Yesterday I was invited to give a drug and alcohol pep talk to a bunch of youngsters at a place called Apex. Who were they? Technically they had somehow been assessed as being 'at risk of offending'. Nice to see that crystal balls are still alive and kicking. Interestingly enough hardly any of them had actually done any actual offending other than dropping litter and flicking V signs at community wardens. I think the key was that most seem to have ome from chaotic families which meant that the powers that be were well and truly convinced that they would follow the same well trodden path of crime, benefits and daytime TV as their parents. Nothing like tagging people with labels and leaving them there, eh? Being on the course entitled them to £55 a week because it was deemed that they were in training. Well, we wouldn't want anyone to think that there is a problem with youth unemployment would we? Perish the thought. I have a hypothetical question I like to put when I do these kind of things. It goes something like this. You've got £50 in your pocket and you're not allowed to blow it on drink and drugs. In fact you have two spending options. Option 1. A pal has been tossed out by his mum and dad and the homeless department have told him to take a hike. He is going to have to sleep out under a bridge and he wants £50 to buy a sleeping bag and stuff. Option 2. A member of your family has cut their leg and the wound has got infected and it is going green and grangrenous. £50 will cover the cost of some anti-biotics which will save the leg from being lopped off.
So I popped the question and all hands went up to vote to save the family leg. They always do. Bless them. However they were still looking at me like I had lost it. Next I pointed out that this was basically the choice the government is going to have to make in the nest few years. In a bankrupt Britain, the option will be NHS or the Bru. (For all the worldwide followers of this blog, in Scotland 'the Bru' means the DHSS, the social, benefits...) So basically they all needed to get their heads around the idea that one day there would be no magic cash dispensing machine to give them a free flat, £60 a week and an extensive range of extras if they could manage to come up with a baby.
The question was then asked about where they thought all the money came from. This provoked a great deal of head shaking until one young lass beamed and said 'a factory yeah. A money factory!'. How right she was. Good old Gordan Brown has of course reached the same solution. If you can't make it, print it. In the week of the the death of the now sainted Jade Goody, no doubt the tabloids will have all kinds of fun at the expense of the much reviled Chav underclass of the sink estates. How we love hate these young people who live with the unerring faith that money will magically jump into their hands once a fortnight and that the state will always provide a free flat and cover the bills. The Neverland of crisis loans and bedding allowances. For most of them, this is the way of life they have been brought up with by parents and grandparents. The Welfare State is now 50 years old and we have second and third generations of citizens for whom it is a definite lifestyle choice as mopposed to a safety net. When the money runs out and the benefits train pulls out of the station we are going to have millions of our fellow citizens who will not have the first clue what the hell to do. Whatever happened to the money factory? Whatever happened to Jade? And then it will be time for shop windows to start getting smashed. Happy days.