The furore over the case of Mick Philpott and his extended family has brought forth some truly desperate scaremongering not just from the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate, but also – sadly and reprehensibly – from the Prime Minister and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. Living on benefits is being increasingly touted as some kind of “lifestyle choice”. The facts do not agree.
Young Dave, who along with wife Samantha is said to be worth several million notes, and The Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the seventeenth Baronet, also worth a seven figure sum, do not appear to have done their sums. Zelo Street has, and the numbers are not sufficient to support a half decent lifestyle, let alone a lavish one, as some pundits are suggesting.
When the six children who died in the fire, and the five of his mistress, were all living at the Philpott home, the child benefit, which admittedly was paid into Mick Philpott’s own account, would at today’s levels have totalled just over £8,000 a year. Out of that, eleven children would have had to be fed and clothed. That there was any significant amount left over is doubtful.
The rent for the house, it is believed, was paid from housing benefit, and as this would go directly to the landlord – whether housing association or local authority – Philpott would not get his hands on it. The remainder of the household income came from both Philpott’s wife and mistress working, their pay supplemented by tax credits – as with many other low earning folks.
And those tax credits, which, depending on those incomes, could have been bringing in an additional £2235 per child, plus £1890 per adult, providing the income level was no more than around £16,000. However you slice it, the total of all those benefits – including child benefit – does not far exceed £38,000. Where the £60,000 total comes from is unclear. Perhaps housing benefit has been included.
So the Prime Minister and his next door neighbour are telling us that a household consisting of fourteen members – eleven children and three adults – with a total benefit income of perhaps £38,000 (that’s less than £3,000 per person per annum) is a beneficiary of state largesse, and moreover that this could easily be stopped by making them live on rather less.
Plus the judge summing up before passing the life sentence on Philpott at no time mentioned any of this as a cause. After all, Philpott started being controlling, aggressive and violent when he was a regular soldier, and the papers wouldn’t think of taking that fact and using it to argue for the dismantling of the armed forces. So perhaps they could quit using Philpott as an excuse to hack at the welfare system.
Mick Philpott was the problem. So stop demonising everyone else.