One of my favourite TV Shows at the moment is The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4. After a long day, I love to watch as the latest millionaire leaves behind his comfortable lifestyle and goes in search of people in need of help.
I’ve recently watched a repeat episode which particularly struck a cord with me. It featured John Elliott, a self made millionaire and life long supporter of the Conservative Party. John travelled to Kensington, Liverpool which is an area known for high unemployment. He desperately wanted to find people in need of his help but this proved difficult. Why? Because as he looked around, there was no shortage of jobs available for people to apply for. The high unemployment rate wasn’t down to a lack of jobs – they were there in abundance. John met various residents of Kensington but none of them seemed in desperate need – the state were taking care of their basic needs.
It seemed like John would be the first Secret Millionaire not to part with any cash. He was reluctant to give away money unless he was sure that it would make a real difference. Then he met a young couple with a baby. They were up to their eyes in credit card debts and living in rented accommodation. The husband was working 12 hour days driving a taxi to pay off his debts and provide for his family. He didn’t come home until he’d earned the money he needed. Though struggling and in debt, he wasn’t afraid of hard work and was paying the price for racking up so much debt. Finally, John had found a family that he could help. But he didn’t do the obvious thing and pay off the credit cards. It would have been all too easy for them to just build up further debt. Instead, he gave them a deposit for a house of their own. They could get a mortgage and finally start enjoying the rewards of working hard.
John also befriended a young refugee who had been granted leave to stay in the UK. He was a qualified accountant but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t find employment and so spent his time volunteering instead. John decided to help him but not with a hand out. He gave him a job in his company. This gave him so much more than a handout – it gave him his confidence and self-respect.
I had to admire John’s approach. He didn’t want to find problems and then throw money at it. In his mind, that was pointless and a waste of money. Although he had over £60 million, he didn’t want to see his hard earned fortune wasted. He wanted to enable people to solve their own problems and give them their self-respect in the process.
I also agree with John Elliott’s stance. In my time supporting disadvantaged people into employment, I saw many people who were desperate to work. If I’d given them a handout, they wouldn’t have accepted it. I also saw an equal number of people who were fairly comfortable on their state benefit and so had little interest in “rocking the boat” by finding a job. If they did look for work, they were only interested in jobs for less than 16 hours a week so that they could remain on state benefit. But this approached failed to give them any pride or the self respect which John valued and rewarded.
The programme inspired me and made me more determined than ever to develop Flyinglady so that we can eventually set up employment support programmes to help people who really want to find work. I think if there were more John Elliotts around, encouraging and supporting people to stand on their own two feet, we could reduce the JobCentre queues.