Benefits Britain 1949

Benefits Britain 1949 is now online here

I just had to post about this and remind you to watch TV tonight, Channel 4 at 9 pm for a new TV series called “Benefits Britain 1949”. This new Channel 4 TV Series challenges those on benefits to live on 1949 handouts.

A pensioner from Nottingham is part of the experiment and has to live on  £5.49 a day. 

During the hour-long documentary, father-of-one and widower Melvyn is seen trying to live for one week by the benefit rules of 1949 – the first year the system was up and running – to find out how his income would change

Following the “Beveridge report” in 1942, the Labour Party government in 1945, following the defeat of Winston Churchill’s Conservative government, announced it would introduce a welfare state and the National Health Service was announced in 1948 and social security was implemented.

The report in 1942 by economist William Beveridge, recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the five ‘Giant Evils’ of ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’..

And the underlying message from the experiment? The 1949 system worked best for those who wanted to work. The system now works best for those who don’t. Until we turn that basic premise around, we will never transform the dependency culture of Benefits Britain 2013.

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14 thoughts on “Benefits Britain 1949

  1. I will definitely watch this but I am deeply suspicious of the subtext. Studies consistently show benefits fraud is under 0.7%. Only 70 pence of every 100 pounds spent is wrongfully claimed. By contrast, the shoplifting rate for 2011 was 1.45%, which means that retailers across the country would be delighted if their losses to dishonesty matched those of the benefits scheme. I would say anyone watching this, before drawing general conclusions, ought to balance it out with a visit to A Girl Called Jack, the blog of a young mother who has had to live on benefits whilst seeking work.

    I would also point out that while everyone is keen to talk about moral hazard as it applies to those on benefits, no one wants to talk about the very well documented moral hazards of having just plain too much money. Funny, that.

    And while I’m having myself a nice rant, let me point out that unemployment in both Britain and the States is now structural, not because the natives don’t want to work but because their work has been outsourced to countries where labour is cheap. If we’re willing to accept a permanent level of joblessness, what, exactly, do we expect those without work to do? Starve? It seems to me that those in charge have not quite grasped that employees and consumers are the same people, and that if we’re in a recession because people are consuming less, then one way or the other we have to keep the economic engine going by providing people with a means to do that all-important consuming. Austerity, which is the opposite approach, eliminates jobs and thus eliminates consumers, thereby choking off that engine. And if you want to see how successful that approach has been, have a look at Greece.

    I’m sure this show will be interesting, but as I say, I’m deeply suspicious. Stigmatising the poor is invariably the prelude to something nasty.

    • I really hope that isn’t the case and that it gives a balanced view and it does do a sensible comparison. (we’ll soon see and I think it would be a great discussion to have on here after the program airs) I’ve just gone on benefits for the first time in my entire life and I feel incredibly guilty for doing so, which of course is stupid really but it does seem to have a general stigma associated with it.

      I personally think the welfare system (which includes the NHS) was, and still is in many ways, something for Britain to be very proud of.


  2. I too am curious about the subtext. Here in Ontario, we have an opposition leader (relevant because we have a minority government) who wants to bring in “right to work” legislation. His so called “white papers” have earned him the nickname “Tea Party Tim” because they push an austerity agenda while simultaneously blaming public sector workers, the poor and the elderly for any and all deficits. I agree with Lili, benefits fraud is not the percentage some people would like to think it is and austerity measures are not addressing the real problem that you have to make money to spend money, ensuring a healthy economy. Looking forward to hearing about it, because unless it is shared online, I can’t watch it.

  3. Just watched it: it seems that people like myself who are disabled and really want to work got a lot more help and support in 1949 than we do now.

  4. Carolyn, did you see it? What did you think? Like Kat, I’m still waiting for someone to share it online. I’ve put in a request but so far it hasn’t been uploaded.

    • Hi

      It’s online at the moment on YouTube

      It’s a TV series so next week its on again and will detail and compare other types of claimants

      I really enjoyed it.. it never kind of goes into enough detail (but that is just me because I’m a nerd for things like this) but it did show an interesting comparison between what was available on the benefits system in 1949 and today for three people

      a) A woman who had worked full time for 22 years and now had a series of ailments that stopped her working
      b) A retired gentleman who was receiving a pension
      c) A young man who had spina bifida and who desperately wanted to work but was having no success finding a job in 2013

      It was quite interesting historically and \i think they did their best to adjust prices to reflect the monetary amount due to inflation and cost of living.

      Next week they are dealing with housing

      C xx

  5. Oh noes! I can’t watch the YouTube video because it wasn’t uploaded to be allowed in my country (or something like that.) 🙁 Sad.

    • Oh noo! When I lived in Canada that used to frustrate the hell out of me so I used to run You can try it for a week for FREE so you should give it a try… it gives you an IP address that isn’t country specific when browsing online so you should then be able to see that video no problem 🙂

      • I didn’t know about this. THANK YOU!!! I’m off to download it now. I’ve been relying on torrents, but it can be weeks before some kind soul uploads a requested program. This sounds much more efficient.

  6. When evaluating this program–and its ideas–we must not forget that in 1949, buying food still required the use of the ration books, since the UK didn’t go off points entirely until 1954.

    I think this would make it a whole lot easier to survive on the Welfare Benefits, because as we all know, eating on rations saves quite a lot of money. As a side benefit, the National Health Service would also save money because the beneficiaries’ health would improve.

    I see it as a win/win situation.

  7. I watched the last in the series last night. It shows to me al least how we are living in a different world. Each claimant was given a chance to be assessed and try work and each in the end said how they thought they liked to work and be independent and earn their own money. Then the officers and channel 4 failed to find jobs for the newly motivated people and left them to ponder the unfairness of being excluded once more. It seemed so cruel to get peoples hopes up then crush them because there are no opportunities. And now we see why the Job Centres offer no guidance, or training for what would be the point? Just more money wasted. Claimants are forced to apply for a seemingly endless supply of so called jobs. Self employment positions claiming to offer at least minimum wage which in reality, may with time and effort, reap a third of that.

    Also, the single non-working Mum who didn’t want to work, was revealed very late in the proceedings to have a health condition. She said she had Fibromyalgia, a condition they seemed to think was both irrelevant and doesn’t exist. For those that have the condition it was hurtful and insulting. As a sufferer the woman did what I might do,(I have it too) she got stuck in to the work, enjoyed it and by the time she realised she was struggling, it was too late. The pain had started, she felt ill, and no, a ten minute rest will not fix that. She just wanted to run away and cry for the pain. Tha camera didn’t see that bit, just her Mum who is upset at seeing her daughter suffer and then not be believed. Like so many other fibro sufferers, she wants to be normal, but for what ever reason, she is not.

    If people with Fibromyalgia are to work the should be assessed for something suitable and be monitered. The Fibro sufferer needs help to recognise and heed the signs that say, they should rest. You can’t see Fibro pain, you can’t say what hurts and cater for that, because it changes, you can’t rest the pain away because it’s a sleep disorder too. Restoritive sleep that others take for granted is denied to the fibro sufferer. Tired aching muscles that have done a days work should respond to sleep. In Fibro, those aches can last days, weeks or months with a corresponding escalation of sleep deprivation and exhaustion, and of course pain too. Shame on Channel 4 for not pointing this out. This lady claiming Fibromyalgia, may or may not have had it that is for her doctor to say, but many do and are hurt when others make out that it’s not real! Lives are blighted by the condition, and while people deny that there is a problem, money will not be spent to research causes, prevention, treatment, or a cure. Who would want to contribute to find a a medical cure for a condition that Channel 4 have shown to be just another form of lazyness? And who would want to live with a painful, limiting condition only to be accused of faking. If I was going to make up that I had a health condition, I’d make up something people might believe, not just a whole combination of odd symptoms. So on top of lazy, you can say we are stupid too.

    Channel 4 should be ashamed, they showed themselve poorly informed, cruel and discriminatory.

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