Monday, December 08, 2008

Kicking the dog

When there's a public storm over the antics of one particular dysfunctional group of benefits-dependent adults and children, what is the responsible government reaction?

Obviously, it's increasingly authoritarian bureaucracy that will make life that little bit more miserable for other, entirely unconnected and mainly blameless, benefits-dependent adults and children, while having no effect whatsoever on the problem of babies-for-benefits* welfare dependency:

Under new laws likely to be proposed next year, missing a single "work-focussed interview" would cost a claimant £12 a week. The second missed appointment would mean a £24 cut in the weekly payment.

A third "strike" would see claimants lose all benefits payments, with Job Centre staff paying essential bills like food and heating directly on the claimant's behalf.
I have no idea what starving the feckless is supposed to achieve, even if that's what they are. If the fecklets aren't being cared for properly now, with the only money left over from their parents' lottery scratch cards, cigarettes and porn site subscriptions barely stretching to a box of microwave chips a day, who the hell is going to suffer first when the cash is cut?

The proposal doesn't even make sense. If you were on "two strikes" and losing £24 per week, you'd have to strike out again as fast as possible if you wanted to eat.

There is a far simpler way: a flat rate benefit - call it a Citizens' Basic Income if you want - that can be swapped for a tax threshold somewhere around £10k to £12k. (You've persuaded me, Mark).

* I don't think this exists quite as has been suggested. Babies are complicated incentives, in a welfare state. Nonetheless, incentives have accrued to them in a way that is in part problematic.


Anonymous said...

"with Job Centre staff paying essential bills like food and heating directly on the claimant's behalf. "

That's the way to go.

Don't give them cash, give them the things they ought to use the cash to buy.

Of course we'd have to be careful about the "company shop" problem, especially if the State were involved - as I suppose it has to be, worse luck - but surely Tesco's or someone could manage the process?

Anonymous said...

Welfare should be abolished. However, my main concern now is the destruction of Brown and the rest of ZaNuLab. In light of that I hope some bright lawyer can have these stupid laws struck down.The welfare state can be sorted later. First priority now must be the destruction of this scummy Govt and another legal humiliation can only help.

Mark Wadsworth said...

FBJ, thanks for that.

Once we've got a CBI in place, THEN we can have an argument about whether the CBI should be £nil per week (as Mr Ecks suggests) or £120 a week (as some lefties suggest) or some sensible compromise like £60 per week.