Coffee House

Iain Duncan Smith: People are shocked by ‘Benefits Street’ and Labour will thank us for welfare reform

13 January 2014

4:35 PM

13 January 2014

4:35 PM

Channel 4 screens the second episode of its Benefits Street documentary tonight, as a petition calling for it to be taken off the air has gained over 30,000 signatures. Labour MPs are trying to use it as an example of the way the media, and by extension the Conservatives, stigmatise benefit claimants. So perhaps it was only natural that a Conservative MP would do the same and use the programme to make a political point during Work and Pensions Questions in the Commons this afternoon. Philip Davies asked Iain Duncan Smith whether he too had been struck by ‘the number of people on there who manage to combine complaining about welfare reforms whilst being able to afford to buy copious amounts of cigarettes, have lots of tattoos done and watch Sky TV on the obligatory widescreen television?’

IDS replied:

‘He’s right, many people are shocked by what they see, but the reality is that is why the public backs our welfare reform package, to get more people back to work to end these abuses, and all of these abuses date back to what the last government left, which was massive spending and trapping people in a benefit dependency.’


He then defended both universal credit and his relationship with the Cabinet Office after Francis Maude last week criticised the implementation of Universal Credit. Duncan Smith said:

‘We know in reality the other side does not support Universal Credit, but it would be better if they came clean, this will be delivered and they will be thankful in the end.’

If Universal Credit does come good in the end (which is far from certain, with Duncan Smith appearing increasingly isolated in his support for it), then the Left will indeed have the Conservatives to thank for the reform as Labour did spend 13 years trying to introduce reforms with similar aims, and then rowing back from them. The intentions were good, with Frank Field and James Purnell both having a go, but the political will was not there. But if it fails, then it will doom welfare reform for another generation, as no party will want to touch it. So those who are sincerely opposed to reform will also have Iain Duncan Smith to thank if his reforms collapse: they will suck the political will for welfare reform out of Westminster for a long time.

For the time being, though, there is political will, and public support. Duncan Smith also had the opportunity to drop hints about the most popular welfare reform this government has ever touched, the £26,000 benefit cap. He told Andrew Bridgen, who had asked for the cap to be lowered, that it was ‘under review’.

You can read Fraser’s post previewing tonight’s episode here.

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Show comments
  • Sandra Williams

    The Tories promised to sort out benefits, but they have done nothing of the sort. They have merely persecuted the unemployed, the sick and the disabled but have failed to deal with real scroungers like the family in this item
    IDS is totally incompetent and, even worse, is costing this country a fortune with this ridiculous and completely unnecessary Universal Credit and claims for items such as underpants. He should be sacked right now.
    Meanwhile, the most puzzling question is who is the stupidest: those who believe every bit of propaganda trash they see on TV, or those who keep IDS in his job. Have to toss for that one – or call it a draw!!!

  • terregles2

    Is anyone in the government telling us how much of our income tax is being spent by the government in subsidising low wages? Companies who are making big profits pay low wages and the government top up the low wages using our money with working tax credits.

  • Mr & Mrs Fletcher

    No Mr Duncan Smith NOT every-one on benefits can go out and SMOKE ,TAKE DRUGS, CARRY CANS OF BEER AROUND WITH THEM, AND Buy Huge TV’S, we cant , and might i add we live respectable lives , My husband has AlPORTS SYNDROME , kidney failure to you , … and cant get DLA , yet this Government gives ALCAHOLICS, DRUG ADDICTS and the like DLA and a lot more ,( and i do know this because there are a couple in my street that get it and have told me .) GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER AND STOP TARRING EVERY ONE ON BENEFITS THE SAME , … ITS SHAMEFULL ,.

  • Monkey_Bach

    I am always dubious when politicians look to televisual entertainments for support as far as their policies are concerned.

    Benefits Street was never supposed to be a serious social commentary on the difficulties and lives of the poor in 21st century England. In common with most other kinds of “reality television” Benefits Street was a patchwork of artfully edited and often staged footage of some of the most colourful, ridiculous, and stand out participants doing stupid things and making spectacles of themselves for purposes of entertainment not debate.

    Benefits Street is hardly more worthy of consideration and discussion than other “reality” shows like The Only Way Is Essex or Made In Chelsea with a pinch of poverty, ignorance, and misery added in for good measure. Only those eager to have their pre-existing prejudices stoked would take such sensational nonsense seriously and as soon as this prurient series ends it will be instantly forgotten. Benefits Street is about as relevant to the lives of millions reduced to living strained lives on social security as Ladyboys is to the difficulties and issues faced by transgender individuals.

    I find it rather sad that British television is littered with rubbish like this these days.

    As far as Universal Credit is concerned, speaking as a Member of the British Computer Society and Chartered Information Technology Professional, I can assure you that Universal Credit has failed, is failing, and will continue to fail under the current Coalition and then, probably for years, under the next Labour government until it is scrapped and superseded by something workable and better.

  • wycombewanderer

    Given the levels of censorship at the guardian this morning as Toynbee tries to point the finger anywhere except at useless labour administrations and mass immigration you’d think that everyone in the world agrees with her.

    Pathetic nasty little creep that she is!

  • paul oxley

    I propose a new C4 show “The Real Spongers Street”

    In episode 1 we follow an ex nurse turned Tory mp who
    employs both her daughters at public expense as her
    “secretaries” at double the going rate despite them
    being teenagers with no experience while herself
    swanning off to the jungle whilst employed to represent
    her constituents

    In episode 2 we see the Tory mp greedily filling in his
    expense claims to heat his stables at public expense
    whilst going on TV attacking benefit claimants

    In episode 3 we see the Secretary of State at the DWP
    paying his rent….oh sorry we dont as he lives rent free
    in a mansion like the hypocritical parasite he is

    Only 300 plus episodes of other two faced Tories to go!!

  • Colonel Mustard

    Does IDS actually have a miniature moustache on his top lip or is it just a scar or something else?

    • John Border

      Like you, he was punched in the face by someone he tortured.

  • McRobbie

    That’s what the left do..try to silence any one who exposes the weakness of their “successes”..and the left think that paying people who end up living on welfare as a full time job is a success. If even one person can live the life of riley on benefits then the system is totally broken…. and there are many many more than just one welfare leech.

  • Raw England

    Immigration and multiculturalism are the sole causes of all the carnage we see. They have cost us so dearly. The English people are now being forced to suffer beyond imagination to pay for it.

    Take note that Benefits Street is located in the foreign occupied city of Birmingham (Birmingham is now foreign majority). When this happens to a city (as it will happen to all of our cities soon), the English are smashed to the bottom of the pile to rot and die.

    I genuinely am staggered that we English haven’t rioted nation-wide yet. We’re living through times more disgusting than other time in the history of mankind.

    • Holly

      We haven’t rioted nation wide yet, because that is not what we do.

      For generations we got up, took a deep breath, and by sheer hard work, self determination, and PRIDE in ourselves,( and where we lived) we built our country back up again….MORE than once!

      Smashing up the place we live, is the daftest idea, and it is NOT how we go about fixing anything, all that does is destroy the little we already have.

      IDS is NOT destroying anyone’s life, dignity, or existence. He knows, just as well as you or me, that the people on benefit street were ALREADY stripped of life, dignity or existence in the wider world of work.
      They were left to their own devices, given state handouts so they would never rock the boat, and it was not just by the Tories, of the past, but by Labour of the present as well, Labour, who thought so much about the lives, dignity and existence of the people, (on the hundreds of ‘benefit Streets’, up & down this country) that they IMPORTED workers!

      We get disability benefits, have gone through the same appeal procedure as everyone else, and won. Our benefits have gone up each year, like they always do, just as other people’s have.

      Personally, I hate it when people like yourself make comments that infer disabled people should be completely written off, just because they have a disability, and when those people get taken in by comments about how ‘disabled’ and ‘unfit’ for work, you think they are, what do you realistically think their feelings for the future will be?

      They are disabled, NOT useless, or incapable of joining the rest of society by doing something, anything, within their capability, to play a part in it. And you should be ashamed for thinking they should be paid money and left, to live the rest of their lives, disabled, and doing nothing constructive because of it.

      Hope, encouragement, and a feeling of purpose is what they need to be hearing, not how ‘disabled’ or ‘unfit’ they are, they already KNOW that!

      • Raw England

        Of course you’re right that the hard-Left/multicultural Labour party caused all this.

        I disagree regarding disabled people. People with cancer, serious addiction, and serious physical/mental issues are being brutally ripped from their lifeline by a panel of sneering ATOS judges. I can’t stress enough the damage that is being done to countless lives.

        The native English disabled, poorly and vulnerable deserve the best care; our forefathers earned that right for them.

        • John Border

          Instead of whining about being English, why dont you describe yourself as British, ? You really are thick as well as stupid.

          • Colonel Mustard

            And you are an anglophobe racist. I’ve seen your other comments.

            • John Border

              I am English , thicko. I come from Billericay and I’m doin’ very well.

      • David Britten

        Where is hope, encouragement to come from when every job worth taking has over 100 applicantswho are not as disadvantaged. I would support welfare reform at a time when there were plenty of jobs, but there are not, except part-time or zero hours, and most for minimum wage, which is not enough to live on. The Tories want to maintain a low wage economy, and are trying to force the poorest in society into crap jobs rather than encourage people off welfare by raising the minimum wage to a ‘living’ wage. All this to please their corporate sponsors, happy to be subsidised by the tax payer with tax credits to top up the crap wages they pay their employees.

    • voidist

      oh Boy !! they way you flail around grasping for straws

    • Makroon

      Love it. Nice piece of irony. How many of those 13 “approvers” actually believed you were being serious ? The mind boggles.

  • anyfool

    If Universal Benefit fails, then as a result no one will touch benefit reform for a generation, the country will go bankrupt, if benefits are not cut back, the country will go bankrupt.
    The majority of people leaving the country are generally the highly skilled people the country needs to up the productivity of the country, continue replacing them as we are doing with poorly educated Third World immigrants, the country will go bankrupt.
    There is not much time left before the lending of mickey mouse money to ourselves will not fend off the day of reckoning.
    Lets see how the lefties screeching in defence of these idle trash squeal, when their pensions and mickey mouse non productive jobs are gone, after the country has gone bankrupt.

    • ohforheavensake

      You’re wrong about benefit claimants: Most of the people who claim benefits are retired: the next highest percentage are people who work, but who don’t earn enough to make a living wage.

      Oh, and immigration’s going down.

      Oh, and a country doesn’t go bankrupt: at least, not in the way you mean.

      Oh, and the benefits budget isn’t the reason that government spending spiked after 2008: that was the banking collapse.

      Oh, and you’ve got no evidence that highly skilled people are leaving the country, to be replaced by low-skilled foreigners.

      – Aside from that, good post.

      • paradise 33

        Well put, cheers – you’ve just saved me ten minutes of typing!

        • anyfool

          There is some witless fools who think that countries cannot go bankrupt, these denizens of cloud cuckoo land are usually employed in the public sector in highly paid jobs that are not real jobs, it leads them to lose track of reality.
          They need putting in touch with an outreach worker who will confirm their fantasies.

          • ohforheavensake

            Every point you’ve made is demonstrably wrong.

            Aside from that, good post.

            • oddball1776

              Smug much?

          • Makroon

            These apocalyptic rantings are just so 2009.
            You should really get out more, chat to a few people, travel …. but try to avoid any more UKIP meetings ‘down the pub’.
            That’s not real life you know.

      • anyfool

        Keep conflating pensions and top up tax credits with money given to millions of the workshy, it still will not avoid the end result, the money to pay for them has to come from somewhere.
        Have you seen the ads for Australia, Canada and New Zealand offering the unskilled bounteous wages.
        Government spending spiked before the crash, that it spiked again is another thing, neither spikes have dipped below there original peaks.
        Immigration is not going down, it only goes down when they leave and there is no sign of that, in fact the latest dodgy data indicates it is going up.
        Actually you do go bankrupt in that way unless the government steals private pension funds, when no one will lend them any more money, and no one wants the mickey mouse pound that would result from it.

        • ohforheavensake

          Nope, most benefit spending goes on pensioners and people in work

          No, government spending didn’t spike before the crash- it rose back up to c.39%, which was the level it hit in the last year of the Major government.

          & broadly, immigration is trending downward- there was a slight spike in November, but the trend is down-

          And no on bankruptcy: there’s more to a country’s economy than government spending.

          – Aside from that, good post.

      • HookesLaw

        A pension is not a benefit.

        • ohforheavensake

          Pensions are counted in the benefits budget: so when you hear about the overall benefits bill, it includes pensions.

          Aside from that, good post.

      • ButcombeMan

        Countries do go bankrupt.

        Zimbabwe last time I was there (before it dollarised) was effectively bankrupt..

        A wonderful people destroyed by the African equivalent of Gordon Brown and his henchmen.

      • voidist

        countries dont go bankrupt ?
        well that leaves out most of south america for a start doesnt it …..
        and what about southern europe where somebody has to
        guarantee your debts so that you can survive…?

  • Baron

    Why is everyone so shocked?

    We’re harvesting what the political gnomes of the three stale, near identical political parties have sown on our behalf.

    The people the Benefit Street follows either claim what they are legally entitled to, or do crime, but the punishment vacuous criminal justice system can do BA to stop them. It’s the statutes that allow this to happen that need changing for the Benefit Street to change, too.

  • Redrose82

    Frank Field didn’t fail. He was given the push at Gordon Brown’s behest before he could make any changes. Just another example of Brown’s follies.

    • anyfool

      Another example of how low the standards of the press are. they do not know what they write about or are deliberately obtuse.

  • Gary Smith

    Isn’t this grand ? And only one episode in !

  • Edward Harkins

    Self-serving vilification and stigmatising of vulnerable sections of UK society. The real ‘Benefits Street’ living off the backs of taxpayers?- what about London private Landlords harvesting the disastrous pork-barrel, vote buying Help to Buy’? “52,000 [Help to Buy] London properties now in the hands of private landlords.” And IDS smiles through it all.

    • James

      The one thing I don’t get with the left is; on the one hand you defend mass immigration by stating that they do the jobs we are “too lazy” to do, and then you turn around and claim that there is no such thing as a lazy benefit claimant.

      Make up your minds.

      • Fergus Pickering

        hey haven’t any minds to make up. Just prejudices.

    • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

      But these people, and huge numbers like then, were allowed to fall to the bottom of the social pile by decades of political stupidity : failure to provide quality universal education, allowing morally dubious social trends to go unchecked, destruction of employment without new work, slavishly following the USA.
      How to get back up from down here is the big question.

      • Holly

        I agree.
        And anyone thinking that ‘getting up’,(from where many still find themselves) is ‘taking too long’, do not grasp the situation.

        The people from this programme are not new, they have been around for decades, the problem we face today is, there are a lot more of them, because of the last government’s policies.
        Deserted by governments, betrayed by Labour, and now,their ‘will’ to get up, is being hindered by the left screaming all sorts of rubbish about ‘demonising’ them. They are giving them an excuse not to try, when they should be encouraging and helping them.

        Because they have been out of the loop for so long, they will already be finding an ‘alternative’ lifestyle ‘threatening’ and quite daunting. They have been left to feel ‘safe’ in their bubble, unhindered or bothered by government or officials for years, now all of a sudden they are bound to feel ‘picked on, when in fact someone genuinely wants to help them get back in society’s loop, to be a part of the UK, instead of being swept under the carpet.

        I would liken it to someone who has spent the last thirty odd years in jail….The thought of going it alone, under your own steam, must be a very frightening prospect. The risk of failing will play a bigger part in their thought process, than any thoughts they may have that they can succeed,(with a lot of self determination) but given the right support for a few years, they might just find that they are not as ‘hopeless’ at doing a job of work as they thought.

      • anyfool

        Are we following the US, or are they following us, they are heading down benefits street at a very fast clip, they might even overtake Europe if the idiot Clinton follows the fool they have now.

        • paradise 33

          You really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?

          • alabenn

            90 million of working age not working in the US suggests different.

            • McRobbie

              Statistics my boy..c90 million in c2000 million is a lesser % than the UK and germany and of course socialist france.

              • Curnonsky

                US labour force participation rate has dropped 5% since Obama took office and continues to sink, while the number receiving government money has risen to historic levels.

                The trendline is ugly.

    • Andy

      ‘Self-serving vilification’ by whom pray tell ?? One of those involved in the programme is Julia Higginbottom who is active in Birmingham Fascist Labour Party. You probably agree with that silly bitch Jasmin Beckett who wrote on twitter ‘I want every producer at C4 dead’. [Tweet 10:10pm 6/1/2014] Spoken like a true Fascist.

      What you hate, and people like you, is that the awful reality of the Benefits culture you and your ilk have done so much to create is exposed to the light of common day. Iain Duncan Smith has studied the problem and has forgotten more about the Benefits system than you will ever know. He is right in his reforms and lets hope he goes much further and is far more radical.

      • HookesLaw

        And we should support the govt in its efforts in the face of lefty opposition.
        Heaven forbid the lefty opposition get back into govt.

        • paradise 33

          The government doesn’t have any ‘lefty’ opposition.

          • HookesLaw

            Someone else lost down the rabbit hole

            • paradise 33

              oh dear, stretch out your hand and i’ll see if i can help you get out.

            • Andy

              Someone send a ferret down.

      • David Ganz

        Iain duncan Smith and his puppetmaster, the despicable eugenicist Lord Freud, should make the Conservative party unelectable.

    • HookesLaw

      And if housing benefits came down so would rents.

      • rubyduck

        “if housing benefits came down so would rents”

        Probably not, as there are plenty of people looking for housing in areas where there is work.

        What should (must) be done is to return to the position where housing benefits were paid direct to the landlord, making an unemployed person a safe bet as a tenant. A safe bet is worth a 10% discount.