Last night's Panorama investigated the twilight world of disability vs. the Work Programme. For those of us in the know it merely confirmed what we already knew: a culture of incompetence, bullying, and disinterest from the providers. The parking of hard to reach clients, and the use of smaller, local, charities (such as, I'm guessing, the Salvation Army) as bid candy - some of whom are not even aware they've been used! Faced with all this, Mark Hoban, the (un)employment minister, decided to equivocate; no surprise there. The programme mentioned the difference in fees that providers could claim, at each stage (referral, placement, and overall success), for able/disabled claimants. Consequently I'm now beginning to see why, if you'll excuse the paranoia, the Salvation Army were keen to say I should go on ESA and that they couldn't help me, in respect of the issues they know I have, otherwise - they get more money. Or would if they were actually able to help. God only knows; what is clear is that these organisations can't be trusted. It's just about the money for them. Help comes a distant second, maybe as a convenient bonus.
Yesterday I posted off my ESA50 form. It asked me for a phone number, so ATOS can contact me anytime any day between 9am and 8pm (no fucking thanks!) to book my WCA. That isn't remotely convenient (last time they wrote to me and told me I had to ring them to book it within a couple of weeks, which I would prefer) so I didn't provide a number and told them, as the DWP has my phone number anyway (which likely means ATOS has it as well), not to ring up. I'm sure they'll listen; they seem so helpful. I have a proof of postage; I've left it until the last minute to post it (and why not?) so if they moan I can prove it got sent at least.
So again the welfare reform machine, the insensitive Tory (forget the libdems, they are a done deal, gone and forgotten) juggernaut, rolls on. The Bedroom tax, along with other cuts including making councils charge claimants Council Tax for the first time, is looking to set the spring alight and could very well be the next Poll Tax moment. This is an easy, and it seems a popular, comment to make, however it is painfully obvious the government has not thought this through at all - as if they care. Pensions minister, and Coalition lickspittle, Steve Webb of the libdems blundered his way through a response to the select committee debate on this matter. Faced with a horde of angry opposition MP's recanting warnings of very real strife, including the notion that foster carers aren't exempt, all he could do was resort to the tired 'blame Labour' rhetoric, the usual bland sophistry of 'fairness', and to say that people 'could' find lodgers (oh how easy peasy, even though many housing associations don't allow it), or that, as we now, in his words, have record employment, people could easily pick up a few hours extra work a week to cover the cost to be imposed on them. At the very least why the fuck should they - and if they could, does he not think that they might already be doing just that? As if there is a surfeit of 2/3 hour a week positions (to quote his figures) that people can easily do on top their current responsibilities to make up the shortfall.
All this came on top of Lord Fraud's inexcusable and flaccid performance a couple of weeks ago on 5 Live wherein a pair of tenants facing the likelihood of destitution put forward their circumstances, only to be rudely fobbed off by a blustering idiot. One lady told him her tenancy forbade taking in lodgers while her son, a soldier, was away on duty. Freud cared not simply asserting that she could just change her Housing Association's mind (why would they? What's in it for them to do so?) Another, a divorced father with three kids and joint custody who had already downsized and was now having to do so again, was told to get a camp bed in the lounge for his three kids. Maybe if they were really young they might think that a bit of an adventure (or they might go back to mum and say 'i hate it at daddy's, it's awful', destroying their relationship), but these are older kids and camping isn't really suitable - and why should it be? It will never cease to amaze and appal me how this creature, this shameful charlatan, has managed to inveigle himself into power. He is a lord (with 8 spare rooms of his own!) yet has served no time as an elected MP or official!
Finally the appearance of the ridiculous bloated wannabe Tory, what you might call a Delboy Tory - a 'made man' who fancies himself among the old guard, Alec Shelbrooke to defend his ridiculous welfare prepay card proposal. This scheme, as has been roundly debunked, has no credibility, is completely unworkable and, more importantly, is divisive and repugnant. He's just a backbencher trying to make a name for himself with the top dogs. What he doesn't realise is that they will look at him with as much disdain as the rest of us: who is this pretender trying to be an aristocrat? Who does this whelp think he is? They'll get some sport out of him, make a few headlines, and he'll be back running a second hand car showroom moaning about muslims before the next election.
This floundering elephant of ignorance appeared on The Big Questions on Sunday Morning on the BBC. Blustering his way through the usual 'we've spent beyond our means' and 'welfare is too high' bollocks he responded to accurate claims that his absurd idea was divisive by saying that everyone would receive a card so that, if they needed to claim, they could use their card. Therefore no one would be stigmatised for having to rely on this nonsense because we'd all have them. Totally missing the point. But of course it's self defeating when people who are on tax credits involved since they will have, in one hand, their wage, and in the other, their Universal Credit via a prepay card!?! Unfortunately noone seemed to spot this.
Still it's big business for the likes of Mastercard. It was a laughable performance; this guy looks like he belongs on Eastenders as the latest dodgy wheeler dealer 'doing a bit o' business sonny', with his cheap jewellery and sovereign ring. Not a fucking clue about the practicality and the cost of implementing this madness.
He tried arguing this would help funnel the money to where it's needed the most - as if that was anywhere in his corporate addled brain when he dreamt this idea up. Of course it won't; processing payments and running a card scheme will cost the system more. For example, assuming bus fares are not on the verboten list of what claimants can buy, how would you use your card to buy a bus ticket? First, who runs our bus 'service' has never had the facility to pay for a ticket using anything other than cash. There's no card/swipe system. No room for prepay cards. What then?
Amusingly, on his left shoulder, was torture apologist and corporate excuse maker, David Vance, who sat there like a nodding dog arguing, tediously, that the welfare state comprises the usual suspects: feckless smoking sky watching drinkers and idlers.
Mid way through the discussion some 'entrpreeneur' (the new cultural heroes) called Deirdre Bounds (no, I don't know either) chimed in about her time on benefits. She made the usual mistake of saying: 'some people on benefits are scroungers, but not me; I was hard working and look at me now ma!'. Credible? Notsomuch. Again with the 'benefits culture' bogeyman; what does this mean? There's no culture of benefits: there are people that live on benefits, they have no choice - that's why they claim. They have a pittance to live on and are thus even more dependent on it (everyone is dependent on an income, it is capitalism: slavery to debt and credit and money). They are the least resistant to change and rising prices. To then stigmatise them for that. However she did make a good point about working from home and the lack of support for that. There was also an interesting acknowledgement of something I've recognised: that benefits include a large proportion that gets paid back into the system leaving a net cost, reportedly, of £25 billion. Not quite the shock figures the media likes to play with.
"if they don't smoke or drink, then there isn't a problem" to paraphrase the odious Vance. As if that's an argument. It's the same argument used to bring in ID cards. The Tories are meant to be anti-nanny state as they see it. Except only where it suits them. Everyone else? Too bad. What a disgusting argument: why should you moan about us controlling your lives and banning you from using currency? It won't affect you if you don't smoke or drink! Arsehole.