Saturday, 21 June 2014

Welfare week

The subject of welfare (which I will stubbornly continue to call social security) has been prominent this week.  It wasn't only Labour's announcement of its policy, although that may well have sparked it off.  The BBC belatedly discovered the scandal of ESA, the delays and the failure of the Work Programme to help those supposedly able to work.  Of course, being the BBC, it headed the story with the speculation that the cost would mean that the government breaches its self-imposed cap on total welfare spend.
Then the Public Accounts Committee reported on the even bigger mess of PIPs.  An embarrassed Mike Penning was allowed to get away with blaming Labour, and insisting that it was now fixed.  But it all added to the impression of government that "something must be done".
Where was Iain Duncan Smith?  He was proudly announcing that Universal Credit is being "rolled out" to 90 Jobcentres in the North West.  But it will still only apply to single unemployed people with no complications, and there are no predictions beyond that.  It was unfortunate timing; another major failure was added to the list.  The Economist, normally Tory-supporting, published a devastating article headed "Universal discredit" rubbishing everything this government has done on "welfare reform".
Last night BBC's Newsnight had a discussion on the subject between Owen Jones and Nadhim Zahawi.  The former is a socialist and columnist who is often critical of Labour.  The latter is an ultra-loyal Tory whose expenses claims caused a furore and who will trot out the party line.  The innate bias of the BBC was evident in the use, several times, of the term "welfare dependency" and in using a clip from Benefits Street as if it was an appropriate illustration.  And IDS's lackey Christian Guy from the Centre for Social Justice was presented on the film as he was an independent expert.  Who "won" the argument depends on who you agree with.  These discussions rarely change opinions.  But at least the subject is now being discussed.

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