A family on benefits is spending £1,500 of OUR money on Christmas? Ignore the tabloids and take a closer look

A report into festive 'scroungers' hides a valuable lesson from the unemployed parents

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The Independent Online

It just wouldn’t be Christmas if The Sun didn’t ferret out a family of benefits scroungers (£) lording it up on the backs of the rest of us, now would it?

But at the risk of getting lynched - or at least mercilessly trolled - I’m going to tell you why we should be celebrating “brazen benefits couple” Paul Andrew and Stacey Notley. At least partially.

You probably don’t need me to repeat the story to know the basic elements. At a time when many families are struggling, the supposedly feckless pair are pocketing an alleged £16,500 in benefits.

Among the Stockport couple’s Christmas expenses are £400 just for TVs for their children aged three and six (naturally there’s already a flatscreen in the lounge).


Another £100 will go on decorations, £200 on gifts for family and friends, £100 on food and drink and £100 on stocking fillers. An additional £200 will fund a shopping spree at the sales.

I know that doesn’t quite add up to £1,500, but who’s counting? It’s still a disgrace! What’s more they’re calling for a festive bonus for benefits claimants. You can see what’s coming can’t you? In a veritable avalanche of Tweets, too. They’re everything that’s wrong about this country. Put them in the stocks!

OK I made that last one up. But let’s step back and cut through the hyperbole and outrage for a minute.

For a start, Mr Andrew is not quite the layabout he appears to be. He had a job in a warehouse until a fire brought an end to it. He’s since passed a course as a gym instructor, but has been unable to find work (and the recent publicity probably won’t help much).

More to the point, the way the family funded its supposedly extravagant Christmas is by saving. We are told that Ms Notley gave up beauty treatments. Mr Andrew traded his ciggies for roll ups. Outrageous. How can she afford beauty treatments. Scroungers!

The point being, however, that she gave them up. And presumably they made other savings along the way. The’ll have had to to be able to put £120 a month in a piggy bank.


Now, we live in a country that is gearing up for yet another credit binge. Only a crackdown by regulators has put the brakes on a rampant payday lending industry, and many people will still fund their Christmases on credit card debt, unauthorised overdrafts and Cash Lady loans. Labour MP John Mann recently worried about how “let’s Wonga a pizza” - with the implication that a payday loan from the aforementioned company would pay for the takeout - is becoming common currency among the young.

Set against that, this couple has demonstrated commendable thrift. They have funded their extravagant Christmas the old fashioned way. By saving for it.

Moreover, they’re hardly chasing designer labels. That £200 sale spree we are told that they plan? It will be going the way of Primark, and other discounters. And they’re not buying gifts for each other.

Listen, I’m not saying there’s anything admirable about their Christmas splurge even taking this into consideration. Having shown such commendable discipline it’s a shame that they’re abandoning it during the festive period. Moreover, three and six-year-olds really don’t need televisions in their rooms. It would also be better for all concerned if one or both of them were in work, and if Mr Anthony wants to be a gym instructor he’s not exactly doing himself any favours by smoking rollies. Paul, can I call you Paul? Gyms tend to frown on that sort of thing.

All the same, Bank of England today released figures showing that the annual growth in loan, overdraft and credit card borrowing is now back to pre-crisis levels. Britain is once again indulging in a borrowing bonanza, in the sort of behaviour that played such an important contributory role in the financial crisis.

Its citizens appear to lack even basic money management skills, and it is that which has allowed companies like Wonga to step into the breach. With ruinous consequences for many.

And yet here we are pillorying a family which, despite it all, has held money back and saved for its Christmas. Everything that’s wrong with Britain? The country would be in a better place if a few more people would follow their example when it comes to budgeting, if nothing else.