Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford investigate benefits system: We found no scroungers and no-one living comfortably
As Lord Alan Sugar’s original eyes and ears, Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford made a formidable team.
Amid chaos created by the wannabe Apprentices, they were forever on hand to tell it like it really was.
Now the pair have been reunited for a TV series in which they examine Britain’s complicated benefits system.
Former PR man Nick and ex-City solicitor Margaret set out to explode the myth that benefit claimants are all cheating, lazy scroungers trying to exploit the system, by putting together four claimants and four taxpayers to examine each other’s lives.
Margaret,61, says: “The image we get from some of the media is rather distorted – that everyone on benefits has 27 children and lives in a mansion.
“Actually, very few people defraud the system and most struggle to make ends meet.
"I wasn’t aware how much money you needed in order to have a very basic – and fairly grim actually – lifestyle.
“I wasn’t aware how few jobs there are compared to the number of people who are unemployed.”
Both agreed the benefits system is over-complicated – but there is a very real need to support people.
Nick, 69, explains: “The pendulum has swung.
"Not that long ago, people were far more sympathetic and compassionate towards benefits claimants. Not any more.
“When everybody’s a bit hard up, suddenly the claimants swing into clearer focus labelled as ‘B******s, living on the state’.”
Benefits claimants take about 10% of the national £200billion welfare budget, with about 50 per cent going on pensions – which many people believe should not even be included in the figures.
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