The Daily Telegraph managed to bludgeon together a front page story yesterday after Iain Duncan Smith’s panicky response to hecklers in Edinburgh recently.
The hapless Secretary of State claimed the Government had given up trying to cut welfare spending and was now managing the rise in expenditure. This was after a speech he gave was interrupted by protesters causing a flustered IDS to go off message and give a hint of the chaos behind his shambolic welfare reforms.
For once in his life Iain Duncan Smith was telling the truth. Welfare spending is rising, but that’s only down to his bungled back of the envelope schemes along with the equally incompetent George Osborne’s mismanagement of the economy.
It is hardly surprising for example that the Housing Benefit bill is soaring when Westminster Council are now housing homeless families, evicted due to the housing benefit cap, in 3 grand a week hotels.
It is little wonder that spending on in-work benefits is also rising when the so called fall in unemployment has really been an increase in workfare, part time jobs, zero hours contracts and tax credit funded self-employment. On top of this some Jobcentres stand accused of encouraging employers to convert real jobs to workfare, whilst the Work Programme seems to be causing, not curing unemployment.
£6 billion is budgeted to be handed out to the very companies causing the Work Programme shambles. Hundreds of millions more are being doled out to Atos who carry out the notorious assessments for sickness and disability benefits. All that happens to those found ‘fit for work’ is that they are moved from sickness benefits to the dole. Whilst this loss – of around just under £30 a week for most – can prove devastating for claimants, the saving to the tax payer is virtually wiped out by the cost of both the assessments and the hundreds of thousands of successful appeals against the company’s decisions.
The benefit bill is rising, but it’s not claimants who will see the money. Quite the opposite is happening and it’s going to get worse. Some victims of the bedroom tax and council tax benefit reform may see their £71 a week (or just £56.25 for younger claimants) Jobseekers Allowance almost cut in half next month. After paying for basic utilities, rent and council tax many people are going to be left with no money at all to buy food. The long term cost of the homelessness, child poverty, ill health and family breakdown that this will cause can barely even be guessed at.
Still at least IT companies are being handed £2 billion a year to implement Universal Credit – half the amount spent annually on Jobseekers Allowance for those unemployed. And this is already starting to look like money down the drain. Monster Jobs even managed to scrounge almost £20 million to build a job search website that is little more than a spammer and scammer’s paradise with all too real safety concerns that may one day result in tragedy.
Once again the DWP are mired in industrial action after the shabby way they treat their own staff. Meanwhile £1 million in back dated wages is set to be paid out after Iain Duncan Smith illegally sacked thousands of Jobcentre workers.
The DWP’s attempt to pay fast and loose with the Courts has already led to rushed concessions to the bedroom tax, which faces even more legal challenges. And as unemployment began to rise again this month, half the DWP management were scrambling to cover up for ministerial lies about benefit sanction league tables, whilst Iain Duncan Smith was busy retrospectively changing the law after another legal blunder. The legal bill alone at the DWP must be costing a fortune.
As for the skiving and rarely seen Employment Minister Mark Hoban, we seem to be paying him to sit at home all day on his silk cushions and watch his no doubt tax payer funded plasma TV.
Welfare reform is certainly hurting, but it isn’t working. But don’t expect this Government to change track. It is Iain Duncan Smith’s arrogance that is costing tax payers billions of pounds. His deluded obsession that unemployment is caused by unemployed people and bodged response to every shrill benefit bashing headline in the gutter right wing press is costing us all a fortune.
Welfare spending is soaring, but still the safety net of the welfare state is disappearing. Rarely has any government department been managed as chaotically as the current mess at the DWP. Yet Iain Duncan Smith ploughs on regardless, impoverishing those who already had nothing whilst handing out billions to the private sector poverty pimps living the high life on the welfare reform gravy train.
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