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More Problems With The Welfare Card Idea

I was thinking, on my way up to the Post Office, about the welfare cash card idea that flared up, like a pustulent sore, recently. I’m sure it will return.

Is the idea to put all the claimant’s money onto the card? How else would it work? How would the money get onto the card if it’s paid, as it is currently, into the person’s bank? Wouldn’t the bank have something to say about this; after all don’t they make money from their own transactions.

If I want to pay for something from my local shop, or any small retailer (i.e. not a supermarket), there is always a minimum spend requirement for debit cards. This is about £7. I’m told this is to cover bank charges. Wouldn’t this apply for payments made using a welfare card? That money has to come off the card/from the claimant to the business, no doubt at a cost. This means that claimants will be forced to spend more than they’d like just to get what they need, even if the money is frontloaded onto the card.

If the payments are to be put directly onto the card then where does that leave banks? Who then will issue these cards and how long will it take to get one to a new claimant. How will they get their card filled up; can this be done only at banks or job centres? How will people get to these places? Will all banks have access to the DWP ‘central account’ for the purpose of topping up a card?

Surely this will leave people absolutely vulnerable; if my debit card gets stolen it has no intrinsic worth assuming the thief cannot access my account. If a welfare card gets stolen it has money directly onto it (even if the thief can only buy certain things – he’ll likely sell it on the black market). This could well be a lot of money, depending on the benefits involved. A single parent is likely to have JSA/ESA along with tax credits and potentially Housing Benefit, all under Universal Credit as the latter is no longer paid direct to the landlord. What about two parent families: who gets the card, whose card has the child/family benefits?

There are so many unanswered questions. In my opinion, though, this is simply about getting the credit card company to make money out of the welfare system. It isn’t about limiting spending or controlling behaviour; as I’ve demonstrated the practicalities involved ask too much of any single card system as to be utterly regressive and self defeating. This is a no mark Tory wannabe cosying up to big business trying to make a name for himself. I’ve no doubt he’ll return with more on this nonsense.


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