In the big news towards the end of this week, stories about "welfare" got rather lost. Iain Duncan Smith finally admitted that his Universal Credit target isn't going to be met; but everybody knew that. Various reports should have caused trouble for the government, but few noticed. There was a report pointing to the failure of HMRC to police the minimum wage legislation properly, said the Guardian. Only a couple of employers have ever been prosecuted, and only one named and shamed, although 10,777 firms have been investigated. On the same day the Independent's Charlie Cooper wrote about the "public health emergency" of food poverty. That's the verdict of a group of expert doctors and academics, following a report commissioned by Defra - a report which, in a familiar move, the government has not published, claiming that it needs a "review and quality assurance process". The Trussell Trust, which runs a lot of food banks, says that they've tried to talk to the DWP, but been refused a meeting. Meanwhile the experts cite recent figures showing a surge in the number of malnutrition cases diagnosed in English hospitals.
The people who read those two articles probably didn't read another in the Express. The paper which has done so much to spread hatred of the unemployed found a story which ticked a different set of boxes. "Veteran loses his jobseekers benefits for selling poppies" it yelled. The 60-year-old former soldier gets £71.20 a week and has done everything he can to find work. However, he "admitted" to the jobcentre that he'd spent 24 hours over a two-week period selling Remembrance Day poppies. He was promptly sanctioned for a month for not "actively seeking work". The response from the infamous, anonymous DWP spokesperson was predictable: "We make it clear to people what the rules are and they risk losing their benefits if they don't play by them. Sanctions are only used as a last resort." The Express's outrage is commendable.
But none of this made much of an impression on the public as a whole, and it all faded away as other news monopolised the media.