Tag Archives: benefits

Iain Duncan Smith Plans Food Stamps Scheme For Disabled Parents

Iain Duncan Smith is planning to introduce a food stamps style scheme aimed at the poorest families who he accuses of wasting all their benefits on drugs and alcohol.  Disabled parents or those with a mental health condition on the lowest incomes, are likely to be the first targets of the scheme.

The planned system will see benefits loaded onto smart cards which will only be able to be used at government approved shops for government approved products.  The 120,000 ‘troubled’ families identified earlier in the year by Eric Pickles will be the first to be moved onto the new payment system according to today’s Daily Telegraph.

The criteria for being a troubled family have nothing to do with a history of drug or alcohol abuse and are based solely on income, health, disability or educational background.  Troubled families are those that meet five out of the following seven factors: a low income, no-one in the family in work, living in poor housing, parents with no qualifications, a  mother who has a mental health problem, one parent with a long-standing illness or disability,or the family is unable to afford basics, such as food and clothes.

It is telling that four of these criteria mean essentially the same thing.  That the family is poor.  Add a mental health condition or long standing disability to this and the family will be placed on the new smart card scheme.

This will be devastating for low income families as well as the local small businesses they use.  No longer will the poorest families be able to use street markets or second hand shops to shop around for vital items.  It will no doubt be the likes of Tesco, Argos and Poundland, or expensive local shops who are part of the paypoint network, who are the ‘approved’ shops for the poor.

Disabled people who are not lucky enough to have a local shop affiliated with the scheme may be forced to make expensive and arduous journeys on public transport to the nearest ‘approved’ shop.  Those with dietary needs, whether for health, religious or ethical reasons, may no longer be able to buy food locally at all.  Children will see the occasional little treat disappear whilst a birthday visit to the cinema or funfair will no longer be possible.  Instead they will be forced to watch their parents humiliated at the check-out as overworked shop assistants assess whether they are allowed to buy what’s in their trolly.

A similar supermarket voucher scheme was abandoned for Asylum Seekers in 2002* due to the stigmatising impact of the regime, which Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes called: “degrading, discriminatory and impractical”.  The same MP is now part of a government planning a similar scheme for UK citizens.

Those who do spend benefits on alcohol or drugs are unlikely to be affected, unless they also fall into the criteria for being ‘troubled’.   Those who are caught up in the new scheme will simply trade in goods such as razors and batteries, sell their smart card allocations to others, or resort to begging and stealing.  Many small shops who do manage to qualify for the scheme will no doubt still accept the smart cards for fags and booze anyway, although perhaps at a premium.  Illicit money changing schemes, under which cards are swiped for cash payments minus a cut, will be inevitable.

The supermarket voucher scheme for asylum seekers was launched by Jack Straw after ten years of press demonisation of those who had fled their homelands and become refugees.  It was thought that fake asylum seekers were flooding the UK because of the overly ‘generous’ benefits system – which in fact is one of the most miserly in Europe.  Supermarket vouchers did nothing to slow the numbers entering the UK.   The next step for asylum seekers was detention centres.

A similar smear campaign has been taking place recently aimed at ‘benefit scroungers’.  So successful has it been that the Tory Party talked of little else at their party conference.  With the Government fast becoming a laughing stock, ever more draconian policies are likely to be dreamed up in an effort to placate the Daily Mail hate mob.

Should Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal smart card scheme emerge in reality – and a change in the law will be necessary first – then they are unlikely to stay confined to so called ‘troubled’ families.  Already smart cards have been floated as an idea for everyone on benefits.  For those on the lowest incomes free-market capitalism will be anything but free.  The Government will choose what you buy and where you buy it.  Nanny knows best and Nanny says you have to shop at Tesco.

*those who have been refused asylum can now be forced to depend on supermarket vouchers whilst they are awaiting deportation, if they are pregnant or to ill to leave or are launching a judicial review against their asylum decision.

Why Iain Duncan Smith Is Wrong Again On Substance Misuse

There’s no shortage in the Tory party of people who could tell Iain Duncan Smith a few things about drug use.    David Cameron, Boris Jonson, George Osborne and Louise Mensch have all happily indulged in the past despite the heavy criminal sanctions that surround using drugs.  Working class people regularly face arrest, court appearances and even jail for doing the type of things Louise Mensch laughed off as little more than tabloid gossip recently.

But there is a world of difference between a bunch of braying toffs hoovering up lines of coke and the experience of working class people who are living with a  drug or alcohol dependency.

Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to strip benefits from those that Jobcentre staff diagnose as being drug or alcohol dependent shows a shocking ignorance of how addiction affects, and very often destroys, people lives.  As Kerry Katona (no doubt an avid reader of this blog) said on This Week last night, addiction occurs as a process of ever declining events, it is not a lifestyle choice.  No-one sets out to be a heroin addict or 24 hour a day drinker.  And few people wish to stay that way.

Most addicts, whether hooked on illegal drugs or even fags, know they should quit.  Many spend half their lives talking about it.  But the truth of addiction, particularly if you happen to be poor, is that there rarely comes a period of stability when that desire can be translated into action.  This is compounded by the woeful lack of treatment for both drug and alcohol dependency, which despite Iain Duncan Smith’s latest shambolic scheme, are currently being stripped to the bone by government cuts.

Even most smokers could understand that to make a major lifestyle change, which giving up an addiction represents, requires a degree of financial and emotional stability.  People don’t tend to give up fags in the middle of a messy divorce, or following a bereavement.  For the same reason, should someone end up on the streets, or even lose their job,  they are likely to increase the amount they drink or use drugs.  Increased stress, anxiety or depression makes people use more, not less, because substance misuse is a way of escaping from reality.

This is why you can’t bully people out of an addiction.  When someone is using drugs or alcohol chaotically then making their lives worse will not make them stop.  It is likely to do quite the opposite.  Stripping away someone’s benefits because they use drugs or alcohol will only increase the pressure and desperation they feel. Sex work, small time dealing,begging and petty crime will all be used to fill the financial gap, with all the additional chaos these things can bring.  Iain Duncan Smith’s Plans could not be more perfectly designed to drag people even further down the path to substance misuse, poverty, homelessness, exploitation and into the ever waiting arms of the criminal justice system.  You do not give someone a hand up by kicking them whilst they are down.  And even the most ruthless piece of Tory scum should be able to do the sums.  It’s far cheaper to keep someone on benefits than it is to lock them up.

People need a safe space to make the decision to quit and to enter the process of recovery.  That means stable housing, a support network and an income that is at least adequate to pay the bills and put food on the table.  It may even mean a maintenance dose of methadone, or even heroin.  It also usually means some form of treatment.  Like all mental health conditions, effective treatment varies from person to person, so that could mean therapy, residential rehab, peer support or even (recent comments acknowledged) one of the 12 Step provisions such as Alcoholic Anonymous.

Only when these things are in place does anyone stand a chance of getting better.  Knee jerk solutions like stripping benefit payments or enforced and unsuitable treatments will only lead people further down the road of addiction and despair.  Once again Iain Duncan Smith is laying the foundations for disaster by reveling in his ignorance of substance misuse.

The above pic is widely believed to be David Cameron off his tits at an illegal acid house party in the late 1980s.  The youtube video it is taken from is still available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5RLNdWQPps

Disabled People Welfare Group occupy DWP Head Office

News just in:

ACTION: Disabled Campaigners are planning to protest against the DWP (Adelphi House, 1 to 10 John Adams Street, WC2) at lunchtime today (17th April). We will be delivering the attached letter for James Purnell (Work and Pensions Secretary) and will be requesting a meeting with him.

WE ARE SICK OF: Politicians who attack minorities – perceived as easy targets – for public spending cuts.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: Do as we say, or risk losing benefits.
OUR RESPONSE: We call on all Disabled Claimants to defend their needs, and DWP Staff / Trade Unions not to cooperate with this harassment of Disabled People.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: They want to re-test all claims for IB (Incapacity Benefit).
OUR RESPONSE: Claimants are already regularly tested in relation to their claims through questionnaires and physical assessments by Benefits Agencies/Medical Services.

THE GOVERNMENT SAYS: Replace “Sick-Notes” with “Well-Notes”.
OUR RESPONSE: This cynical exercise won’t halt discrimination against Disabled People in the work place, or increase our chances of employment. It will however, force more Disabled People into poverty.

DAN Press Officer for this Action:
Mike Higgins (0114 225 8676 / danpress@blueyonder.co.uk)

The war on the poor is hotting up and it’s good to see that people are starting to take action