Tuesday 13 March 2007

Going beyond satire is getting beyond satire.

This is getting ridiculous. Even accounting for the fact that it had already got well and truly ridiculous, now it's getting ridiculous:

Unemployed single parents are receiving free massages and beauty treatments — paid for by taxpayers.

Yes, it's another step in the Government's scheme to save money on satire by making the welfare state self-ridiculing.

So far, more than 1,000 people, mainly women, have taken advantage of 'pamper days' at salons as part of the project, called Big Brother.

They actually called it "Big Brother". This may be the greatest government marketing double-bluff of all time.

It has been justified on the grounds that if jobless people are happier and more presentable, it will be easier for them to find work.

For that very reason, I don't think I'd oppose a scheme like this if it were for homeless people. But it's not. Like so many of our leaders' schemes, it appears to be based on the assumption that Britain's poor are running around barefoot, eating rats, and sharing outside toilets with ten other families. I'm amazed no-one's suggested a scheme to paint Britain's poor, on the grounds that they're all in black and white.

So, who are these unemployed people who have no confidence and can't even afford to wash?

A teenage girl who works in a salon used by the single parents was critical of the initiative. 'They didn't look like they needed their confidence boosting — they were all very loud,' said the girl, who did not want to be identified.

Loud? Loud and on benefits? Blimey.

'They seemed to have a really good time. One of them was talking into her mobile phone and laughing and joking with a friend about how she was still drunk from the night before when she woke up that morning. Many of them had tattoos and were wearing crop-tops.'

I'd point out that tattoos aren't cheap, but there's always the possibility that the state pays for them these days.

The scheme — in operation in Hereford, Worcester, Northumberland, Durham and Greater Manchester — is open to any single parent over the age of 18 who has been unemployed or on disability benefit for at least six months. They can choose from a range of treatments, including a massage, a haircut, new make-up, a facial, a manicure and even ear-piercing.

I'd be interested to see the research that shows that people do better in job interviews if they're wearing earrings.

They can also claim a separate £30 handout to spend on a shopping trip for new clothes, and are eligible for free lunches and childcare.

Stop me if I'm on completely the wrong tack here, but isn't the point of unemployment benefit that the handouts allow unemployed people to meet their living expenses? And aren't clothes a living expense? So why do unemployed people need more money on top of their unemployment benefits to pay for clothes? Following this logic, what next? Second homes for council tenants?

A man whose teenage daughter works at a salon in Northumberland said: ... 'My daughter earns the minimum wage in the salon while she studies at college. She doesn't get a penny from the Government and earns less than these single mothers get in benefits.'


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