Benefit Busters Review: Dole-icious Viewing

August 20, 2009 by  
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4BENEFIT BUSTERS: Thursday 20th August, Ch4, 9pm Alert Me

The hugely annoying ‘Broken Britain’ label that’s regularly bandied about seems to stand for many things.

Broken waistbands, broken bottles, broken IQs and a ludicrously broken social benefits system.

As this mob-baiting documentary begins, the audience is privy to the infuriating fact that the government currently spends more money on social benefits than is gathered from all the income tax generated by British tax payers.

In a bid to combat the indisputably spiralling problem, the government has begun hiring private contractors who are paid large sums to get people back into work.

Imagine the A-Team tackling the Dole and you’re halfway there.

A4E is one such company and by the looks of this documentary and the company’s ‘motivators’, a further comparison to Mr T isn’t that too far out the question.

The course leader focused on here is ball-buster Hayley; an odd mash-up of a televangelist, Alan Partridge and Marjorie Dawes. One minute an unsettlingly forthright self-believist with an almost righteous sense of encouragement, the next a hard-boiled, no nonsense cheese-spieling parody.

Her group of single mums is an assorted bunch that manages to provide a very human face to a much-maligned section of society. While there’s the odd whining, blame-shifting sponger (one woman in particular moans that she only racked up a £75,000 debt on ‘the essentials’ – as the camera cuts to the 50″ plasma screen), the majority are confidence-battered women who have a desire to get off the social but don’t really know how.

Add to that the heartbreaking realisation that it’s actually more beneficial for some of them to stay ON the dole than work a full-time paid job, and you can see how apathy, ambivalence and responsibility-shirking is rife amongst the jobless.

Whatever you think of her occasionally cringe-worthy, emotionally battering tactics, the perma-coiffed Hayley not only get results, but she seems to have a genuinely impassioned moral drive behind it.

Then again, I suspect there’s a very fine line between God’s honest moral satisfaction and the appeal of yet another shiny cheque at the end of the month. Each tutor gets an extra bonus for each person that is found employment, on top of the considerable sum already paid for having each woman simply attending the course.

From a personal point of view, I worked 14 hour days with two jobs for six months on £11k a year to get to where I wanted to be. With each person’s individual and occasionally extenuating circumstances, that’s not right for everyone, but it’s always niggling when people complain and stress with genuine sincerity that they simply couldn’t get a job if they tried.

So while it’s smugly satisfying to see the odd lazy waster taken to task, it’s actually more heart-warming and genuinely affecting to see progressive, encouraging changes being made.

Britain may allegedly be broken and bleeding, but Benefit Busters is doing its best to make sure there isn’t a scar left in its wake.

Matt Risley

Want to see more people who make you want to scream as easily as they entertain? Make sure to check out our review of BBC3’s Young, Dumb and Living With Mum. Gargh.

Robert George says:

This person was worse then Pauline the restart officer in the League of Gentlemen. Majorie Dawes is a copy of Pauline. She was terrible. She gave some bad advice to the mums. The lady with 75k of debt should of been sent to te CAB for example.

Satan says:

I am pleased with the work a4e do. In no way is it ironic that the government spend more money to solve the problem of benefits, especially on such a dubious organisation and such dubious practises as work fare and work trials. It’s great that the bewildered and bedraggled are hectored into believing they are butterflies only to find the pinnacle of their transformation is a 2 week unpaid trial at Poundland with no guarantee of a career.