Film ID:
YFA 4338



Visitor Tabs


A hundred years on from a ground-breaking investigation into unemployment, Richard Bilton compares the lives of the jobless in 1910 with their modern-day counterparts. A century ago single mums lived on the brink of starvation - now our costly benefits system means that children do not go hungry. But has the welfare state created new problems? And as the government embarks on the biggest shake-up of benefits for a generation, what lessons can we learn from research into unemployment carried out a hundred years ago?  Originally transmitted 29th October, 2010

In 1910, philanthropist and chocolate tycoon Seebohm Rowntree wrote a radical book about unemployment, exposing for the first time the terrible conditions faced by Britain's jobless. In the second of two programmes looking at a century of unemployment, Richard Bilton uncovers startling parallels between then and now - including a man living in a tent and reliant on casual labour - as well as the incredible advances that 100 years of reform have brought us. But he discovers that for some, the solutions to ending a life without work remain as out of reach as they did a century ago.

The programme opens with modern day York discussing how previously the chocolate and railway industries used to dominate in York. However, with the decline of both of those industries, things have changed. Using a combination of reconstructions, archive footage, and interviews, this programme compares specific people interviewed for Rowntree's report with those unemployed and currently living in York.

Interview - Richard Taylor, York City Archives

Taylor speaks about how much and how little life in the past 100 years has changed.

There is a man getting a tattoo. JJ McBride has been out of work for a year, and he speaks about his struggle. Like the men in Rowntree's study, he has been trying to find work, and part of that process is visiting the Job Centre every two weeks. Job Seeker's allowance is £65 per week.

Interview - John Duffill, District Manager, Jobcentre Plus

There are parallels to Rowntree's study and people still find themselves institutionalized by lack of work, being caught in a cycle.

Hilary Watson is a young, single mother who is currently looking for work. She speaks about how she dislikes the stereotype that young mothers on benefits are lazy and do not want to work to provide for their families. Parallels are drawn with a single mother from Rowntree's study and her struggle to find work and provide for her family.

Interview - Colette Gray, Future Prospects Advice Centre
Interview - Eamonn Addison, Future Prospects Advice Centre

Age of employees is a problem today just as it was 100 years ago. Rowntree noted that when presented with two men of equal skill, employers would choose the younger man. Today, Bill Rawcliffe speaks of his difficulties. He has lost his job of 40 years working on the railways. Bill states it was more than just a job, it was a way of life, and his co-workers were like family. He now only knows a life without work. Bill has organized a protest as other younger and cheaper labourers have been given jobs on the railway.

At the edge of York Bilton interviews a man called Richard. He is homeless and currently living in a tent. He speaks about his struggle which began when he built up a considerable about of debt. Now he is trying to find work.

Interview - Alan Wright, Carecent Breakfast Center

Wright speaks of how there are still people living on the margins of society who struggle to find work.

Julia is a woman who for the last twenty years has been coming to hand out food to those who need a little extra help. And here Bilton asks whether or not things have changed for those who live a life without work.

End Credits:
Presenter: Richard Bilton
Actors: Neil Armstrong, Amanda Hepburn, Charlotte Kitchling, Markos Von Linger, Skyla Dee Pearce, Jack Soulsby, Rachel Teate
Camera: Nik Porter, Steve Orgen, Steve Horrocks
Sound: Chris Gibbions, Nigel Chatters, Andy Boag, Steve Booth
Title Graphics: Lexi Elven
Online Editor: Boyd Nagle
Dubbing Mixer: Andrew Sears
Production Executive: Jane Taylor
Production Co-ordinator: Charlotte Davies
Film Researcher: Kate Redman
Production Manager: Libby Hand
Film Editor: Andrew Rushton
Assistant Producer: Mora McLagan
Executive Producer: Sam Bagnall
Series Producter: Guy Smith
Producer and Director: Barbara Arvanitidis
BBC 2010

Originally Broadcast 29 October, 2010