Coffee House

Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t support a welfare cash card

20 December 2012

4:46 PM

20 December 2012

4:46 PM

Those nasty Tories, they’re at it again. Now they’re trying to stigmatise benefit claimants by giving them special welfare cash cards so they can’t buy booze or cigarettes with their child benefit. That Dickensian Iain Duncan Smith was talking about the value of such a card on the lunchtime news, and has caused a bit of an uproar.

Except they’re not planning to do anything of the sort. I’ve just spoken to a source close to the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has completely refuted the idea that he’s going to bring a card in. The only hint he was making was that some vulnerable claimants such as people struggling with drug addictions might be better helped by a card, not every benefit claimant. The source says:

‘This is not something that is being considered, it is not in the pipeline. All Iain was saying was that if there is someone vulnerable,or someone who is on a drug addiction treatment programme and had children, would it really be helpful to give them money every month? But the whole point of universal credit is that we are saying we trust people on benefits: let’s not do down people on benefits, who have obviously fallen on hard times. A welfare cash card for all claimants would be completely untenable and would go against everything else we are trying to do.’

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The furore has been stirred up by Alec Shelbrooke’s Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons yesterday, which did call for a comprehensive welfare cash card for out-of-work benefit claimants. Alex Massie shared some of his thoughts on these proposals with Spectator readers on this yesterday, and his point about this being an authoritarian approach to benefits is particularly strong.

The point of IDS’ reforms to the welfare system is not that claimants are treated from the start as though they cannot be trusted. A welfare cash card would mean someone on out-of-work benefits couldn’t learn how to budget as though they were on a salary. Duncan Smith has been pushing for the same principle to be applied to social housing tenants who have until now had their rent paid direct to their landlord. His argument has always been that the benefits system shouldn’t mollycoddle and institutionalise people, making them dependent on benefits. The welfare cash card would do this. And for someone receiving long-term disability benefits for a condition which means they cannot work, they would be consigned to buying what the state told them to buy for the rest of their lives. Anyone with a healthy distrust of the state should be very concerned about moves in that direction.


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Show comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=680933459 Lynne Beaty

    so if they say there not going to do it,,,means there going to do it,,right

  • http://www.facebook.com/karl.montague.9 Karl Montague

    Cutting and slashing through the benefits budget has completely ignored the national Paradox of Thrift.

    Thousands of small businesses nationwide rely on benefits recipients for their trade. Apart from the fact that companies make profits (and therefore create jobs, and pay tax) from the food, cigarettes, alcohol, toothpaste, etc that are bought with benefits, cigarettes and alcohol are high tax items. It makes economic sense to let whoever wants to buy high-tax items do so.

    The problems with the economy are caused by people at the bottom of the social ladder having no money to spend through cuts and sanctions (and therefore trickle up through taxes and business profits), and companies being allowed to avoid paying fair taxes and wages.

    Since there still aren’t enough jobs to go round, the government should focus on creating civil jobs like teachers, doctors, nurses, and construction workers and civil engineers. Free education for unemployed people and school leavers with the aptitude to fill these jobs, and for those that are already crying out for workers, like programmers and systems administrators.

    And for the rest, a little money to help them along (and be put back into the economy). We should be bailing out our poor people and grass-roots businesses in times of financial recession.

  • Robert Taggart

    Anything that gives those lame-brain ‘civil’ service imbeciles power over others be bound to fail. They cannot carry out their ‘passive’ duties as it is !

  • http://www.facebook.com/NevtelenFicko787 Nevtelen Ficko

    Duncan was on the dole for several months. Pot calling kettle black? ROFL http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/why-iain-duncan-smith-should-look-1400558

  • AdemAljo

    Could anyone imagine how much effort someone would put in just to AVOID having one of these cards?!

    If there is one thing we can be certain of it is that people will always be afraid of being constantly judged by society. JSA is easy to hide, because it comes in the form of cash and no one need ever know. A card, however, will force our society to look differently at those who do not contribute to our country. And that is EXACTLY what we need.

    Genuinely unemployed people will not care. The vast majority of professionals or skilled workers will very quickly find another job and will probably never even get a card, let alone use one. Much like JSA now.

    I couldn’t even bring myself to claim my rightly owed JSA when I left my job last year because it was just that embarrassing. God forbid I had to use a card if I wanted a pint of milk.

    I think it’s a a fantastic idea. I think the fact that it has even been mentioned, let alone lightly discussed, is a Christmas miracle.

  • AdemAljo

    Could anyone imagine how much effort someone would put in just to AVOID having one of these cards?!

    If there is one thing we can be certain of it is that people will always be afraid of being constantly judged by society. JSA is easy to hide, because it comes in the form of cash and no one need ever know. A card, however, will force our society to look differently at those who do not contribute to our country. And that is EXACTLY what we need.

    Genuinely unemployed people will not care. The vast majority of professionals or skilled workers will very quickly find another job and will probably never even get a card, let alone use one. Much like JSA now.

    I couldn’t even bring myself to claim my rightly owed JSA when I left my job last year because it was just that embarrassing. God forbid I had to use a card if I wanted a pint of milk.

    I think it’s a a fantastic idea. I think the fact that it has even been mentioned, let alone lightly discussed, is a Christmas miracle.

  • HooksLaw

    off topic
    Free the Tesco 1
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/9759791/OFT-left-red-faced-as-Tesco-cheese-ruling-is-overturned.html

    This was made into a big scandal at the time. Will the press give equal coverage?
    It seems Morrisons sued the OFT for libel.

  • zack

    The Nasty Party are so desperate.They want to take Britain back to the 19th century.If they new how to stop giving Billion’s away. overseas to look good on the world stage and hadn’t of got us into the EU,stopped immigration to the ones without a job to support themselves.we wouldn’t have a welfare problem.How do countries like New Zealand and Australia manage/ that pay out higher benefits and aged pensions than the UK does .Manage it?

  • nemesis

    Sin taxes already exist on booze and fags – if the sin taxes were removed the poor folk would have more money for necessities. The unintended consequences of these excessive taxes has merely diverted money to the black market and increased incidence of illegal behaviour. Instead of admitting that it hasn’t worked, the Gov proposes to up the alcohol price even more.

  • Hornblower

    The only way to cut out the abuses is to stop paying out for doing little more than signing a form every 2 weeks .Ask any taxi driver in a sink area what `wait and return` means . It is the method of booking a taxi for the customer to be collected ,taken to the job centre , whereby the driver waits for his customer to emerge before taking him to his final destination . Cooperative stores in the north do brisk business selling lottery tickets and a plethora of `scratch cards ` that vary in price from £1 to £10. and dont get me started about Sky subscription fee`s . The never employed MUST be made to work for their benefits. if only to give a value to the money they manage

    • Eeeek

      You are either stupid, mis-informed or gullible. I would like to think that you are the latter.

  • HellforLeather

    The author of the blog says: ” I’ve just spoken to a source close to the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has COMPLETELY REFUTED the idea”. (Emphasis mine).

    Please do check the meaning of the world “refuted”. It is abused/misunderstood far too often. And, once something is “refuted”, it’s done, dusted — no need to say “completely”. The term “refuted” is a very powerful word in its own right — there are no degrees of refuting something.

    Just thought you should know.

    • http://www.facebook.com/NevtelenFicko787 Nevtelen Ficko

      Grammar nazi too much?

  • wondering

    IDS knows that there is already a clause in the universal credit legislation that was recently passed so no need for a other bill

  • Junis

    Do most Britons understand that our country treats the unemployed poor very poorly compared to Western Europe?

    http://issuu.com/janus777/docs/uk_unemployment_benefits_compared

    • dalai guevara

      absolutely, anyone who ever paid NI contributions would have to ask him/herself where all his/her money is going – surely not on payments coving the event of his/her unemployment.

  • HooksLaw

    What about those those horrible socialists in Australia?

    • Magnolia

      This has got to be parody.

      • toni

        Yeah. The parody is that Alec Shelbrooke who is paid and subsidised by the taxpayer has the damned brass neck to suggest that the poorest in society, those who claim benefits, should be restricted in what they buy for their own good via a card system.
        Take a look at the pages of comments on ConHome to his article yesterday, and then look at his profile – for someone who looks like an overstuffed sofa cushion in his speedos, it’s him who should be carrying a card that restricts him to veg. and water for 6 months – for his own good.
        Alec Shelbrooke – nasty party fat boy pin up.

        • Magnolia

          Now I’m sure it’s parody.

      • HooksLaw

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18951205

        ‘The Australian government is rolling out a radical new way of paying welfare benefits … Instead of being given cash or cheques, thousands of people are now issued with electronic “credit” cards. The Basics cards, as they are called, can only be used to purchase
        “priority” items such as food, housing, clothing, education and health
        care’

        Last time I looked the Australian govt was a socialist one.

  • Forestlands

    Ian Duncan Smith has done enough injustices to the working British, who paid into N.I. and the like, look at all the non working immigrants in Waltham Forest drawing benefit for sitting on their back sides. I speak from experiance having worked for DWP there.

    • John Lea

      Forestlands – I agree with your general point, but it was New Labour who let them all in in the first place. And it was done intentionally, as part of a ruthless and surreptitious campaign to destroy the cultural landscape of this country.

      • Forestlands

        John, I get your point, Ian Duncan Smith has done nothing to stop these illegal immigrants getting benefit while not actively seeking work. The constraints placed on the indigeonous people of this country are driving them into poverty while those coming to the country live off the benefits paid into by hard working people of U.K.. I know Ian and don’t think he has the bottle to stand up for the people of Chingford, or Waltham Forest, against all those immigrants that have taken over and are living off our benefit system in that Boro. or anywhere else in the UK.

        As I see it, New Labour are a thing of the past and changes should have been made by now!

        I do hope you will follow the campaign to save the Stow Dog Track, please do take a look, I think it will interest a gentleman like you who cares about our culture. Many thanks.

  • PhilO

    Surely claimants would still need to be able to get cash with their card, rendering their money as fungible as anyone else’s. We already know IDS isn’t mollycoddling anyone; if he pushes this too far, it’ll bite back.

    • http://www.facebook.com/peter.brownp Peter Brownp

      And just how will it bite back? Will claimants refuse to use their benefit cards? Yeah, that’ll show them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/annabella.laws Annabella Blackfox Laws

    This is getting utterly ridiculousness, What next before this rubbish is put a stop to? a badge for all benefit claimants to single them out like the Jewish people who suffered Genocide in ww2 Germany? Death camps and gas chambers?! what?! I’ve already been forced onto this stupid site, I’m already having problems with monster’s own site and it not finding matches for the things I asked, and this by the same people?! I dread to think how bad its going to be!! but most of the jobs don’t exist on their site in the first place as they put fake ones up. Then there’s the fact I can not log in I go for ever in roundabouts on other places of the DWP site. But now to be forced to use this unsafe Heep of junk?!
    what about this cash card for benefits that idiot wants to bring in? maybe that needs to be mandatory for MP expenses?

  • David Lindsay

    With a majority of only 4,521, and that in a Northern seat, Alec Shelbrooke already stood no chance of being re-elected.

    This is truly a Blairite Government, dreaming up exactly the nightmare Big IT projects that so often proved so farcical in those days, and motivated by the same hatred of the less fortunate. IDS used to be better than that.

    But the less fortunate, and those in sympathy with them or even just out of sympathy with these daft gimmicks, were hardly going to vote Conservative against New Labour. Whereas it is obvious how they are going to vote against the Coalition.

    • HooksLaw

      His seat (a new one) was 107 in the target list and won comfortably. It was a funny election, there were seats which the tories would have won with universal swing which they did not, seats which they ere not likely to win but gained big but unprofitable swings.

      I think speculation about 2015 is a bit previous.

  • ScaryBiscuits

    To a libertarian, freedom and independence are different sides of the same coin. That is, if I don’t bother the state, it shouldn’t bother me. Conversely, if I request charity from my neighbour, he gains a right to have a say in what that is. You cannot have the SNP idea of independence where they want to be politically independent but not financially.
    Applying this idea to benefits, there is no problem from a libertarian point of view from putting severe restraints on what people can but with taxpayers’ largess. Thus, it is certainly not an impingement of their freedom and it is moot as to whether giving them this choice helps them to break out of dependency or simply or entrenches it.

    • HooksLaw

      Freedom and Responsibility are different sides of the same coin. Charity is just that and its a poor samaritan who lays down rules.

      Benefits, in all their various forms, are not charity, they are in fact a wise measure by a sensible society to help the unfortunate and to minimise social friction and unrest. They offer help in areas which society thinks is good’, like ‘child benefits, and can act as an economic stabiliser, like unemployment benefits. The ultimate benefit, if there is no other option, is that the State will bury you.

      Benefits should operate as a floor and can only be offered to the extent that they can be afforded. Since the state is the middle man between the tax and insurance payer and recipient it needs to apply rules. If I give to a big issue seller, thats my business and his what he chooses to do with it.

  • grammarschoolman

    ‘And for someone receiving long-term disability benefits for a condition which means they cannot work, they would be consigned to buying what the state told them to buy for the rest of their lives.’

    I think you’ll find that Shelbrooke made a point of exempting such people from the cash card system for precisely this reason.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      This is typical of the Aunt Sally that the left are always putting up to discourage any discussion of benefit reform, a reductio ad absurdum. So you want disabled people to starve? etc.

    • Eeeek

      Like Hitler did for his returning crippled soldiers; many of whom were hidden by their families so that they did not end up in ‘work camps’ . History repeating itself again..

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Benefit claimants will quickly work out a way to get round any restriction. The cards will cost us a lot, but they will not stop any determined smoker or drinker from getting what they want. You don’t even need to get into an argument about how illiberal it is, because it is stupid anyway.

    • Sally Chatterjee

      Exactly. You go into the supermarket and come out with some approved food and then barter the goods for cigarettes or drugs.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      It possibly is stupid. But is it any more stupid that the 3 million wasted lives currently getting by on benefits and a significant proportion of those spending what spare cash they do have on temporary escapism?

      • Rhoda Klapp

        You are correct, but fine-tuning the way they get paid is unhelpful. We are paying people to be poor. We will never lack for poor people. We are importing poor people to help our own handle the load.

        We have a tendency here, and I do not except myself from it, to stereotype benefit claimants. Some think they are all lazy scroungers, some think they are all victims of policies designed by and for the rich. I suggest that they are all different, with different aims and motivations. Lots are better off on benefits than on minimum wage. Lots are in the black economy and have incomes from various not-quite-legit activities. Some are trying hard to find a proper job and cannot because of where they live or uncompetitiveness compared to immigrants. Only by some sort of radical action can this situation be altered. The radical action I suggest is for the government to put our people first and handle the problems in a realistic way. I am not holding my breath.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “The point of IDS’ reforms to the welfare system is not that claimants are treated from the start as though they cannot be trusted. ”

    It seems to be the point of most modern government proposals in respect of everybody, not just benefits claimants, that they cannot be trusted. Cameron promised “light touch government” but so far his government is shaping up to be as big a nanny knows best as New Labour. I wish as much fuss was made about all the other nannying proposals as this one.

    Absolutely sick to the back teeth of it, me. Just because the idiot in No. 10 is a Nintendo-playing kidult doesn’t mean we all are.

  • Kevin

    Great. Now perhaps you can explode this Telegraph (current) headline as a myth:
    Jobless to be remotely monitored by Government

    IDS needs to work on his press. As it is, all these “false rumours” are making me feel that the one compensation for a Labour victory in 2015 would be to see Duncan Donuts thrown out on his ear.

    • HooksLaw

      I am afraid you are dealing with the Telegraph here, a sad decline. It is both ignorant and infantile. It is also interested in embarrassing and misrepresenting the govt at every opportunity for its own selfish reasons.
      Throughout the whole of the press/media the lunatics are running the asylum.

      EDIT
      The Telegraph reviewr calls ‘Zero dark Thirty’ ‘cuticle shredding suspense’. Well I know this is a spoiler but actually in the end they shoot Bin Ladin, I saw it on the news.

    • Fergus Pickering

      IDS is not to blame for the DTs vivid imagination. Why you should believe something because you saw it in the Daily telegraph of heard it on the Beeb, I cannnot imagine. Stick to the Murdoch press. They will tell it how it is.

  • dalai guevara

    Ever more waffle – when will we see some results?

  • David in Kent

    If the cards were used positively, like a credit card, they would still help people to learn to manage money and the state could deploy its buying power to negotiate discounts for users which would help their money go further.
    I agree that it is a waste of effort to try and stop people wasting their limited resources on booze.

  • Tony, Somerset.

    I think there should be a way of preventing claimants purchasing unsuitable items with their child benefit. Presumably they will also be in receipt of other benefits that they can fritter away.

    • http://twitter.com/LadyKorenwolf Lady Kayla

      “OK,” takes two tenners out of purse and holds them up “that £10 is from my child benefit so I can only spend _that_ on food/clothes for the children; but _this_ £10 is from my piddly little minimum wage income/benefit so I can spend that on whatever I like, even on the phone bill!”**

      Really? You really haven’t thought through the concept of ring-fencing any income at all when you’re on a very tight budget.

      **For the hard of thinking, this is me acting a part.

      Edit to point out that Child Benefit is given to every family with at least one child under 16, not just those on benefits.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        I think you might have missed the sarcasm in that comment. In the days of universal benefits we will all be subject to gentle and well-meaning guidance as to what we can do with the money the government lets us have.

    • Magnolia

      We could remove child benefit and replace it with free school meals for every child.

    • Fergus Pickering.

      I do not consider money spent on booze anf fags as money frittered away. Staff of life, you know. But of course I am talking about my money. But why are we discussing something Mr Duncan-Smith says he is not going to do? Do we think he is lying? He is not a policeman. He is not a Labour front-bench spokesman. He is not a BBC apparatchik.. .

  • Martin Keegan

    How is this different from income management in the Northern Territory of Australia? There the left-right debate was not “is this a good idea?” but “are we violating our international treaty commitments by only imposing it on Aborigines” (Labor accordingly *extended* the scheme to white welfare claimants when they got into power).

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