Sunday, 14 October 2012

Poor and disabled? Tories think you're a troublemaker

I wrote yesterday about the plans by Iain Duncan Smith to restrict what "troubled families" can spend benefits on through the use of smart cards, and why this is a terrible idea for many reasons. It's even worse than that though. The plan is to get councils to send "troubleshooters" to confront these families and force them to conform to the expectations of the government. The Independent and BBC News both have more details.

What I didn't write about yesterday is the definition that the government are using for troubled family, and that definition is very bad indeed. The Conservative Party have turned to research by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to decide who might be "troubled". The government have decided that a troubled family is one that meets five out of seven criteria:
  • Low income
  • No one in the family who is working
  • Poor housing
  • Parents who have no qualifications
  • The mother has a mental health problem
  • One parent has a long-standing illness or disability
  • Unable to afford basics, including food and clothes.

Government Lies

In fact these criteria boil down to one thing: poverty. And the ESRC have come right out and stated that the government have basically made up their own minds about what it all means. They said "In the term 'troubled families' it deliberately conflates families experiencing multiple disadvantage and families that cause trouble." The definition that the government are using does not mention child truancy, criminal records, ASBOs, police call outs, drug abuse, or any of the other things that they claim to be addressing.

It is quite likely that none of these conditions are under the control of the family themselves, and yet under government plans they can be penalised for it. Even worse than that, though, is the presence of illness, disability and mental health on that list. These are definitely not under the control of the people involved, but it is clear from what Eric Pickles told The Independent that the government do blame these people. Pickles said that these families must end an "it's not my fault" culture of excuses and must stop avoiding taking responsibility for their own lives. He said that there would be "less understanding" and a tougher approach.

Victim Blaming

This is blaming the victim, plain and simple. It fits right in with the Bio-Psychosocial model of disability that the government have adopted after decades of being advised by insurance company UNUM. The model basically says that disability is all in the mind of the disabled person and they only need to adopt a better attitude to overcome barriers to work and other activities. This is the model that has seen so many people judged fit for work in their Work Capability Assessment by Atos, and now we see it being used to clamp down on poor people who the Tories find distasteful. Instead of helping them, which costs money, they are punishing them because they don't fit their Victorian ideal of "deserving poor".

120,000 troubled families could be legally banned from spending benefits on alcohol and tobacco [Telegraph]
Problem families told - 'Stop blaming others' [The Independent]
Councils back troubled families scheme [BBC News]

This blog post first appeared at A Latent Existence.


  1. Sorry about this, but I have only one word to say as I'm almost speechless at your revelations...


    Is there no end to the depths that this so-called government will stoop to?

    *shaking head*

  2. So middle-class families whos children cause trouble will face no intervention (other than via the normal police/legal interventions to which we are all potentially subject), yet law-abiding families who happen to be poor and have a member who suffers a mental illness (such as depression) will be subject to government controls on their daily lives.


  3. "low income"....So that is very sneakily written to include anyone on benefit then??!! you can just see what the big plan is...i really hope i'm wrong x

  4. The violation of peoples' rights that's going on here is horrific. I don't understand why the UN hasn't stepped in.

  5. fucking hell. it's a good job I don't drink or smoke, though this might drive me to the bottle. I'd have to shoplift it, of course, under these suggestions.

  6. The Economic and Social Research Council - "Shaping Society"

    It becomes more and more obvious that the government decides nothing, just carry out what various "think-tanks" and "philanthropists" want, who by and large seem to be unbalanced.

    I would hope this will get kicked out on grounds of discrimination, though they appear to be working hard at eradicating our rights completely.