Tag Archives: smart cards

Food Stamps Abandoned … For Now

foodstampsThe bill to introduce a food stamps style scheme has been abandoned by the attention seeking wannabe spiv,  Alec Shelbrooke, who dreamed up the scheme.

Shelbrooke has attempted to make a name for himself by proposing all benefits should be paid on ‘smart cards’ with the Government having control over how claimants spent the money.

This ludicrous idea came despite Iain Duncan Smith’s insistence that all benefits be paid in cash on a monthly basis.  Both ideas are equally stupid.  Under Shelbrooke’s plans claimants would have been unable to access telephones, stationary, hair dressers, launderettes, and crucially internet access – making it not just impossible to look for work, but also use the new ‘digital by default’ benefits systems.  Under Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with ‘direct payments’, even those with drug, alcohol or gambling problems will be given Housing Benefit – the payment which claimants can now have sent direct to landlords – in a monthly cash sum.

Shelbrooke’s bill was due for its second reading in early March but has now been withdrawn by the MP.  This follows revelations that Lord Fraud’s smart card and jam jar schemes for so called ‘vulnerable’ claimants have also been abandoned.

Whilst some local authorities are considering smart cards and vouchers for the soon to be scrapped Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants, it seems that any national roll out of a food stamps style scheme will not be happening this during Parliament at least.

The inept clowns at the DWP can barely manage to run a website or welfare to work scheme without fucking it up as publicly as possible.  The last thing Iain Duncan Smith needs is back-benchers like Shelbrooke trying to make a name for themselves by proposing a system that manages to be both the direct opposite of the Government’s current welfare policies, but is also equally shit.

Shelbrooke will now disappear back down the sewer he came from.  With any luck Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Fraud and the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban, will not be far behind.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Vultures Circle As Electronic Food Stamps Get Closer

vultureThe recent Demos think tank report – which suggests that smart cards could be used to prevent tenants falling into rent arrears when Universal Credit is launched –  is an astonishing piece of corporate blagging.

The report, which was funded by Mastercard, suggests that tenants worried about managing rent payments could have housing benefits loaded onto a smart card which they then use to pay their landlord.

This, they claim, will solve the problems that are likely to be caused by Direct Payments, which mean tenants can no longer have Housing Benefit sent to landlords.  Instead Demos suggest the money is given to someone like Mastercard, who then put it on a smartcard for the tenant, who then gives it to the landlord.  And Mastercard Demos then presumably want to charge either the tax payer, or the claimant, for the privilege of this completely unnecessary middle-man.

The obvious solution, which is to continue to allow tenants to have rent paid direct to landlords, wouldn’t make Mastercard any money and so is not considered.

It’s unsurprising that poverty pimps are salivating at the thought of the introduction of smart cards or food stamps for benefit claimants.  In Australia, where a similar system is being introduced, it has been estimated to cost a whopping $4,500 per claimant (none of which the claimant actually sees of course).

So far the results in Australia have been disastrous, with some stores operating separate queues for smart card customers further stigmatising the very poorest.  Complex regulations for retailers have meant only large companies have opted into the scheme which means claimants are only able to shop at large chain stores.  Economic apartheid and government approved shops are becoming the norm for the very poorest.

Mastercard aren’t the only ones desperate for a slice of lucrative government contracts should any compulsory income management  scheme be introduced.  Smart card firm allpay.net (@allpaylimited) have been cosying up to Alec Shelbrooke, the vile Tory MP who is furiously attention-seeking by trying to have smart cards introduced for claimants in the UK.

Iain Duncan Smith has not ruled out smart cards for some claimants, although the stated aim of Universal Credit is that claimants should manage their own money on a monthly basis.  It’s not unthinkable that the bungling Secretary of State could find himself hoodwinked into attempting to introduce two completely opposing policies at the same time.  He’s not very bright after all.

If one thing has defined welfare reform under both this and the last Government, it is the huge chunks of money being handed over to private companies.  £6 billion to Work Programme providers, several hundred million to Atos for their flawed and brutal assessments, a tidy £20 million to Monster Jobs for a bodged website and a whopping £2 billion a year handed over to IT companies to design and run Universal Credit.

Yet still the vultures want more.  As benefits are slashed and claimants queue at food banks, it’s full steam ahead for the rich on the welfare reform gravy train.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Sky TV is Damaging Claims Food Stamps MP

food_stampsAlec Shelbrooke, the non-entity behind the private members bill to launch a food stamps style scheme in the UK has made the astonishing claim that Sky Television is a ‘luxury item’ which is often ‘damaging’

In a move which could close every laundrette, market stall or cheap take away food outlet in working class areas, Shelbrooke wants smart cards for claimants, designed to control how money is spent.  Speaking in Parliament Shelbrooke claimed:

“The introduction of a welfare cash card on which benefits would be paid would enable claimants to make only priority purchases such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing. The purchase of luxury goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling would be prohibited. When hard-working families up and down the country are forced to cut back on such non-essential, desirable and often damaging items—NEDD items, as I call them—it is right that taxpayer-funded benefits should be used to fund only essential purchases.”

This flies in the face of changes proposed under Universal Credit.  Iain Duncan Smith has insisted on Direct Payments under the new benefit regime meaning even claimants who may have drug or alcohol dependencies will no longer be able to have rent paid direct to landlords.  With no plans to allow money for broadband or internet cafes in Shelbrooke’s plans, this will also mean the new ‘digital by default’ welfare state would be impossible to access.

So whilst this bill is unlikely to become law it does reveal the direction of travel amongst some in the Tory party.  There have long been calls from the swivel-eyed Tory right to implement some form of food stamps scheme for claimants.

Earlier in the year Iain Duncan Smith said he was concerned that claimants who have faced benefit sanctions, and are living on hardship payment of around £40 a week, are frittering the money away on holidays and nights out – a statement so breathtakingly out of touch it’s difficult to know how to respond.

The DWP increasingly talk of benefit cuts as ‘incentives’, in the belief that driving claimants into ever deeper poverty will ‘encourage’ them to miraculously find a job.  Speaking in front of the Public Accounts Committee this week, the chief DWP Civil Servant, Robert Devereux, said he couldn’t predict whether the upcoming changes to Housing Benefits would lead to increased child poverty.  His bizarre claim was that single parents whose benefits no longer meet their rent may simply go out and pick  up a couple of hours work to compensate.

The fucking clown thinks being poor is like Eastenders.  All a struggling single mum needs to do is chat up Phil Mitchell a bit and she’ll get a couple of shifts down the Queen Vic to tide ‘er over.

That these clueless wankers think they know anything about how those with the very least live is a chilling thought as they run rampant with the welfare state.  Forcing people already poor into even direr poverty is enforced unemployment, not an incentive to find work.

Stamps, haircuts, laundry, toiletries,  smart clothes, broadband, stationary, fares, newspapers, telephones, and most importantly heating, lighting and a home, are all pretty big fucking requirements for those looking for work.  They all cost money.  When parents are dragging kids across town to stand in line at the nearest foodbank they aren’t out looking for jobs.  When people slip into depression, ill health, malnutrition, homelessness, and yes even addiction, this does not help motivate them to find work.

Far from incentivising people to look for non-existent jobs, this Government is punishing them with DWP enforced poverty for life.  They can’t see that because they have no concept of what it means to be poor.  They don’t know what it means to shop around in markets and pound shops in an effort to make a few pounds last till the end of the week – something that would be impossible under the smart card scheme.  They don’t understand that if you’re skint, hungry and the leccy meter is about to run out then a bag of chips is probably the best chance available of getting a hot dinner

Cutting off cash to claimants is cutting off dignity, hope and a chance to participate in life itself.  Every hour of everyday instead becomes about finding the next quid, not trying to find a way out of the situation. This is the real poverty trap, and it is a desperate place to be.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Food Stamps and Smart Cards – Are They Closer Than We Think?

Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to introduce a food stamp style ‘smart card’ scheme for so called ‘troubled’ families may yet just be the tip of the iceberg. It will be impossible to justify the huge and expensive infrastructure that smart cards will require unless they are to be extended far beyond just 120,000 families.

Meanwhile last month the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud quietly announced a tendering exercise asking High Street banks and pre-pay card providers to design new financial products aimed at helping benefit claimants with ‘budgeting’.

A national roll out of smart cards would see benefits loaded onto prepay cards, meaning the Government will have control on how benefits are spent.  This is intended to prevent ‘troubled families’ from spending benefit money on drugs or alcohol.

The Government has identified 120,000 families who may be moved onto the scheme should IDS get his way, which will require a change in law.  Unfortunately they don’t appear to be able to decide how to classify those troubled families, or whether they even exist.

However the numbers are eventually constructed, the national infrastructure required for a smart card scheme would be huge.  The system would not just have to accommodate food, clothing and household purchases, but also take into account gas, electricity, broadband (essential to claim Universal Credit under new rules), water, rent payments, fines, council tax payments and countless other expenses.  The cards will also need  to accommodate the vast range of debt repayments which many claimants pay out each week to everyone from doorstep lenders to catalogue companies.  Families who owe money to illegal lenders may find themselves especially at risk.

Ian Duncan Smith may not give a shit about claimants, but he certainly cares about energy companies and High Street loan sharks.  Making this scheme attractive to these businesses, who will have to agree to the changes, will cost a lot of money.  It will be impossible to justify this expense for just 120,000 families.  Even odious George Osborne is so sick of paying out for Iain Duncan Smith’s madcap schemes that he’s already tried to sack him once.

According to the Daily Mail, Iain Duncan Smith said at the Tory Party Conference:

“I am looking at the moment at ways in which we could ensure that money we give [benefit claimants] to support their lives is not used to support a certain lifestyle”

At first glance this could be dismissed as pie in the sky thinking from a deluded Secretary of State desperate to get his name in the papers and bask in the glory of the Tory right.  Unfortunately, anyone who has read the draft regulations for Universal Credit will be aware that a combination of savage brutality combined with completely unworkable initiatives is fast becoming the hallmark of welfare policy in the UK.  Much like coppers, just because IDS is stupid, it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.

In September Lord Fraud called for companies to tender to deliver budgeting help for people moved onto Universal Credit.  Between £80 and 145 hundred million is to be made available for companies to help claimant’s manage their budgets.  Unlike the current benefits system, Universal Credit will be paid monthly, leading to concerns that desperately low income families will have household finances thrown into chaos by the plans.

Lord Fraud is asking for companies to design products which can be used: “To protect against ‘mis-spending and ensure that essential bills and payments are met payments could be ‘ring-fenced’.”

Fraud also suggests that: “More complex models for this could include additional divisions of money for savings or debt repayments.”

It seems that the DWP are already seriously looking into some form of voluntary spending controls on claimants.  What starts out as voluntary provision in the welfare system rarely stays that way.  Smart cards and government controlled spending may be coming much sooner than we think.

Universal Credit is set to be the most complex and wide ranging change in welfare ever introduced.  Already it is said to be over-budget and behind schedule.  Many aspects of the changes, from how it will manage free school meals to rent payments for Women’s Refuges, have not been fully resolved.

Now Iain Duncan Smith wants to add a whole new system of nanny state spending controls to the scheme, something he has never mentioned before and probably only came up with a fortnight ago.  Whether he gets his way remains to be seen, but his intentions are becoming clear.  Iain Duncan Smith thinks that the state should decide how benefits are spent, no matter what the cost to the tax payer or the families and individuals concerned.

The above pic comes from this site which has a story telling of the stigma of food stamps in the US:  http://creatingmotherhood.com/2012/03/02/growing-up-food-stamps/

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.