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Why a war on the cheats has to work

PUBLISHED: 11:37 12 August 2010 | UPDATED: 09:49 16 September 2010

A FRIEND'S 14-year-old daughter has been looking for a holiday and weekend job along with her 15-year-old brother.

Both have written letters, knocked on doors and gone back to employers up to four times to try to catch the manager but, so far, neither has had any luck.

A FRIEND'S 14-year-old daughter has been looking for a holiday and weekend job along with her 15-year-old brother.

Both have written letters, knocked on doors and gone back to employers up to four times to try to catch the manager but, so far, neither has had any luck.

Her parents both have full-time jobs as front-line workers in the health service. They work long shifts - often working late. Shifts don't stop for the dying and maimed.

They earn far less than they should for their skills but are following their vocations.

Both have been attacked and abused by patients in their care but they accept violence and aggression as hazards of the job. Risk comes with the territory

They love and believe in what they do and have passed their work ethic on to their children.

“Of course we could give the children money - we do - but they want to earn their own money. It teaches them that money has to be earned and doesn't grow on trees,” my friend said.

Ah. The age-old “money doesn't grow on trees” point.

Generations of children were taught that hard work earns money. No one gets anything for nothing. Work doesn't only bring money; a job brings pride, self-respect and self worth. A point and a structure to life. An identity.

So, as soon as we could, we got jobs. Paper rounds, as silver service waitresses at dinner dances, washing pots in pub and café kitchens, the Bird's Eye pea shifts, behind the counter in newsagents, high street stores, selling ice creams.

Pay packets were brown envelopes with real cash and we were so proud of being “adult” and paying our way from our new place in the world of work.

But that was then. Getting paid for doing nothing is now a job in itself. An ambition for the Shameless culture where a “job” is a dirty word and “worker” is an insult.

A generation is leaving school expecting to get handouts for lying in bed watching Jeremy Kyle.

A generation brought up to believe money does grow on trees - or appears by magic from cash machines put there by the government for doing nothing.

These children's parents have never worked - their grandparents have never worked.

They have no idea what having a job means. Society has never been so polarised between those who do and those who don't - and never would if they had their way.

They have no concept of what it's like to set an alarm to get up early to go to a job where the expectations of an employer have to be met -often tasks you'd rather not do but have to get paid - and coming home worn out at the end of the day.

They have never seen anyone leave their home to go to work. Never heard stories about work told around the meal table. Their lives revolve around the home, the TV and hanging out with friends who have never worked either. Work is a mug's game. Why would you if you can get as much - or more - than the average wage on benefits?

Let the rest of the mugs work to pay for them.

More than 100,000 households in Britain rake in more £30,899 in welfare before tax while workers graft away for an average wage of £23, 422. That's obscene however you look at it.

A father of seven - with an eighth on the way - is happy to boast that he gave up his job as an administrator because he was better off getting £815 a week, that's £42,000 from the state - or the Big Society as the Prime Minister calls it - than holding down a job.

He is proud to admit he and his wife run their two cars, including a Mercedes people carrier, thanks to the rest of us. No longer is there shame to be kept by other people's graft.

In the 250,000 households in Britain where no one has ever worked, parents are dab hands at filling in benefit forms but can't be bothered with job application forms.

They know their way around every benefit and how to work the system, passing these “skills” to their children.

That such a gulf between the workers and the shirkers has been allowed to happen - encouraged even - in a fairly buoyant job market in the past 15 years is unforgiveable.

Welfare cheats cost the Big Society £5.2billion a year. That's hell of a lot of hip replacements and new classrooms.

A decade ago I'd rather be shot than sound reactionary, but paying £5.2billion largely to the idle and conniving is starting to have that effect.

Mr Cameron's vow to wage war on the cheats - the most worthy war entered into by a modern Government - might just mean more in the pot for pay rises for workers like my friends and the rest of the undervalued paid from the public purse so exploited by the feckless.

His Big Society will hopefully mean caring for those who can't look after themselves - and kicking those who can up the backside.

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Photographs of two women dominated the weekend papers.

One was extraordinary, the other looked like she thought she was.

One had given up a lucrative career to care for those who have nothing in one of the most dangerous parts of the world; the other was looking for a lucrative “career” by doing what she could to help herself.

The contrast between two women, what they stood for and how they went about their lives couldn't have been starker.

Dr Karen Woo was two weeks from her wedding when she was lined up and shot with nine other volunteers by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The 36-year-old had given up a successful career in a Bupa clinic to care for the sick in Afghanistan, looking after those no one else did. Truly extraordinary, altruistic, brave and inspirational, she amazed those who met her, made immeasurable differences to people lives and, to use a term bandied around far too freely, was a role model.

She touched so many people and the world will be such a poorer place without her work and attitude to the dispossessed.

Then, separated by just a newspaper page, was bikini model Alexandra Escat. Miss Escat made her name for rubbing sun cream into the Duke of York's rather too well upholstered torso - passing more than a slight resemblance to a lump of uncooked pastry - and cavorting with the Duke and his 'moobs' in a luxury yacht.

What does a 25-year-old hot pant-wearing model see in a portly 50-year-old prince who is fourth in line to the British throne?

The variety of human nature is so fascinating - the one who gives so much, murdered simply for helping others. The other hanging on to a title, whatever title, to find a profile for herself.

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Children are always the losers in divorce.

Whatever the circumstances they end up losing out - to live with one parent means losing out on life with the other, to move means losing the security of their family home.

Children's needs should be central to any family break up. Sadly - and too often tragically - central to some couples means using children as pawns, as bargaining tools and as bounty to win or lose.

When both parents apply for custody, it is inevitably a battle. No mother wants to relinquish her children and, sometimes, a fierce mother's love turns into a raging spite against her husband with the most horrendous consequences.

No one could ever understand how a mother could kill her own children to prevent them living with their father. How hate and the desperation to “win” can overshadow a mother's love.

Three children, who once lived in Corton with their Shell worker father and mother, were allegedly stabbed to death by their mother who then tried to kill herself by jumping from their second floor flat.

The bodies of eight-year-old twins Augustino and Gianluca Riggi and their five-year-old sister Cecilia were discovered at a townhouse in Edinburgh, after reports of an explosion.

Their mother Theresa Riggi, 46, has been charged with their murders.

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Despite declaring his bride the “love of his life”, Robbie Williams still persuaded Ayda Field to sign a pre-nup to protect his £80 million fortune.

Obviously being the greatest love who saved him from a life of drink, drugs and debauchery still isn't enough to share.

He calls her his Swiss Army Knife because she can turn her hand to anything.

In Manspeak that means, of course, that she does everything.

A woman who does everything but is not allowed to share her husband's bank balance is not a wife, she's an employee.

No wonder Hollywood marriages never last.

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Week three of the holidays. The black eye inflicted on son number two with a cricket ball by son number one in a row over the set of cricket stumps has faded.

The stumps remain in my hall like an art installation.

“Everyone else's mum lets their sons play indoor cricket,” they protest when I try to shift them or persuade the dog to exercise his teeth on them.

The stumps come with at least four stray boys who all share my sons' preoccupation with cricket averages and statistics and which bat is used by which cricketer. Their chat is so detailed it cannot stop for sleep.

The boys have to sleepover.

A “sleepover” is a contradiction in terms. No - or very little - sleeping is ever achieved. Homes turn into doss houses-cum-bed and breakfasts with mothers on round-the-clock kitchen duty to stop them burning the house down making midnight toast.

Chucking six sleeping bags and duvets and pillows into a room and taking to bed isn't enough. They expect popcorn and bacon sandwiches too with pancakes for breakfast.

“Enough,” I exploded at 3am last week. “That's the last sleepover of the holidays.”

In the morning, son number one was at his most smarmy.

“But mum, all my friends love coming here. They say you're so kind and welcoming.”

A soft touch more like.

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