A Non-Working British Family

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I got upset when I read this article about a non-working family in Britain. Actually, I was pretty pissed off to be honest.

The article talks about a 43 year-old woman who lives in a 2 bedroom council flat, which is the equivalent of low-income housing here in the United States, with three children and one grandchild. She doesn’t work and has never worked. The family has had some pretty terrible experiences recently, documented in the article, but my compassion wanes as I hear how they entered the situation.

These lines in the article changed my sentiment completely, which I’m sure you’ll pick out when you read the brief article:

  • … But she concedes that she doesn’t really know why she didn’t get a job, and that there was an element of just “not getting round” to it.
  • … She doesn’t think school wanted her to stay on because she “wasn’t too bright” and used to bunk off [not attend] a lot.
  • … Without any qualifications she assumed she wasn’t able to follow her chosen path and join the Army. She never actually made it to the recruitment office to ask.
  • … As no-one in the house is actively seeking work, they don’t count as “unemployed” and none claims Jobseeker’s Allowance [unemployment].
  • … “I’m sorry they have to pay tax money to me. If I could get a job… give me a job then and I’ll work, and then they won’t have to pay me.”

The lesson here is that you have to take control of your life. I don’t think she’s lazy but it just sounds like she didn’t try to do anything. She didn’t get a job, didn’t finish school, and all before the whole aspect of family came into play. I can understand not working or going to school to raise a family, but the reality is that none of the children work either! William, her son, was savagely attacked by local gang members, a situation that likely wouldn’t have happened had they not chosen to live in council housing in the first place.

The thing that gets me is that she didn’t even try. None of them did. There are plenty of stories of people who have tried and simply given up out of despair because of the economy. I have compassion for their situation because they’ve tried to change their situation. While this family doesn’t take unemployment (Jobseeker’s Allowance), they also aren’t taking any steps to improve their condition. The daughter sits at home all day.

Am I being too harsh? What do you think?

{ 22 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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22 Responses to “A Non-Working British Family”

  1. Miss M says:

    The whole article leaves you rather speechless. Lazy, ignorant, caught in the cycle of poverty, I don’t know what it is. I feel compassion for the son who got stabbed, I’d be afraid to leave the house too. Also, economic opportunity is quite different in Britan compared to the US and we tend to take our opportunities for granted. Have you ever seen the documentary series 7 up? It started in the 60’s and follows a group of british kids starting at age 7, catching up with them every 7 years. It really opened my eyes to class in Britain, the kids from lower economic homes had almost zero chance of getting in to college and improving their situation. our society is one of the most mobile in terms of class, both up and down.

  2. I’ve seen the beginnings of this before my very own eyes. A girl I know graduated high school and then just… nothing. I think it’s easier to do nothing nowadays, whereas years ago you simply wouldn’t surprise. For a long time she mooched off others and spent her day watching television and reading fan fiction. I’ve heard that she now has moved on, has a job, and is doing better. It really just takes one action to break the cycle, but it’s really easy to stay in it, too.

    I don’t think it’s harsh, asking people to contribute at least the minimum of their fair share to society instead of living off aid for a long period of time. Sure, some people get in a rut and need that help, but it’s a problem when you make it your way of life.

  3. Chris says:

    I’ll never figure these stories out. I can’t tell you the overabundant amounts of opportunities to do things that come across my plate, or that I hear about, or that someone asks me about.

    I think these folks also don’t understand what opportunity cost is, either. This woman might receive an offer to do something that would uproot the family and create a better life; maybe not substantially better, but better, anyway. Would she take the risk, and give up the welfare income? I doubt it.

  4. ~Dawn says:

    It sounds like she has a major issue with procrastination and that she may need some therapy… but then I should back off, who am I to judge as I don’t know the full situation, only what the paper feels is important.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Not too harsh. It’s sad, but I’m used to it. Here in the States it’s just as bad. There are lazy, clueless people all around us.

    I feel as if there are more and more of these people living around us everyday. …and even more bleeding heart types who want to give our tax dollars to programs aimed at propping up these people.

    I can’t say I have an answer though.

  6. Jim says:

    You shouldn’t have to look overseas to find such examples. There are many of them here in the USA.

    They don’t say if the ex-husband worked. It says they met when she was 17 and he died in 2006. SO maybe he worked that time and she was basically a stay at home mom most of her life until he died a couple years ago.


  7. Ryan says:


  8. It’s so easy to get upset about this coming from the perspective of someone who is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to better oneself.

    And I did see that 7up series, it was amazing how defined things were. The documentary was pretty boring after while though.

  9. Carla says:

    I personally cant understand why someone would like to live like that. I guess I have champagne tastes and want to be able to drink the champagne!

    I have known people like that here personally and from what I can tell, deep down they dont feel like they deserve any better.

  10. poor boomer says:

    No I don’t think you are being too harsh.

    She failed to plan, thus she planned to fail. Having said that, the UK economy has greater unemployment (rate) than the US, and I’m not sure what bottom-rung job opportunities exist there. (There is a large underclass with negligible employment prospects.) And the British Army is probably proportionally smaller than the US Army, so I’m not sure going into the Army was a feasible option.

    But she should have anticipated the difficulties her children would face in council housing, and taken steps to escape it.

    Some sort of part-time work requirement to graduate (perhaps 20 hrs/wk during your senior year) might not be a bad idea. Outcomes are often bad when people complete their education (and especially when they drop out) before undertaking employment.

  11. poor boomer says:

    Ryan said:


    Probably, but the UK economy is substantially different from that in the US. Opportunities abound here, not so much there.

    There is a large underclass in the UK, and while I do not know for a fact, I suspect there is widespread distrust among employers and job discrimination against people who live in council housing. (Their address (and perhaps also their speech) would give it away, much like when someone here lives in public housing. When I delivered pizzas, every employee knew exactly where the public housing projects were located, as we did not deliver to them, and would not accept orders from those addresses.)

    I consider government “job” and “training” offices in the US to be largely worthless, or at least of limited value/ These offices are not there for the jobseeker – they exist for the convenience of the employer. They act as gatekeepers for employers – I can find five jobs I’d like to apply for, and the state employment office can find reasons to weed me out of four jobs, leaving me with ONE job referral for a full morning or full afternoon of my time. And the training programs are to train jobseekers for jobs employers cannot otherwise fill on their own. It’s never about you, and always about the employer.

  12. Jennifer says:

    ‘While Elizabeth “feels angry” at herself for not getting into work when she was younger, at the same time she believes looking after the kids and the house has been a job in itself.’

    It sounds to me like Elizabeth has been a stay at home mom for the past 20+ years. It’s weird that the author didn’t bother to mention if Elizabeth’s late husband worked.

  13. jim says:

    @poor boomer: It sounds like she didn’t even try… neither did the kids. It’s one thing to look hard and find no opportunities, it’s another to do nothing.

    @Jennifer: I linked to the article before any commentary, as I assumed that readers would read the article. Second, I myself assumed he did work *but* she chose not to look for work prior to the family (plus I do say that I understand not working to raise a family).

  14. Green Panda says:

    It’s not too late for them and I hope at least on of them decides to venture outside their comfort zone. Life is too precious to waste.

  15. bill says:

    funny how even when you pull up a story that is so obviously riddled with poor choice after poor choice after poor choice…there are still people (ahem @poor boomer) that argue to (semi-)validate the poor choices of the lazy.

    this is where the US is heading…sad sad sad. economies are trying to directly square up and make a play against natural selection which is a LOSING battle…just like the US’s attempt to over come globalization with bullshit trade/tax policies. I lol all the way to the grave…fucking depressing.

    just like poorly run businesses, poorly run people should FAIL. you can say I lack empathy, but don’t call me a liar.

  16. Mrs. Getting Rich says:

    Very good point “Jennifer” concerning her late husband, however, if she is a stay at home mom and has been conditioned to make it her career, she should at least encourage the children to want for themselves.

    Personally, if there was no “system” to help people be lazy then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I have a very low tolerance of laziness because if I can work a full-time office job and I also coordinate weddings with five children and I am also the wife of a Pastor then everyone else can too! But thats my logic!

    Don’t get me wrong, if one is terminally or mentally ill or a senior citizen or a paraplegic or an amputee, then obviously one cannot work and would require assistance. I will even go as far to say that stay at home moms/dads are even at liberty to stay home if that is your household arrangement. But, to stay home just because you do not want to take orders from someone in exchange for a paycheck or because you never “get around” to going to look for a job is absurd.

    We all patronize businesses on a daily basis. From time to time one may run into a business with a “now hiring” sign on the door. Wouldn’t one say to oneself, I will inquire about a position here, considering I am not currently employed and am tired of living on next to nothing from month to month? But, that is my thought process! I cannot force this type of logic on others.

    Make money which in turn will make it a great day!!!!!!!

  17. Money Watch says:

    As a UK citizen, it makes me a little angry that the tax I pay goes towards funding their lifestyle. Sure, she says she doesn’t claim Job Seeker’s allowance – because they’ve been told if they don’t look for work, but they are picking up other benefits which have to be paid for somehow (ie. by other tax payers).

    Whilst it’s easy for me to say she should get a job etc. etc., I don’t come from such a deprived background, so I don’t really know what struggles they’ve had. But I do know that others have managed to do it, and after all of this time someone must have offered her a job.

  18. poor boomer says:

    Mrs. Getting ZRich said:

    “We all patronize businesses on a daily basis. From time to time one may run into a business with a “now hiring” sign on the door. Wouldn’t one say to oneself, I will inquire about a position here, considering I am not currently employed and am tired of living on next to nothing from month to month? But, that is my thought process! I cannot force this type of logic on others.”

    I do this often. Turns out that almost invariably, the employer has a hard-to-fill position available. For example, restaurants often have higher standards for servers than for dishwashers. (And in my area, the number of job openings for dishwashers has apparently plummeted in the past month or so.)

    It is very tedious and time-consuming to look for a job if you don’t have a car. a local newspaper, or an internet connection, unless a large number of employers is clustered (as, perhaps, in a shopping mall).

  19. S says:

    If you provide someone the means to sit on their arse all day and they have a personality that avoids problems then they will continue to mooch.

    Of course she is starting to look for a job now – right after they threaten to cut off her “income.” It is however as much the government’s fault as it is hers. There has to be an enabler. This is the same as I see with members of my family: My father provided a livelihood with his restaurant and now that it is gone, they are regretting gambling away all their earnings and have to scramble to earn a third of what they used to.

    Money that wasn’t earned is a pox. It generates an attitude of entitlement and sloth and leads to bitterness.

  20. Matt says:


    I have a lot of sympathy for people out of work because they can’t find a decent job. I’ve been there. I spent the better part of three years in a row there, actually, and in the process completely exhausted the generosity of my family and friends for life. It sucks.

    But I was _looking_ for work. If I’d been offered work, I’d have taken it, and I was doing everything in my power to put myself in the path of offers. I wasn’t sitting on my butt cashing checks funded with tax dollars and talking about how I just couldn’t be bothered to even investigate the possibility of a job.

    There’s a big difference between down-on-your-luck and lazy. And this woman’s story is absolutely textbook “lazy”. In fact, if laziness were a medical condition, doctors would be suspicious that a patient meeting the diagnostic criteria as completely, precisely, and thoroughly as she does might be faking it.

  21. fathersez says:

    We must not judge, one of the commenters said. I agree.

    Still stories like this will hurt those of us whose taxes are used this way.

    In fact, I have met British and Aussie people in Thailand who have a relatively good life based on welfare recipts from “home”.

    I suppose any kind of support system will have its misusers????

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