The list goes on and on. The Public Accounts Committee, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Office for National Statistics, the National Audit Office, the Archbishop of Westminster, even the Tory dominated Policy Exchange and coalition partners the Lib Dems, all of these people are wrong or lying said the increasingly bewildered Iain Duncan Smith in a rare appearance on the Sunday Politics this morning (starts at 13.20).
Much of the interview concentrated on the launch of Universal Credit, which has seen just a few thousand people start on the new benefit and tens of millions squandered due to bungled IT systems. It is difficult to know for sure just how badly the launch of Universal Credit is going wrong, but IDS did admit that the new system will now not be fully in place until 2018.
Whilst Iain Duncan Smith can bullshit his way out of awkward questions on the launch of Universal Credit – mainly because no-one, including him, knows what the fuck’s really going on behind the scenes – he quickly resorted to outright lies when asked about other benefit reforms.
The Work Programme is working according to the Secretary of State, despite the appalling performance figures which are getting steadily worse as time goes on*. IDS then lied that the companies running the scheme don’t get paid until someone has been in work continuously for six months. In truth providers receive an up front start fee for everyone who joins the Work Programme. Long term unemployment is falling he then claimed, yet the most recent figures from the ONS show that the number of people who have been out of work for over two years is up 9000 from a year earlier. He then bluffed that the scheme was better than any programme run by the Labour Government, which would hardly be a ringing endorsement even if it were true, and it isn’t.
On the Bedroom Tax IDS pretended that he didn’t mean it when he hauled the family of a disabled child through the appeal courts in an effort to overturn a ruling on a spare bedroom. Astonishingly he said he now agreed with the court decision that he spent our money appealing against. He then claimed that the courts had backed the Government on all the decisions relating to disabled adults facing the Bedroom Tax, completely ignoring a string of recent benefit tribunal decisions where local authorities lost bedroom tax cases.
On Housing Benefit overall, he lambasted the amount spent on the benefit under Labour whilst avoiding the stark fact that the number of people needing to claim for help with their rent hit an all time high last Summer. The Housing Benefit bill will only get bigger as less people qualify for social housing under new rules, and even those who have them are forced into the private sector due to the Bedroom Tax.
When quizzed about Tory think-tank the Policy Exchange’s recent mild criticism of benefit sanctions, IDS claimed they’d got their figures wrong. In perhaps his most bare-faced lie, he blustered that people who have had benefits sanctioned can ‘immediately’ and ‘straight away’ get a payment from the Hardship Fund. In truth most claimants have to wait 15 days before Hardship Payments are available (PDF – ref: 35300) and even then not everyone qualifies for this meagre support . He then claimed the DWP had a billion pounds to support people facing benefit sanctions, including Crisis Loans. He seems to have forgotten that he abolished Crisis Loans in April last year.
Finally IDS was asked about child poverty, which he repeatedly claimed was falling despite an enormous fucking graph behind his head which showed the exact opposite. According to IDS this discrepancy is because the IFS, who produced the figures, measure poverty according to the “marginal income line” – in other words how much money someone has. In future child poverty will be measured according to Iain Duncan Smith’s ever changing personal prejudices. He says he will produce new figures showing that the number of poor children is actually falling just as soon as he can be bothered to make them up.
Iain Duncan Smith is now barely even pretending to tell the truth as his welfare reforms unravel in every direction. It is a pitiful sight to watch, but the impact of his delusions are tragic. People are dying because of Iain Duncan Smith. Families are becoming homeless and children going hungry, whilst sick and disabled people are being driven to despair. Rarely has one man’s arrogance caused so much suffering. There is no more damning indictment of our so-called democracy then a dishonest and callous fool like Iain Duncan Smith being able to claw his way to power over millions of lives.
*the most recent Work Programme figures were sneaked out in the Christmas break and I didn’t have the time to cover them. They showed that the steady decline in the number of successful job outcomes is continuing.
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