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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Is dad-of-22 Raymond Hull to blame for cashing in?

By now everyone will know of Raymond Hull. Everyone, that is, who hasn’t been busy burrowing to the centre of the earth or flitting to a newly mortgaged home on Mars.

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Mr Happy: Raymond Hull with the youngest of his 22 children, seven-month-old Barry

In a recapping nutshell, he is the convicted Aspatria drugs dealer with 22 children who hasn’t worked for 10 years (because of a bad back) and whose benefits keep him and his brood in the style to which they have contrived to become accustomed.

Mr Hull is a happy man. He smiles a lot. He smiles for press photographers, posing cheerfully with members of his extensive family, conscious that national and international headlines are being written about him... most of them calling him Britain’s most shameless scrounger.

He doesn’t seem to mind that. He actually appears quite proud of his achievement as a veteran manipulator of every known conventional system.

He has no regrets, he says. And anyway, he muses, what’s a guy to do when women throw themselves at him and end up pregnant, even after a one night stand? Put in another benefits claim, probably. Deal a bit more dope. Do whatever it takes to carry on carrying on.

When the News & Star broke the story of Mr Hull’s alternative lifestyle, one of his clan tweeted angrily that: “He’s never claimed a benefit in his life...” then swiftly deleted it. Quite right too. He makes no secret of his way of life. Claiming what’s due to him isn’t something he’s ashamed of.

So, now you’re angry. You’re angry because you’re working to offer the likes of Mr Hull and his brood the life choices they prefer – rather than the ones which shackle you to your own limited circumstances.

You’re angry to learn that Mr Hull’s daughter has publicly, on Facebook, thanked the working people of Cumbria for keeping her in a life of leisure and vodka – and the rest.

You’re angry because you’re struggling to make frayed ends meet from a wage that doesn’t go far enough and, when they don’t meet, there’s nowhere you can turn for a hand-out.

One estimate of Mr Hull’s total claims for his extraordinary love of children – and the fertility issues that so challenge him – is around £1.2m. That doesn’t take into account the court appearances and prison sentences that have punctuated his life and those of some of his family members.

You’re angry now because it appears to you crime pays. You, who live within the law, have no cushion of state-funding on which to fall back when times are extremely hard and that makes you steam.

So, in anger, you blame a system which cossets ne’er-do-wells and penalises the hardworking. You’re affronted by the audacity of all those who blatantly work the system and leave you to pick up the bill. Therefore you blame the system.

Be careful. Before joining the politically incensed in a furious crusade to scrap a vital safety-net of welfare for the genuinely needy, try to separate emotion from facts and target your fury more finely.

Raymond Hull is not typical of all benefits claimants. He is not unique, by any means, but he isn’t representative of those people who, at some point in their lives, will need the kind of help a compassionate society should be happy and more than willing to provide.

Because he is unusual; because his enormous family is not the norm, he and they are making national and international headlines able to whip up scorn and anger across two continents.

A safeguarding benefits system of rescue and support for the most desperate deserves our protection. Abusers of that system deserve our wrath. Those who have allowed abuse to continue for at least a decade shouldn’t be paid for the jobs they’ve clearly been doing badly for far too long.

Raymond Hull has every reason to be happy with his lot – so few people have challenged it, he’s learned to claim entitlement. He – and others who live off the sweat of working taxpayers – give us the perspective we need.

It’s not the benefits system that needs cutting, it’s the disinterested people who administer it and dole out our money without question.

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