Thursday, 20 March 2014

A good budget - for ATOS

Only the Independent has reported this: "Atos given responsibility for new childcare scheme despite previous fitness-for work fiasco."  Yes, the French firm which has performed so splendidly on the WCA contracts that it's handing them back, and which is currently making life impossible for people waiting for PIPs assessments, has the contract to provide the IT for the new scheme to allow people £2,000 towards childcare costs.  What could possibly go wrong?  Atos won't be doing any assessments, we're assured.  But if you take this together with its new contract to extract patient data from GP surgeries (see our post on 26 February) you can see just how ridiculous the outsourcing business has become.

There was nothing in yesterday's budget to give hope to the poorest.  The unemployment figures are worthless, concealing the reality of just how many people are in work and how many are not.  But the measure which we tend to overlook is the benefit cap, the overall limit on spending on "welfare" per year (which Labour supports).  It excludes pensions and JSA.  But it includes housing benefit, tax credits, disability benefits and pensioner benefits.  So while people out of work will continue to get JSA, they could find their housing benefit cut; and those in casual, part-time or zero hours jobs (or in fictional self-employment) could find that their top-up benefits are withering away.

Then there was that poster.  Wherever it originated, the Tory party chairman, Grant Shapps, tweeted it yesterday.  At first people thought it was a parody.  But it wasn't.  And with the hashtag #torybingo it was soon trending wildly, with people having lots of fun playing the game.  A massive own goal for the government!


  1. historian - hope you won't mind a small clarification. HB for people on JSA is excluded from the cap, so that part of the scenario you mention probably shouldn't happen. It would, in theory at least, apply to people on ESA and, as you say, low-paid employed, self-employed or 'self-employed' people. In other words, whilst jobseekers get a degree of protection, it's potentially one on the eye for the sick, disabled and 'hardworking' but low-paid households.

    How it'll actually work in practice still seems to be a bit of a mystery, though. In a scenario where DWP goes to parliament to propose an increase above the cap, and loses the vote, it's not clear where the policy changes would fall to make up the shortfall, so it may or not play out in the way you and I have outlined above.

    1. Thanks. I was going by the Daily Mail - never a good idea!


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