My readers who are unemployed, or dependent on benefits for other reasons, must feel more than ever under attack at the moment. First, the move to Universal Credit, the personal mission of Iain Duncan Smith, has so many flaws that even the civil servants seem to be worried about it. But IDS greets all the criticism with his customary insouciance. You can all apply online. If you're one of the losers who doesn't have an internet connection (it doesn't cost anything, does it?) you can go to the library and do it in public. And those who can't use the internet will just have to learn. After all, they need to be able to do it to get a job. And you'll have to learn to cope with getting your benefits monthly. If you're so bad at budgeting that you can't, there'll be classes. (Prepare the bid writers, A4e.) If you begin to suspect that IDS and his kind live on another planet, you will be cheered by the vision of Lord Freud. The Guardian reports fears of cyberfraud wrecking the IT system, but Freud suggested that "ultimately claimants might take advantage of the development of internet eye-glasses by Google - which allows users to surf the internet on the lens of a pair of glasses, using eye movements to navigate the web and make benefits claims." You couldn't make it up. It's clear that some people are going to be significantly worse off, but nobody wants to admit it.
Then one of those dubious surveys comes out which shows that a majority of people are in favour of welfare cuts. The relentless propaganda of governments and the right wing press has done its work. So we're told that the government plans to link benefit increases to wages rather than to CPI. So much fairer. (Cue lots of references by Tory ministers to "hard working families".) Economists point out that it would be counter-productive. But the next step is to float the idea of a two-year freeze on benefits before making the change. The Guardian reports lots of quotes about "tough choices". And it also carries the angry reaction of the Child Poverty Action Group.
Since the best time to kick people is when they're down, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are plans to outsource Jobcentre services.