Monday, 22 July 2013

Thanks BBC and Nick and Margaret

Some of you will already know that my husband Steve Flood of Flood and French Ltd - plumbers in Ipswich - was part of the show Nick and Margaret - We all pay your benefits.

I watched some of the filming and as it was the BBC, I was concerned that it would have an angle that didn't represent properly either Simon (employee of my hubby) or Chris, the person he partnered.

There was some information missed out but I will come to that later because first of all I want to thank the BBC for giving quite a good balanced overview of all the characters and, more importantly, doing something that BBC East do not appear capable of doing, and that's show Ipswich in it's true light.

We have some of the best architecture and landscapes in the East of England and Ipswich has a real jewel which is the waterfront area. BBC East love to film in front of empty shops and the run down part of the centre but this programme captured not just the loveliest areas but also the 'normal' average parts which make up this lovely town.

We have Felixstowe 10 minutes away (only knock this seaside if you don't understand what its like to be living miles away from the sea and therefore take it for granted!). We have London just over an hour away, beautiful countryside and also a safe environment.

Ok - now back to the programme:

I watched filming of Nick and Margaret talking to Simon before he swopped his day with Chris, and the one thing they didn't show is that Simon is now £300 per month worse off working than he was on benefits, even though he earns £ 26k gross. As he stated in the programme, he wanted to work, wants to give his children a good role model. His take home pay is not much different from Chris and yet Chris and his wife use the food bank service. No wonder our food banks have been put under pressure when you can access it even though you receive the same as a working man, who manages to feed his children.

What they didn't answer is how Chris and his wife manage when they seemed to have £ 100 shortfall per month between their bills and income. Well, a dicky bird told me that there was another income which was not accounted for when Chris and Simon went through the figures. If this is the case then both families receive roughly the same amount each month. In Chris's defence (and I met him, he's a good guy) he definitely wants to work and has given a good account of himself. He is scared to take a cut in income but as hubby says, it's the right way forward, if you have to, because it opens up doors.

I received this e-mail from a guy called Lee

I thought your husband was great last night on that programme filmed in Ipswich! 

He was right to talk about the opportunities that open up only once within work, even on basic wage. I have personal experience of this also, after taking a job I did not want to do on low pay! One thing soon leads to another.

I also thought Flood & French came across as a very professional operation. (Lee - all his boys are real assets to the company and they are very professional, honest and hard working).

Only one word separates those in the programme with work and those without: Aspiration.

Note the word aspiration - this is the difference between socialist policy and Conservative policy with a great big capital A. If you don't think long term, you will forever be stuck in the same place.

As for Kelly - I really warmed to her by the end of the programme. She has a lot to give and there's an intelligence about her that is still to come to the fore. Although I begrudge helping to pay for her 4 cats, a dog and a reptile (which costs a lot per week, not sure I believed the £ 5 per week all in, personally) she will reach her full potential when she feels even more confident. Good for her, I thought, at least she didn't shirk her responsibility to the programme, unlike Liam.

And that was a really poignant moment when that poor bed-ridden lady was so looking forward to just having a chat with Liam when he was booked to help her get cleaned, dressed etc but failed to turn up for work. She had even planned questions she was going to ask him. This would have been the highlight of her week. I hope you went to see her afterwards Liam, if you're reading this! If not, go!
That whole scene should've reminded ALL of us that have good health, that we have so much to be thankful for, even if we're on the breadline.

I have no doubt that some people are really suffering but I also know that some are just terrible at budgeting and by having such ease to a food bank will allow those not to focus on what needs to be cut in order to balance the books. So it comes as no surprise that the trend is growing. Why would you NOT go to a food bank if you're eligible? Those without children have the least benefits and I honestly don't know how some of them cope. I don't begrudge them a thing but as soon as children are in the picture we are more than generous with our taxes. For instance, In Italy child benefit is paid via an employee's wage but can be cut if time is taken out of work and it's means tested. Unemployment benefit is based on a percentage of previous earnings. I could give lots of examples from Italy that would have our UK residents open mouthed, like my cousin not being paid at all for a whole year after becoming qualified as a doctor - normal practice! Can you imagine!?

I was told once that if you have money in your purse, a roof over your head and some money in the bank, however small, you are in the top 8% of the world's richest. I can't vouch for the accuracy of that but my guess is, it's about right...


  1. Thanks for this, Nadia. A very interesting post. You may have seen my musings on the subject on my blog too?

  2. Thanks Gavin. Yes I did. Here is an example of someone being paid a good salary, an average salary but no better off than Chris who was on benefits, has a much bigger house than Simon and can still afford to pay the monthly Sky package, if my eyes were not deceiving me! But they go to a food bank and Simon, the plumber manages to feed his children. As you say, thank goodness we are doing something about this. Your point about minimum wage is a complicated one. Sone small businesses would not employ anyone if we lifted this to a higher level but I also agree that in the corporate world, the lower paid can be so far removed from the executives that it seems distasteful. However it has always even thus and private enterprise needs to set it's own levels. I do not agree with a living wage as it could result in less jobs. Every situation is different. Sometimes it's just a little part time job for people who want to look after their family too, requires no real skill or training and in these cases they cannot be paid the same as someone who does have skills and been trained. Once you push up the minimum, every other job in the business has to be raised too. It's a contract that one agrees to be part of. Where I wholeheartedly agree with you is that immigration and the black Market has seen us drop our wages less than than morally should be. No easy answers to any of this. Meanwhile I will not employ anyone because it is a field of mines and I don't have time to watch where I tread, preferring to outsource and sub contract the bits I need more resource on. So many issues to raise in business! I see you had lovely time in Italy. not surprised of course!