IDS’s Benefit Smart Cards: trumping Osborne in the competition for most ridiculous policy idea

Benefit Smart Cards are condescending and out of touch. They also won't make a difference.

Benefit Smart Cards are condescending and out of touch. They also won’t make a difference

I’d hedge a good bet that if I handed Iain Duncan Smith a copy of Orwell’s 1984, he’d fancy it as the doctrine of an ideal state. I say this because right now, he’s almost trying to re-enact it.

The latest laughable nostrum to come out of this Tory conference – until you realise that they’re generally serious, and then become extremely worried – is Iain Duncan Smith’s proposal for prepaid benefit cards: a system that would limit spending to the bare essentials in order to eradicate the ‘destructive habits’ of individuals.

Kudos to him for believing that money should be spent on necessities, but that’s nothing compared to actually enforcing it. Instead, not only is it incredibly condescending and out of touch, but it will also make absolutely no difference.

Firstly, what is to stop someone from selling these ‘necessities’ to fund a habit? Secondly, what are these ‘necessities’? Do personal hygiene products fall under them? What about a school trip for your child? And if the poor must have their spending limited, then why not have MP’s expenses loaded onto a similar card?

You’d have to call Squealer in to patch those holes. The problem here is that the likes of Duncan Smith stigmatise all those who claim benefits when, in reality, many are hardworking people who his government have made generally worse off.

What is most shocking is that, on the same day the chancellor George Osbourne nonsensically pledged to cut the compensation intended to soften the blow of the pitiful annual wage increase he’s frozen, Big Brother came along and added those still lucky to get any help will be watched over because, as we all know, you’re clearly reckless and can’t be trusted with money.

I actually believe that they’re so out of touch they really think they’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs and that anyone who isn’t in one is either too lazy or drunk – or both.

In all seriousness though, deprivation isn’t a choice, and we must remember that many are born into it. Our government needs to focus on drawing those people out of such by getting them into stable work and on a decent salary – by teaching them valid skills and implementing a meaningful minimum wage that actually compliments the living one.

Unless you do that, you cannot expect someone to claw their way out of financial hardship if they’re continually vilified and labeled, and the gap between rich and poor will only widen. Belittling only exasperates the problem

So, onto the next contender in the competition for who can come up with the most ridiculous policy idea…

Luke Nightingale is a freelance journalist and founding editor of The Looking Glass Liverpool. He also blogs

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