Tuesday 8 March 2011

Addicted to Benefits

The article's a few weeks old now, but prior to the second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill tomorrow I wanted to take a look at an article the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, wrote in The Telegraph in advance of the first reading. I did mean to write about this at the time the article was published but - funnily enough for a person with chronic health problems - I've been to ill to do so.

The article starts with a problematic headline:

It's time to end this addiction to benefits

We tend to think of "addictions" as unbreakable bad habits. When we think of addictions we think of people hooked on drugs, alcohol, tobacco or gambling. We have mental images of people stealing to pay for their heroin fix, people turning yellow because the booze has wrecked their liver, people whose spending priority is their fags no matter what essentials they have to go without and gamblers being chased by loan sharks because the football team they'd placed their last hope with didn't win. We think of self-destruction.

IDS is clearly trying to keep up the government propaganda that benefits are a hook that destroys lives; that they're like Pringles and you just can't stop.

Except benefits don't destroy lives, they save lives. My ability to earn my keep was destroyed by illness. If I lost my benefits, I'd lose my home. It's notoriously difficult to access medical care when homeless. Without my vast amounts of prescription meds every day I would not be able to go on living, the physical pain would be more than I could bear. People have already died after losing their benefits, people like Paul Reekie. It's not the benefits that are destructive, it's their stoppage.

Yes I'm benefit dependent, but that's a world away from being addicted.

Duncan Smith wheels out the lines we've heard so many times in this assault on benefit claimants like "those who spend two years or more on incapacity benefit are more likely to die than to work again." Ya think? Sometimes ill people die rather than recovering and finding a job. People like George from Chesterfield who was deemed by ATOS as well enough to do some kind of work and placed in the Work Related Activity Group for ESA. He died the day before another Atos medical.

I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it comes to maths and numbers; and I'm not ashamed to admit that. I leave the number crunching to people who understand that sort of thing while I focus my attention on stuff I do get. However even I, with my limited mathematical knowledge, can see the flaw in this:

Incredibly, the proportion of working-age adults living in poverty is the highest since records began.

Because his proposal for dealing with the problem is to make sure poor people have less money. Like I say, I'm no maths whizz, but even I can see that if someone hasn't got enough of something, and you take away some of the little they have got, then what they're left with is even less than they had to start with. And I'm fairly sure that I could've deduced that in pre-school using Smarties: If one needs 10 Smarties but one only has 7 Smarties then taking an extra 2 Smarties away does not 10 Smarties make. This guy is responsible for administering the nation's welfare state despite having less grasp of economics than I had at the age of 4.

IDS devotes a whole paragraph to the lies about DLA that I debunked a few weeks ago in More Mail Lies. I would say "you'd hope the minister responsible for benefits would know more than the Daily Mail," except the Mail article was, of course, based on a press release by Iain's department.

Mr Smith says that the idea of the welfare state was to make society "fairer" but that the ideals were never realised and that the Welfare Reform Bill is about changing that. He's right, the welfare state has never been that fair; my combined benefits fall short of what's needed to reach a minimum standard of living and many people find DLA isn't enough to cover their disability-related costs. But reducing those amounts won't make the system any more fair; just ask any pre-schooler with some Smarties on the table in front of them.


  1. Very well said. It's criminal the way IDS and his right wing newspaper stooges are trying to make us out as scroungers, intent on destroying the country.
    It's more mindboggling when people get outraged about those who've been on IB for more than 5 years - do they think that illnesses just go away after claiming for a certain length of time?

  2. Ah, but you see if you're to the point of starving or losing your home you'll be PROPERLY INCENTIVISED to go and get a job... is the thinking. Not realising that for some people the 'choice' between work and death will be, um, death.

  3. Helen above has it right, the word for this is criminal. Money that's supposed to be going to help the genuinly sick and disabled is instead being given to the private company Atos for declaring these people well when they're plainly anything but. This has got criminality written all over it and the sooner some prominent collars are felt the better.