Teachers’ notes on ‘One third of homes dependent on benefits’

Teachers’ Notes

These lesson planning notes for teachers are for use with the text of the article entitled ‘One third of homes dependent on benefits’.

Pre-reading activities

Activity 1 and 2 include questions that will help to provide background and context necessary for the detailed understanding of the article.

  1. The expression welfare support means payments and other benefits that government and non-governmental charitable organizations provide for disadvantaged people. These might inlude: money given to unemployed people, subsidized housing, emergency food parcels, free health care and medical treatment.
  2. The benefits available in any particular country will vary enormously and students need help to relate the arrangements in their home country with the situation described in the article.
  3. Although most countries will have some formal or informal system of welfare support, the question of ‘Who should receive welfare support?’ provides a useful opportunity for more advance students to express opinions.
  4. Depending on the social context in the host country, students may find out about meaning and origin various terms used in the article such as ‘right-wing’ and ‘left-wing’ in politics?
  5. Activity 2 involves scanning the text and finding significance of various figures and names used in the article such as:
    7 million; Civitas; 61%; 9%; Department for Work and Pensions; Gordon Brown; David Cameron; David Green; 1970s and 1980s; 2 million more; hundreds of thousands; Reform; Frank Field.
    Teachers will need to use their judgement about the depth or detail that is appropriate for any given student or class of students. For example, it may be appropriate to know that ‘Gordon Brown’:
    • is a person;
    • is a man;
    • is/was a British government minister responsible for finance;
    • is/was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British government from 1997-2007;
    • became British Prime Minister in 2007 (after the article was written).

Activity 3

In Activity 4, students are asked to read the text silently, noting the use of certain key words:

gulf — scathing — stark — reliant — drastic — handouts — regime

perception — unsustainable — confronted — caricatured — legitimate

Activity 4

In Activity 4,students are asked to complete selected sentences using words chosen from a list. Correct answers are given below

  • The man claimed that he was the legitimate heir to the throne and he demanded an investigation.
  • The priest went from street to street giving handouts to the people who were sleeping rough but he was criticised for this by the police.
  • The regime at the prison was very strict and he had no choice but to follow it.
  • There was an enormous gulf between him and his children and however hard he tried he was unable to cross it.
  • The cartoons in the television programme caricatured him in a cruel way, but he was pleased because it would have been worse to have been ignored.
  • The human rights body, Liberty , issued a scathing attack on the police for the way in which they handled the case.
  • His counselor said that it was important that he confronted his fears if he wished to overcome them.
  • There was a stark contrast between his views and those of his brother.
  • The way in which we are using fossil fuels is unsustainable and we must switch to renewable sources of power.
  • He was very dependent on his bicycle and went almost no-where outside his house without it.
  • The perception of many people is that the government misled people over reasons for the invasion Iraq .
  • His debts were getting too great so he took drastic steps and cut up his credit cards and sold his car.

Activity 5

In Activity 5, students are asked to decide, based on the passage, if selected statements are true or false, or is there inadequate evidence either way? Students should be encouraged to support their views with evidence from the text rather than simply choosing True or False.

  1. Most single-parent families are now dependent on government welfare payments. Inadequate evidence; we are told only that most single-parent families with two children are dependent on welfare.
  2. The Civitas report suggests that the government policies encourage people not to work. True
  3. The Conservatives are unwilling to challenge Brown’s policies because they don’t want their policies to resemble American policies too closely. Untrue; they don’t want to be portrayed as uncaring.
  4. The Thatcher government was the initial cause of the rising rates of welfare payments. True
  5. The report suggests that providing additional funds will not in itself improve health and education in the UK . True
  6. Mr. Green did not want a reduced role for government in health and education because this would be seen as selfish and uncaring. Untrue; he did want to reduce the role of government.
  7. Reform believes that providing welfare payments makes people lazy. True
  8. It is probable that Frank Field would not agree with Civitas or Reform but he does want the welfare system to be reformed. True. He would probably not agree with them altogether as he is a Labour MP.

Activity 6

In Activity 6, students are asked various questions about the use of language in the passage.

Quoted / Cited

What is the difference between quoted in (Para. 2) and cited in … (Para 3)

When you quote you use the actual words of the original writer and you show this clearly by placing the text within quotation marks or perhaps in italics. You also include a clear reference to the author and the original article or book (family name + date + page reference).

When you cite something you merely need to place a reference in your paragraph; you need not include a quotation.

Replacements for ‘said’ and ‘wrote’

There are many ways in which we can refer to something said or reported instead of using verbs like said and wrote. You can ask students to suggest alternative words used in the report.

  • Para 1 – indicate / reveal
  • Para 3 – prepared
  • Para 4 – suggests
  • Para 5 – according to
  • Para 6 – makes the point
  • Para 7 – went on / urged
  • Para 8 – defended
  • Para 9 – warned
  • Para 10 – has also called for / accused

Emotive words

Are there any emotive words used in the article? By whom?

The word handouts is an emotive word because it suggests people getting money for nothing rather than be supported with good reason by the state. This expression was used by Civitas. This is a right-wing think-tank.

Set phrases or expressions

Explain the meaning of the expression below. Do you have similar sayings in your first language?

…tested to destruction …

It means in this context that something has been tried and tried until it fails to work. For example, a piece of concrete from a building site is taken to a laboratory and put under great pressure until it crumbeles in order to estimate its strength.


There are at least nine examples of metaphor in the passage.

  • (a huge) gulf (para 1)
  • (financially) crippled (para 2)
  • paint (a stark picture) (para 3)
  • dependency culture has grown (over the last few decades) (para 3)
  • (Gordon Brown) has been (repeatedly) attacked (para 3)
  • soaring (unemployment) (para 5)
  • strike a chord with (para 9)
  • “… a floor on which people built and not a ceiling which made it impossible for them to pass through” (para 10)
  • to bolster (para 10)