Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The drip, drip of bad publicity

I've congratulated the Guardian on its coverage of the wreckage of welfare "reform"; and now we have to add the BBC to the roll of honour.  The TV news may not carry much, but its website has several items of interest.  The first was a story yesterday by the excellent Mark Easton, headlined "Foodbanks used by thousands of jobless, figures show".  The jobcentres have referred about 6,000 people to the foodbanks in the last year.  You would think that would be a matter of some shame for Iain Duncan Smith, but no.  "Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said directing people to food banks was a short-term method of alleviating their financial problems.  'I've said to Job Centres, sort their problem out. If it is a case of food banks, Job Centres are meant to help passport people through to that so they can get them stable, so they can deal with their problems.'"  He also said that he's proud of the fact that his government changed the law to allow the jobcentres to refer people to the foodbanks.  "What would you prefer?" he asked.
Also yesterday, the Guardian reported that an attempt to get the issue of targets for sanctions included in the forthcoming enquiry into the sanctions regime was defeated in the House of Lords.  The article is well worth reading for the peculiar argument of Lord Freud.
An even more worrying report in the Guardian says that "food stamps" will arrive in Britain next month.  Vouchers in the form of payment cards will replace emergency loans.  For those who don't know the history, there was once something called an emergency grant, for those on benefits who needed one-off items like a bed or a cooker.  They were replaced by loans, thus shattering the notion that there was a minimum income which people needed to live on.  Now even that is gone, replaced by these "vouchers" which will block their exchange for alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.  Perhaps this is why Alec Shelbrooke was persuaded to withdraw his private member's bill to pay all benefits via such cards.  "Don't worry, Alec," the minister might have said.  "We're bringing it in gradually."
The BBC reports a pronouncement by Frank Field MP.  He used to be a welfare minister in the Labour government, and came up with some pretty drastic ideas for welfare reform which were never implemented.  Now, he's advising social housing landlords to brick up doors and knock down walls to get rid of spare rooms, and so get round the "bedroom tax".  It's an interesting idea.
Today the BBC has published an excellent article on its website detailing all the new benefit changes.  Essential reading.  It also reports that a judicial review of the housing benefit changes is to go ahead after the government lost an attempt to stop it.
Finally, Iain Duncan Smith attended an event in Edinburgh hosted by Capita to deliver a speech on pensions reform.  He was heckled by a determined protester, Willie Black, who called him a "parasite" and a "ratbag".  You can read about it in the Guardian or watch it on the BBC's website.  Enjoy.
I wonder if the BBC's coverage has sparked more formal complaints from Mr Duncan Smith.


  1. Another bit of news to cause further embarrassment:

    Whilst some may have little sympathy with the staff working under these fixed term contracts, the ruling is yet another poke in the eye for senior management.

  2. The One True Elg27 March 2013 at 23:13

    One possible correction, there is a difference between emergency loans and budgeting loans. Emergency loans are not typically large enough to cover things like beds or cookers, they're reserved for alleviating immediate financial difficulties where the claimant may not have enough money for food for themselves or dependants.

    Budgeting loans are what you get if you need something larger like a cooker or a bed. I don't know whether either of these things should be vouchers, but with emergency loans you can justify that more easily because that particular system is there to help you survive not get drunk or smoke.

    I feel like you're right though, this does seem like a Rubicon has been crossed. Vouchers are now in, it's not going to be difficult for government in the future to justify further rolling it out.

  3. Nottingham City Council redefines the spare bedrooms as "studies"

  4. Is it just me or has Britain FINALLY woken up to the impact that the Tories welfare cuts are making and the potential that they have to completely wreck the Welfare State is this country? Hopefully.

  5. I think the direction of travel is to model all social security on the current regime for failed asylum seekers.

    The support provided to failed asylum seekers is paid by a payment card similar to the one being introduced by local authorities for the payment of emergency loans. Here are two articles one from the BBC and one from the Guardian that document their effects.

    The point behind the payment card is to "encourage" people to go home to their countries of origin.

    This is the future that British Citizens have to look forward to.

  6. Just a quick heads up.

    Breadline Britain Tonight, ITV 1.

    ITV blurb:
    "Julie Etchingham investigates the true scale of deprivation in Britain and asks whether the nature of poverty has changed. She meets `working poor' families who, despite being in employment, live in shocking conditions and say they are socially excluded"

    I think I'll give this one a go. After all, if those in work are suffering, it's little wonder that an increasing number of jobseekers are using things like food banks and getting themselves into financial difficulties.

  7. Cold feet? "Universal Credit pilots scaled back" -


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