For the government, the holiday period is clearly a time to carry on the assault on benefits claimants. David Cameron started it in his New Year message, covered in the Telegraph, which headlines it "We'll help the strivers, not welfare claimants". Well, that's everyone who is elderly or disabled branded, as well as those trying to find work. There's an extraordinary passage which shows just how clueless he is about the reality of unemployment: “When people say we've got to stop our welfare reforms because somehow it is cruel to expect people to work, we are saying no. Getting people into good jobs is absolutely vital, not just for them, but for all of us." Sorry? Did someone say it was cruel to expect people to work? What are you talking about? The article points out that the message echoes that put out recently by Tories in marginal constituencies "demanding whether the Government should offer more help to 'hard working families' or 'people who don’t work'. The advertisements have been criticised by Labour as taking the Conservatives back to being the 'nasty party'." Yes, and I would think they've alienated all the pensioners and disabled, too.
Iain Duncan Smith has been busy too. Since it was pointed out that around 60% of those claiming benefits are actually working, he has turned his wrath on the tax credits system. Several papers cover his attack, but the best version, perhaps, is in the Independent. Now, I have to say that I was never entirely happy with the tax credits system. It seemed to be subsidising bad employers. And it goes too far up the income scale. I knew a man with a young family who was on a good salary (I knew exactly what it was since it was partly my responsibility to pay it) who was eligible for the credits, while a single person under 50 wasn't. I also knew someone who was offered a job with variable hours who panicked at the thought that he would face the money being clawed back. But I wasn't aware that "after 2008 HMRC did not attempt to reclaim overpayments of less than £25,000. That is set to be reduced to £5,000 under the coalition, alongside moves to require proof of payments from those claiming for childcare or that children aged between 16 and 19 are in full-time education." Reform is obviously necessary.
But, as usual, IDS goes over the top. The Factcheck blog has shown that his figures are either wrong or just made up. It seems that he will claim anything to justify his hostility to people on benefits.
Happy New Year, folks.