Better off sitting at home doing nothing

PUBLISHED: 13:33 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 20:44 05 July 2010

A FRIEND of mine works night shifts in a supermarket to keep her family's head above water.

A single mother, she has limited maintenance for her two sons from her ex-husband and struggles to make ends meet in the home she part owns with a housing association.

A FRIEND of mine works night shifts in a supermarket to keep her family's head above water.

A single mother, she has limited maintenance for her two sons from her ex-husband and struggles to make ends meet in the home she part owns with a housing association.

Later this year, when both her boys are at high school, she wants to switch her shifts to daytime but the change will mean she earns far less. She'd love to retrain for another career but already has decent qualifications and earns above the threshold to qualify for free training.

Both her sons are bright with ambitions of university. One wants to be a doctor. She's already frantic about their higher education finances.

Last week she was advised she would be better off financially if she quit work and claimed income support.

She was outraged. She wants to work, she's always worked, she wants her boys to see her working to earn a living and not, as she sees it, scrounging and relying on the state to look after them.

She wants to be at home in the evenings to make sure they keep on top of their homework, keep on the straight and narrow and get their qualifications.

She's trying to go it alone and feels ground down by the system. A system that suggests she gives up, sits back and lives on benefits.

It's people like her - people penalised for working, earning low wages but earning just too much to qualify for much for free who are doing everything to help their children build better lives than they have - who were hopping mad at the latest loony plan from Westminster.

A £200 reward for parents who feed their children properly, keep them vaccinated and teach them to read.

Yes, I started to bang my head on the table too. Two hundred quid to get parents to do what they should be doing anyway.

Has something been slipped into the water at No 10? Solid reliable Gordon has spun into off-the-wall random policy man.

The idea is a “contracts out of poverty.” Parents will sign a contract to improve their children's lives with good food, vaccinations and education. Then they will receive £200, as long as their under-fives attend children's centres.

So not for the love of their children but for the love of money.

Generations ago, parents worked until they dropped to drag their families out of the poverty trap. Hard work then was a virtue and not, as it's seen today, for sops and idiots.

Feeding families well was something women took pride in, however poor they were, like a swept and polished front step and neat home.

Pride came from what you did for yourself. Failure was letting someone else do it.

Today, the longer people sit on their fat backsides doing nothing, expecting someone else to pick up the pieces, the more help they get.

The work ethic got up and ran away a long time ago. Why bother when you can get more doing nothing and watching Jeremy Kyle all day?

We're a nation in the grip of an epidemic - lazi-itus. But the lazy and work-shy end up getting incentives for doing what should come naturally.

I know where I'd rather see £200 going - and it's not on those who can afford fruit and veg on the benefits they already get but choose to spend it elsewhere.

WOAH. Too much information:

For Blue Peter viewers of the 1960s the revelation that Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves shared more than a sheet of sticky back plastic is a shocker.

Singleton's recent revelations at 71 show she was anything but the prim and proper Aunty Val we all thought.

A woman of pensionable age spilling the beans on her steamy sex life, abortion and lovers makes uncomfortable reading - especially after she's been so buttoned up and private previously.

Funny how a six-figure book deal makes unbuttoning all the more comfortable and oils the tongue.

Now I'm imagining all sorts about John Noakes' antics off set. A Blue Peter badge will never be the same again.

There is no respect for people's property anymore:

AT our local pick-your-own farm last year, I was always ticking off my boys for sneaking the odd strawberry.

“It's stealing,” I'd terrify them. “That strawberry belongs to someone until you pay for it.”

But try telling that to two small boys in a field full of families enjoying a free for all. Filling their boots and everything else besides with fruit they've no intention paying for with neither shame nor embarrassment.

“Why are they eating them then?” asked my younger son, pointing at children and their parents scoffing buckets full and other little hooligans throwing strawberries at each other. I dragged them away clutching our punnet and snitched to the owners.

Now a farmer in Cambridgeshire is so fed up with freeloaders, he's ripped up his entire crop and replaced them with tarter fruits like gooseberries, redcurrants and loganberries because people treated his strawberry fields like a “giant open buffet”.

One family even sat around his plants with a bowl of water and a tub of cream helping themselves.

He lost £10,000 of his usual £40,000 last year.

“Attitudes have changed. There's no respect for property any more,” he said.

Or life, or people or anything really.

Professional pride:

WOMEN are getting more aggressive, screeched headlines with photographs of Sky News' Kay Burley with her hands clasped round a female photographer's throat outside the Naomi Campbell tantrum court case.

The photographer's camera had left a bruise on Ms Burley's cheek in a media tussle for hothead Campbell. The presenter reacted angrily.

But this interpretation was missing the point. This wasn't any argy bargy between two women. This wasn't personal. It was work.

These women were out to get a story. If they left empty handed they'd have their newsdesks to contend with which, let me assure you, are far scarier than Campbell, Burley and a flailing camera put together.

This was all about pressure to deliver the goods and professional pride - and that, as journalists know, can start a fight just about anywhere.

Girls embarrassed:

TORY MP Nadine Dorries says girls have been “neglected in an appalling way” when it was revealed that abortions among underage girls soared last year by 10pc to more than 4,000.

Neglected by sex education? Hardly. From primary school, children are bombarded with sex education messages. They seem to have more lessons about sex than grammar.

They're saturated with information, guidance and advice about contraception and STDs but it doesn't mean they have to take it.

The girls might be able to get an A* in GCSE Sex and Protection Theory but when it comes to the practical they score a big F. They're are too embarrassed to go to the clinic for precautions.

I'm regularly staggered at confident strong mothers who say they never and would never talk to their daughters about sex. I'm equally staggered by the questions my 11-year-old son asks and his total openness on the subject with me. Long may it continue though.

Openness is the best policy.

The truth is that however much public funding is thrown at sex education, there will always be underage pregnancies and abortions.

And until young people find something other to do than have sex it will always be so.

Nothing left after football:

EVERY parent, boy, manager or agent who believes they've found or have the magic touch with a football should take a look at Gazza.

Football was all Paul Gascoigne knew and had. But once the game had spat him out, he had nothing and no one. Once the greatest, he became a sad old has-been sinking into drink and delusion.

Like George Best before him, he had adoration one minute, nothing the next. Deserted and rejected by his one love. That's when the bottle comes in handy.

I've lost count of the number of times parents of seven, eight and nine year olds have been beside themselves after a club scout has invited their budding Gazzas along for a trial.

I want to slap them. Wake up. Is this really what you want for your son? Most are so daft they do, at any cost because football is a religion and footballers real heroes.

Heroes like Gazza or Best or worse, the sad roll call of young lads who in their teens believing they will make it but end up at 16 with no qualifications, no contract and no hope.

A beautiful game. Like heck it is.

Bridge is no joke:

OF all the positive achievements that should earn Lowestoft national recognition and never do.

Then instantly everyone knows Lowestoft as “that place with the useless bridge.”

To outsiders, the regular bridge breakdown is a joke. To everyone late for work, school, hospital appointments, trains and the rest it's anything but. But, it seems, the good people of Lowestoft trying to get on with their daily lives are irrelevant when it comes to fiddling with the bridge.

Unless it's a conspiracy to get everyone out of their cars and on foot.

Fed up with work?

NEXT time work feels like Groundhog Day, same old, same old, think of Fred Burton.

He's just retired aged 88 after 72 years with the same legal firm. Happiness for him was the people he worked with.

“I guess the secret was that I really enjoyed it, I loved going into work every day and really got on with the people in the office.”

I expect he'd have a few things to say about modern office politics, management styles, time off with stress and political correctness.

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