford starting a quiet revolution against the prevailing stereotype of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. It has been meeting every Thursday since October, plotting ways to challenge the increasingly incendiary rhetoric about people on benefits. This month the group launched to the public in the hope that others who are fed up of being labelled as scroungers will follow suit.Oooh, this’ll be good! *grabs popcorn, settles in*
The group’s long-winded name – the Non-judgemental Integrity Compassion and Equality group – thankfully boils down to the acronym Nice.And it’s about as much use to society as the other NICE…
Funding cuts meant Golda Bolanda, 33, lost her job as a project coordinator for a charity in June last year. In the past four months alone she has been to interviews for more than 50 jobs but got nowhere.
She says the stigma around benefits almost stopped her claiming them – until things got desperate. “We’re called scroungers, but the work that we do in the community is so important. Yes, we’re on benefits, but in the meantime we’re doing something.”But clearly, it’s not something anyone wants to pay you to do. I wonder why?
Letitia Rose, 46, struggled to cope with the prejudice she encountered when she found herself with a new baby and no job.At 46?!?
Now she works part-time, but is still frustrated that lone mothers who stay at home face prejudice that mothers in relationships do not. “A mum with a partner gets the right to stay at home and look after the kids and bake cakes and go to pre-school without being judged. But mums on their own are seen as sitting on their backside claiming benefits. What’s that saying about society and how women are being judged?”It’s saying that the ideal start for a child is two – count ‘em, two – parents, not one, plus Government stand-in.
Letitia’s neighbour, Fred Pilling, 60, is also in the group. He has lived in his three-bedroom home for the past 44 years but now the bedroom tax is making it unaffordable. Now that he has £26 less in housing benefit, he is often left with just £10 to spend on food. He has arthritis and literacy problems and survives on benefits, spending his time keeping his local area tidy. He said: “If I see rubbish I’ll put a pair of gloves on and pick up the kebab boxes and pizza boxes.”So…I should pay excessive tax so an illiterate with no job can live in a three-bedroom home? I should coco!