Iain Duncan Smith revealed himself as a sad and desperate man with his pitiful outburst aimed at the Bishops last weekend. So intent is he on pushing through his inept and brutal Welfare Reform Bill, the lies have been dripping from his tongue with such frequency it’s unlikely if he even really knows what the truth is anymore.
During his crazed outburst last weekend IDS suggested that children who share a room are classed as homeless, fibbing that:
‘The definition (of homelessness) inside government and places like Shelter is that children have to share rooms.”
Shelter’s Chief executive Campbell Robb has hit back saying that this is simply not true, and that Shelter used the same definition of homelessness that everyone else does, which is laid out in the Housing Act. Children of the same sex are expected to share a room until they are sixteen whilst those of the opposite sex are expected to share until they are 11. This applies not just to Housing Benefit eligibility but also Council House allocations. Even teenagers of different sexes sharing a room would not be deemed as homeless, although they would be eligible for council housing assistance, which can take a long time. These are all things you would presume the Secretary of State would know.
Now his grand claims made of the Work Programme Scheme are falling apart. The DWP has claimed that 40% of people on the new mandatory forced labour scheme will find work. However the National Audit Office claims that the figure is likely to be only 26% based on previous schemes carried out in more positive economic times. IDS’ clone and underling Chris Grayling says this figure is based on ‘guesswork’ by which he presumably meant to say ‘evidence’ unlike the DWP’s own figures which appear to be pie in the sky.
And pie in the sky is exactly what a recent government insider called claims that Universal Credit, the new and vastly expensive replacement for Working Tax Credit and other benefits, will be ready to roll out in Autumn 2013.
Perhaps this is over-exaggeration, unlike the other outright lie frequently told by Duncan Smith this month, which is that low income working families couldn’t afford to live in the same properties as Housing Benefit Claimants. In fact they could, and many do, by claiming Housing Benefit themselves, which is an in work benefit. This distortion of the truth has been told so many times it has become repeated as fact by ministers, the media and the DWP alike.
Now it seems that the recent shock horror statistics that 371,000 migrants are claiming benefits weren’t actually government statistics at all but in fact were part of a research report. Sir Michael Scholar, the head of the UK Statistics Authority, explains:
“These statistics are both highly relevant to public policy and highly vulnerable to misinterpretation,”
“There are important caveats and weaknesses that need to be explained carefully and objectively to parliament, and to the news media at the time of publication,”
This didn’t stop employment minister, Chris Grayling, and the immigration minister, Damian Green running to the right wing press in howling outrage over the figures over the weekend. According to the Guardian Iain Duncan Smith has said this kind of fuck up won’t be repeated. It will be a different kind of fuck up next time.
It’s hardly surprisingly IDS is getting desperate. With six defeats now inflicted on the Welfare Reform Bill in the Lords the truth about his shabby attempts at Welfare Reform are unravelling. The bill is rotten and incompetent from top to bottom. Few Ministers and even fewer Lords have any understanding of Welfare and many have been sucked into the claimant witch-hunt by the drip of misinformation from the DWP and the press, but even they can recognise a shambles when they see one.
The response from Labour has been predictably inept, even from those former Ministers who grappled with welfare themselves and should know better. It is entirely possible that this is because they see the car crash coming for Iain Duncan Smith and have no desire to put on the breaks. There are already whispers that the Welfare Reform Bill could become this government’s poll tax when it’s full effects are unleashed on the populace. They may have what they think is public opinion on their side now, but the public are fickle bastards. When it’s their granny losing her DLA or their neighbours kids being made homeless attitudes will change very quickly.
Homelessness is already rising and could soar beyond even the most pessimistic predictions. The Atos disability assessment system is in shambles, and they’ve barely even begun re-assessing the 2 million people on sickness benefits. As of November last year they had only completed 56,000 Work Capability Assessments, just around 20% of the target of 11,000 a week since the process began back in April. Add to this 3 and a half million to be re-assessed as part of DLA’s replacement, the Personal Independence Payment, and the upcoming disaster is plain to see. Already the appeal courts are in chaos whilst private companies involved in Welfare Reform are at each other’s throats.
As New Labour found out after spending billions on the failed New Deal, workfare doesn’t work. The new Work Programme, which IDS claims will help all those stripped of sickness and housing benefits find work, will be a disaster at a time of high unemployment. Even in more favourable economic conditions all that ever happened is that all those who would have found jobs anyway did so. Private workfare sharks like A4e and Reed simply picked up a fat cheque for pretending to help young people who got jobs themselves. Unemployment rates were barely affected, if at all. At least the New Deal had a training element to help those with lower skills and greater needs, IDS’ Work Programme contains no such provision.
The reforms to Council Tax benefits could see Local Authorities chasing the poorest families in their boroughs for just a few pounds a week, a situation directly comparable with one of the most unpopular aspects of Thatcher’s Poll Tax. And the Universal Credit, dependent as it is on creating the largest and most complex IT database ever attempted on the planet, is doomed to be yet another failed government IT project with hundreds of millions currently being pumped into a black hole.
Resistance continues to spread against all aspects of the Bill, with UKuncut joining disabled protesters planning a daring and disruptive act of civil disobedience aimed at the Welfare Reform Bill this weekend. Pickets of workfare exploiters are planned with Brighton Benefits Campaign taking action against Poundland on Saturday. Court cases are also on the away challenging the forced labour scheme and groups such as Boycott Workfare are going from strength to strength. Protesters have vowed to continue the campaign against Atos, who carry out the Work Capability Assessment so vital to the welfare reforms, and a demonstration is planned in Nottingham on February 3rd with the promise of more action to come around the UK. The Spartacus Report forced so many concessions out of Lord Freud on disability benefit reform that chaos seems inevitable. Finally the PCS, whose members will be expected to carry out these reforms, are embroiled in industrial action over pensions that doesn’t look like ending any time soon.
So there is little surprise that Iain Duncan Smith is pushed into ever more desperate behaviour as his long cherished dreams of an all out assault on the poor crumble before his eyes. That’s no excuse for telling porky pies though. There was a time when deliberately misleading the public was a resigning offence (if you got caught). It now seems that senior Government Ministers can lie outright, time and time again, and still remain in post. Why on earth should anyone ever believe a word Iain Duncan Smith says again? And more importantly why should someone so utterly incompetent be trusted with the lives of millions of the country’s poorest families?