Welfare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Banks

Revive the wasteland

The Underclass

Intervention

Underclass Crack Down

Gang and Youth Violence

Roaming Vagabonds

David Starkey

Troubled Families

Making progress on Troubled Families

Louise Casey

Dependency Culture 

Unintended consequences

Bedroom tax

IDS leaves the building


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



What sort of world do you want to live in? As from April 1st, 2013, people reliant on benefits took a pay cut. According to Iain Duncan Smith, it's for their own good, hand outs are no good for anyone, what people need is a hand up. For Duncan Smith, a world without benefits is fairer for everyone - we hope that's clear.


Beyond the 19th century paternalism of Duncan Smith, as necessary to his existence as CO2, we hear George Osborne telling us that we simply couldn't afford the £200bn plus welfare bill. Totally unaffordable!


Well, how much would be affordable, how much of the welfare spending is vital and necessary; and importantly, how much of the welfare bill is actually a subsidy to employers paid to their employees to keep wages down.

Time to stop and think

The world that Beveridge was looking at was vastly different to that of today, the material conditions of life were more basic, as were the expectations of the working class - back then, still able to identify itself as such. You were in work or you were out of work. In work you had some meagre assurance that you had food on the table and a roof over your head, out of work was nowhere, out of work you were a stranger in your own land. Beverage's world was not utopia but it was a big improvement over what preceded it.


It's interesting to note that Tory hero, Benjamin Disraeli, wrote in his 1845 novel, Sybil:

"the only duty of power, the social welfare of the PEOPLE."


It took several decades, however, for the wealthy and privileged to realise their responsibility towards the less fortunate in society. Although, society didn't exist and that's what Disraeli was writing about, the need for something more than the uncaring indifference of those in power and their wealthy backers.

By slow degrees those who ruled recognised the need to provide support for those who needed help, beyond the whims, wonders, and sanctions of charitable giving. In Whig terms, the welfare reforms of the Liberal Party between 1909-1914 were ambitious; an old age pension, unemployment and sick pay, based on national insurance contributions. It wasn't much, some crumbs from the table that was paid for. And it's worth remembering the Work Houses were still there but their name was changed to Poor Law Institutes, for those who fell through the cracks. And we can also find traces of Iain Duncan Smith's ideas in the shape of the "Seeking Work Test", introduced in 1921, full unemployment benefit was only paid upon evidence the recipient was looking for work.

The workers mainly took care of themselves, through the a vast network of Friendly Societies and trades unions. The Church of England also played a major role in alleviating poverty and distress. The Poor Law system began to fade away by 1930 but was not formally abolished until 1948. That was when something approaching social democracy finally began to emerge in Britain. Meaning, that for the first time in British history, government took responsibility for the welfare of its citizens and was prepared to redistribute the national wealth in pursuit of the goals set out by the Beveridge Report: to end Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Let's consider that a work in progress.

And the point is?

The post-war government at least had a plan and set out in detail what they were trying to achieve through their reforms. The current government has no plan except making cuts to benefits and making life difficult for millions of citizens, in particular, those caught up in the 'bedroom tax' nonsense and genuinely disabled people.
The supposed savings from benefit cuts will be eaten away by payments to the private contractors, employed to police the new system, the likes of A4e, G4S, Atos, Serco etc, and for computer systems that don't work. Tribunal appeals against Atos for its woeful Work Capability Assessments has already cost millions of pounds. With the change from DLA to PIP we can expect the costs to increase all the more with the likes of Capita and Atos in the driving seat.

Talk of benefit cheats and scroungers, is just verbiage inserted by Tory spokesman and fellow travellers, in place of a meaningful rationale for the cuts. Benefit cheats are few, certainly not significant enough to transfix the whole Tory party, while they ignore the £70bn and more lost through tax evasion/avoidance.

Affordability

The persistent argument that the welfare bill is unaffordable displays an understanding of economics that falls short of a C grade. Not that we have ever been told how much would be affordable. What we have been told is that some benefit is unaffordable, the bit that goes to the undeserving and no one has told us how many Wilburys we are here talking about.


The £200bn of spending on benefits is unaffordable if you view it as a handout, money given away, never to be seen again. This is the logic of the current government, how often have we heard the refrain "a hand up, not a hand out" that's what people need. Fine, but benefits are not a 'hand out', they are largely transfer payments in recognition of the fact that income inequality in Britain shames everyone. And what do the benefit recipients do with their windfalls, they spend them in the shops here, they don't put it in offshore tax havens. On second thoughts, benefits payments may end up offshore, if they are spent in Top Shop.

Conclusion

Cutting the welfare budget will do nothing to correct Britain's national debt and that debt is the key issue for Dave. The coalition's fixation with the structural deficit is another piece of obfuscation, the national debt is rising because we are not selling enough to pay our way in the world. We borrowed on a promise and got caught out, the whole ship of state was suckered by the snake oil peddlers, well it happened and it needs to be dealt with and picking on some poor people will not fix Dave's 'broken Britain'.

Is a world without benefits possible? There are those down at the Institute of Economic Affairs who believe that such a world is possible. We do not know if the current government wants to end all but an 18th century regime of outdoor relief. We do know that they say the current benefits bill is unaffordable. Yet, they are unable to tell us what is affordable? This may actually mean that they do not know what they are trying to achieve through their current hostility towards benefits claimants.

UP

The Wasteland and the High Street

Food Banks: the new UK growth industry

Food banks are becoming a common feature of the wasteland. Big Dave says that growth in the food bank sector does not signify growing poverty but rather growing awareness of food banks. On another planet this nonsense from Dave might have meaning but in the current circumstances its drivel.

The Trussell Trust, who now run 400 food banks, were feeding 3000 people in 2006, in 2012 they were feeding 120,000. Chris Mould, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, told the Independent:

“When people are on low incomes and just managing to get by, marginal changes that appear to other people to be really quite small, just a few pounds here and there each week, are very significant,” he said. “They can be the difference between getting food on the table or not. People that have been involved in formulating the new welfare policy don’t have an adequate understanding of how precarious the situation for people on low incomes has become.” The marginal changes that Mr Mould spoke of became a reality on 1 April, 2013, annual rises in benefit payments would increase by just 1 per cent. On the same day, 660,000 households with a spare room would see an average £14-per-week-cut to their housing benefit with the introduction of the “bedroom tax”. 

Food banks have seen steady growth since they first appeared in the UK back in 2004. The Trussel Trust set up the first food bank in Salisbury, having switched their humanitarian efforts in Bulgaria when it became clear, that apart from Blair and his cronies gorging themselves at the bankers' feast, many citizens here were not feasting. The Tory mind believes that a big increase in the numbers being fed by food banks, may be the result of a big increase in the number of food banks. In other words the demand or rather need for the food banks was already in place.


However, as an indicator, back in 2004, the Salisbury food bank fed 500 people in its first year, last year it fed 4000 people. So it might be a fair assumption that the numbers in need of free food are increasing and that the increase may be a consequence of the government's benefit cuts.

Absurdity

The Council are cutting back on non-essential services and are waiting for an army of volunteers to step forward to fill the void left by the cuts. This community is in a void, a soulless wasteland, there's nothing to volunteer for here, nothing happens here. Those with talents and skills have taken their non-essential services elsewhere, they wont be sitting around waiting for something to turn up.

This is the new politics, the politics of austerity, the politics of the wasteland. There'll be no more icing on your cake, unless you can afford it, or unless you can find a bank to lend you the money to buy some.

Ah, but wasn't that how we got here in the first place? Encouraging people to buy things they couldn't afford because the clever people skewed the economy towards consumption, that could only be sustained by debt - now, you can't blame that on New Labour, although they did nothing to reverse the trend.

Now, everyone thinks debt is the natural state, some money saving guru (Martin Lewis) is telling his TV audience, "debt's OK", as long as you don't have too much debt, as long as you can manage the debt - his rapid fire mouth doesn't allow his brain time to pause and consider the £57 billion of personal debt that citizens are currently trying to manage. We do know that some talented spivs wrapped up their debt in brown paper parcels, gave it a special name and sold it to an Icelandic bank, for British local authorities to invest in.

Ah, but wasn't that how we got here, in the wasteland, being less than clever managing our debts. Ah, but here's the thing, the ConDem government is not really cutting the current debts by much, if at all, two years after coming to office much damage was being done to the national economy - how do we explain this absurdity?

The failure of confidence, of mistrust, is logical, rational in the current circumstances. Economic growth has come to mean consumers buying things they can't afford today, in the hope of paying for them tomorrow. And if tomorrow brings more of the same, no worries, every other shop on the high street is a Cash Converter, where you can part with the goods that you borrowed to buy and you can top up your wallet with a pay day loan, even if you don't have a pay day to look forward to.

The culture of debt that we live with has reached such absurdity that citizens, who have never borrowed money and never got themselves into debt, are the least likely to be lent to. Those without a credit history wishing to get a mortgage, even if they have the funds in the bank for a deposit and can prove their work provides sufficient money to repay the loan, will not be looked on favourably.
Dave does not have a plan to deal with this absurdity. He thinks he can Cut in the short term, correct some fresh air deficit and then proceed as if the credit fiasco was just a gremlin in an otherwise natural way to run an economy.

UP

A Plan to revive the wasteland

Dave does not have a plan to deal with the absurdity of running an economy on borrowed money. But he does have a plan to revive the high street and the plan is being spearheaded by Mary Portas, television name, Mary Queen of Shops. Supposedly she is famous for being a de-cluttering expert, with an uncanny ability to state the ****ing obvious, without a trace of sarcasm.


In May 2012, £1.2m was assigned for a pilot scheme to revive a dozen selected high streets. Well, after a year, results were not good. Only 12% of the money had been spent, spent unwisely. Much of the funding has gone on meetings, expense claims and consultants. Councils just love their consultants, as much as Dave loves his celebrity experts like Ms Portas.

During May 2011, when Grant Shapps was Local Government minister, he said:


"These pilots can be the vanguard of a high-street revolution, and others can look at their example to kick-start a renaissance of our town centres."


Wow, vanguards, renaissance - someone should have told the chosen Councils how important this scheme was, then they might have got a shift on and spent the money they've been given on something worthwhile. Dartford Council spent £5,983 on newspaper adverts, £1,317 on surveys, £1,610 on hiring a person in a Peppa Pig costume, and £317.46 on items from Waitrose. This sort of spending has been repeated by the other Councils involved in the pilot but did it match up to expectations.

This scheme was meant to harness the energy of local people to breathe new life into the town centres and make them the hearts of their communities again. In this regard someone from the Department for Communities and Local Government said: the pilots are working "very successfully". Just how that judgment was arrived at is unknown. Surely, the only way to revive the high street is to take a pair of scissors to Amazon's Internet connection.

Looking back, Mary Portas seems less than impressed by her experience of trying to energise local authority dunderheads to take some action to revive their tired old high streets. Of course, it doesn't help when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles undermines what you are trying do, as he did in Margate, by signing off on the building of an 82,000sq ft. superstore outside the town.


Ex-Wickes boss, Bill Grimsey produced his own review of the high street and suggested that the focus should go beyond just enhancing the retail environment to include healthcare, entertainment, education and housing. Grimsey also suggested that we need a minister for the high street, it must have escaped his notice that we already have too many ministers doing bugger all. He's also calling for the reform of the business rates system, car parking and access to funding for businesses. He also ignores the fact that Portas did actually put forward some good suggestions, like evening markets, 10p parking after 3pm and food and drink festivals.

Mr Grimsey has been a trifle critical of Portas’s December 2011 review, saying it “promised the Earth but delivered little”, and that it was “little more than a PR stunt” for a tie-in television show. He says that half of Britain’s 44,000 retailers are now in poor financial health and 45 retailers a week are failing since the start of the recession. Britain now has 250,000 shops, compared to 750,000 in the mid-1960s. According to the Centre for Retail Research, a further 22pc of all stores – some 61,930 shops – will have gone by 2018. And the fallout from the 20 biggest business failures in 2012 cost unsecured lenders £2bn. Some 20,000 retailers, still trading in 2013, described as the army of the retail walking dead by Grimsey, have net liabilities of £2.3bn to service.

The Internet economy in the UK accounts for more than £120bn of sales - a higher proportion of GDP than any other G20 country, that's what we call an indicative trend and these are some of the casualties in 2013: Comet, Jessops, HMV, Blockbuster, Dreams, Axminster Carpets, and Thomas Cook. Update: Jessops and HMV have been thrown a life-line but will they survive?

The Bottom Line

Progress to date on revitalising the high street has been slow to useless. However, the government has a new scheme, the Future High Streets Forum, apparently set up to search for further understanding into the problem. The business experts who comprise the Forum will be visiting over 300 town centres where little bits of government money has been spent under the Portas scheme. They can search away but two significant factors in the decline of the high street are crystal clear, the growth of Internet shopping and the government's cuts to local authority funding.


The Government claims it has lifted planning restrictions to bring more housing to the high street, cut business rates for thousands of small businesses and scrapped Whitehall guidance that pushed for higher parking charges.

But the government knows that business rates are too high, having been set in 2008 at the height of the boom and they will not be reassessed until 2017 and the punishing effects of inflation is making the situation worse. For example, a chip shop on the high street can expect to pay some £30,000 in rent and rates a year.

Update July 2014: Enter an initiative called Healthy High Streets. Yes, this is another scheme to revive the high street, this time it’s a three year affair. Each of 29 cities will be provided with their very own ‘champion’ from a big name store like Boots. There’s also a high streets minister in the shape of Brandon Lewis: he said, “It’s great to see some of the biggest names in British retail like Boots UK, the Co-operative Group, Marks and Spencer and Santander using their business expertise and local knowledge to help others on the high street attract more shoppers.”

Without wishing to be cynical we have to wonder what M&S and the Co-Op are doing in the list of champions, they could use some help themselves.

UP

The Underclass 

 

The underclass in Britain today have only one purpose, to provide the political class with an excuse to pursue their social engineering project, of which the benefit cuts form a substantial tool in reshaping behaviour.


The functionaries of New Labour's 'black hand' of political correctness and the puritan apparatchiks of the ConDem Party squirm like maggots in a fisherman's tin, when they have to acknowledge the salivating underclass scum smirking at them from rent free social housing squalor.


The underclass kill, drug, imprison and feed their own children to savage dogs or turn them into 20 a day nicotine addicts before they start school. They camp like Wilburys on the verge of an imaginary Internet world, creating ego-centric, self-regarding persona, waiting like parasites for the next helping hand to arrive - so they can eat it.


Marx described them as the lumpen proletariate, the depraved elements of all classes. Today's underclass are not elements dislodged from their social roots by economic upheaval, as Marx described. Today, the underclass are like tooth decay. They form a tribe like the armies of wandering vagabonds that Henry VIII killed with such glee. Latter day Marxists, with their syrupy liberalism believe the likes of Karen Matthews to be role models for independent living in the 21st Century.

Note: Matthews was released from prison in early 2012, after arranging the kidnapping of her daughter Shannon, in order to claim £50,000 in reward money.


Intervention is now the rationale for social workers


Today, social apologists of all descriptions seek to understand the killers of Baby P by appeal to the departmental handbook of individual needs failure. The handbook provides a tidy solution for the end of year review of the 'seen to be doing something' cycle. Successful reviews are based on the number of interventions by handbook operatives. The process of intervening becomes the rationale. During the intervention process no attempt is ever made to address individual needs failure, to do so would damage the self-worth of the case (underclass scum) and undermine an empathetic and healing discourse.
The history of the modern underclass, as a collection of failed individual misfits, is inextricably bound to Dave's social engineering project. We can say with some certainty that Henry VIII was no apologist and neither is Dave and his plans for the underclass are among his most strident.

The first rule of politics, create a panic before you do anything

Government officials said that the ‘permanent and embittered underclass’ might take their anger out on ethnic minorities. Then the government announced that it would train an army of therapists to deal with what it labelled ‘the epidemic of anxiety’ that the recession would cause. New Labour’s Baroness Scotland warned that ‘domestic violence will rise with increased financial worries’.
The Big Society requires more than anything else a positive mental attitude on the part of its citizens. The Underclass has an attitude problem, generational wallowing in a culture of benefits does not lend itself to an upbeat temperament. Current political rhetoric says, getting all these sturdy beggars back into work can only be good for them. It would also save a very big slice of welfare spending.

UP


Cracking down on the Underclass - Phase one


Chancellor George Osborne signalled a renewed crackdown on the "out of control" welfare budget. He plans to cut another £4 billion, after announcing an £11 billion cut in June 2010. His aim was to encourage people, who from some 'life-style' choice remained idle and living on State handouts, back into work. Osborne's master plan was to make £18 billion in welfare savings by 2014-15.


The main problem with this National Socialist strategy is that the work is just not there. However, there is also a key structural problem, long term scroungers are ill-prepared for the discipline of work and do not have the skills required in any work place. A further major problem will arise when those people who have genuine welfare needs get caught up in the cull of the underclass. Could be that George, the son of a baronet, is behaving like a mad knight errant, slashing left and right, ploughing his charger through sturdy beggars and deserving poor alike.


George says: "Of course, people who are disabled, people who are vulnerable, people who need protection will get our protection, and more." Nice sound bite but when George sends out his cuts diktat to his people on the ground he will have to rely on their ability to discriminate, to apply some intelligence and judgment to individual cases. Be in no doubt there will be collateral damage.

UP

Taskforce to tackle Gang and Youth Violence

Theresa May, MP, Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities finally launched (Nov 2011) 'Call Me Dave's' blueprint to intervene in the lives of tens of thousands of poor people. She published the details of how the Government intends to end gang and youth violence.
She has a crazy blueprint, she has a taskforce of a mere one hundred advisors and a miniscule budget. In total the budget for this scheme adds up to £11.2 million, that's £10 million siphoned away from other Home Office initiatives and £1.2 million of new money, to be used over 3 years to tackle gang crime against girls.


The brains behind this scheme is Iain Duncan Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. He says, "there is no quick fix" for the problem of Gang and Youth Violence.


You could download his report but I'll save you the trouble. Now, if you have a son or daughter involved in gang violence and they come to the notice of The Taskforce you can expect a knock on the door. Open the door and you'll find a Multi-Systemic Therapist (MSTs) waiting to swing into action.


We don't actually know what training these MSTs have had that enables them to save the family from what ails them but rest assured, they form part of a multi-agency intervention army. This emphasis on 'multi-agency' is vital because it enables the lead agency, i.e. the Home Office to spread the load in terms of finance and responsibility. Hidden within the report is an unspoken assumption that up to 30 agencies, who at some time or another, come into contact with young people who might, potentially, become drug dealing knife wielding raping nasty bastards by the time they reach 15 years old will receive intervention along the way. In short, their sickness will be spotted and dealt with - an end to Gang and Youth Violence.

UP

A return to a by-gone age of roaming vagabonds: The Second Phase

Millions of welfare claimants are set to have their benefits scrapped and replaced with a single "universal credit".
Under the changes, housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit and dozens of other payments will be swept away in a major reform programme intended to break the culture of welfare dependency by making work pay. The intention to reduce housing benefit will have a major impact on the life of the underclass, forcing many to move out of the centre of towns to the margins, i.e. no doubt based on the Paris District 13 model. A key advocate of benefit cuts is historian David Starkey.


Starkey has said (filmed for BBC's This Week) he believes "the poor" should live in areas where they can find work. He wants "the poor", the man servants and the kitchen maids to move out of the gentrified Islington squares to roam around the nation seeking out job opportunities.


And, fundamentally, he insists "the poor" must ditch their values of fairness and entitlement - it's all gone far enough, too far! They, "the poor" expect to remain idle, living in properties (among their betters) that they will never be able to afford without state support - they must roam. Starkey is a 'better' and he knows best what's good for "the poor".


Starkey is on message, asking his audience to revalue the meaning of words. New Labour began the process of new-speak. Telling citizens which words could no longer be used, telling citizens how to think about things correctly. What Starkey is doing is adding intellectual support to the ConDem cuts agenda. Telling citizens, forget what you were entitled to and what you thought was fair, adjust to the new reality.
Clearly Starkey is advocating a return to the days of his hero, Henry VIII, and a return to the days of armies of wandering vagabonds. And everyone, except historians like Starkey, knows how Henry dealt with the embarrassment of these 16th Century job seekers. They were hacked down in the fields by his knights.


This is not the 16th Century, it's all far too complex for the superficial analysis provided by Starkey. The poor of Islington are being contained by welfare handouts, these local handouts prevent the disturbance that would be caused by wandering and roaming. That's what the welfare system is in place for, to consolidate the indigent poor, to keep them holed up watching their flat-screen tele's 24/7 and not out roaming around upsetting the Somali tourists, that one sees so many of in Islington.

Perhaps Starkey would like to see a District 13 on the outskirts of London, like the one seen in the futuristic French film in which the underclass are marginalised within a walled ghetto - the film was described by the Daily Mail as "socially clueless drivel" - that translates into "a bloody good film".


It would appear that Starkey was hooked by the drivel of Grant Shapps, one time Tory Social Cleansing commissar, his cleansing programme is now well underway. A report from the BBC suggested that most inner London boroughs are moving hundreds of people out to the capital's margins, or further afield to Wales. Kennsington and Chelsea have already dislodged 800 souls, some of them lifetime residents in the area.

UP

Send For Pickles: Phase three 'troubled families'

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is to spearhead a ferocious crackdown on 120,000 problem families who blame everyone but themselves for their miserable behaviour. Pickles obviously will not be doing any work himself, he has a new quango for that, the Troubled Families Team.

Just how Pickles came up with the figure of 120,000 is just a mystery. Does anyone believe that he has an address book with a 120,000 names in it, probably not. Pickles is using the cover story that these 120,000 troubled families are costing us all £9 billion pounds a year. Another mystery, how the figure of £9bn was computed.
What he actually intends to do is off-load the identification of these families to England's 152 Local Authorities, who he intends to pay a finder's fee, plus a bonus for fixing the problems like, anti-social behaviour, school truancy, life-long benefit scrounging, etc. And he's got a big pot of money to dish out, around half a billion pounds. The councils have been instructed to draw up their intervention plans.


Pickles says: 'Sometimes we've run away from categorising, stigmatising, laying blame. By what criteria does our Eric plan to categorise, stigmatise, and lay blame?


They are low income, no one in work, parents with no qualifications, mother with mental health problems, one parent with long-standing illness or disability and if the family can't afford basic food and clothes. So we are going to categories, stigmatise, and lay blame on people for being poor or ill?


These indicators of "multiple disadvantage" were drawn from research by Tony Blair's Social Exclusion Unit and take note, no connection was made with anti-social behaviour, crime or truancy, etc, that was made by the current Department of Education to support Tory anti-poor prejudice.

The Daily Mail tells us:


"The councils will get £3,900 if they can achieve at least 85 per cent school attendance for children from problem families, a 60 per cent cut in anti-social behaviour and if youth offending falls by a third. Getting one adult from the family off benefits and into work for three months would earn the council £4,000."
Now, no one expects the Mail to spot that there's nothing in what it says that meets the actual criteria used to identify these families in the original research, from eight years earlier.

UP


Making progress on Troubled Families

Dave's crackdown on the most troubled of families is turning into a most marvellous success, well, at least according to everyone involved in the scheme. As of April 2014, big Nick Pickles and his team had managed to identify up to 109,000 troubled families and we are told that 29,000 were no longer 'troubled'.


The government said its efforts were "on track" and having a "big impact" but the Public Accounts Committee said it needed to speed up. The thing is, Dave said that 120,000 families would be turned around by 2015 and with only eight months to go things are not looking that clever. For one thing they still have to identify 9,000 and then turn around 81,000; whatever turn around means.


Louise Casey, Head of the Troubled Families Programme had this to say:


"This programme is getting to grips with families who for too long have been allowed to be caught up in a cycle of despair. These results show that a tough, intensive but supportive approach has a big impact; giving hope and opportunity to the families and respite to the communities around them."


Good use of language there from Louise and one supposes that you need to be tough when you are saving people from a cycle of despair. And be in no doubt Louise is tough, showing no mercy to family members who attempt to resist.


We need to remind ourselves at this stage that this scheme is costing half a billion pounds, with local authorities and others being paid on a payments by results basis. Again we may wonder, by what criteria will success be signed off and paid for. Who for instance will do the checking, surely not the same people being paid to deliver the results - don't bet against it. We do know that local authorities have struggled to find families who match the criteria set by the scheme and so have been allowed to add some local criteria to meet their quotas. And we need to remind ourselves that Pickles was saying that the figures provided by local authorities are not 'official' - that's worrying.


The only certainty in all of this is that ‘troubled families’ make good headlines for the right-wing gutter press. The latest count tells us that the Wilburys now number half a million and cost us £30bn a year. Louise Casey believes passionately that her interventions can make these people good and useful citizens, even if they do not want to take part in the big society. It could be that these families are not troubled in the least but rather it’s Louise Casey that’s troubled.


These people did not just fall to earth in last winter’s rains, they are products of this society. Dave’s Troubled Families Team is a disgraceful reminder of the way we do business and perhaps, it’s the way we do business that needs intervention.

Update 2016: None of the agencies involved in the troubled families campaign were able to supply the names of a single family that had been turned around through intervention.

UP

Dependency Culture 

Bedroom Tax: Anyone on housing benefit, with a spare bedroom, is faced with a choice, move or start paying for that empty room, alternatively they may choose to become a foster carer or sub-let the room and become a landlord. Housing benefit was cut by 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.
Council Tax: Also, and this may come as a shock for those intent on becoming a landlords, support that they may have been receiving for their Council Tax is being reduced by 10%. Staggeringly, nearly 6 million households are claiming this benefit.
The Social Fund: Parts of the Social Fund will be abolished, including Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans. Local authorities will be given money to spend on local schemes such as food banks and to provide subsidised furniture and white goods.


Benefits cap: Increases in all benefits will be capped at 1%. So with inflation averaging 2.7% (RPI), if you believe the government, start spreading the marg' a bit thinner. And a little known fact here, most of those affected will be people in work, because it includes tax credits.


The Institute for Fiscal Studies tells us, 2.5 million households without someone in work will lose an average of £215 per year in 2015-16, while seven million households with someone in work will lose an average of £165 per year.

Total Benefits Cap: As from the 15th April, 2013 four London Boroughs will pilot the new annual £26,000 total limit on benefits and out of work family can claim. Duncan Smith says this is only fair as scroungers shouldn't be earning more in benefits than the average of those who actually get up in the morning. However, he's not being honest, because working families are receiving tax credits and this takes the average wage to £31,000 not £26,000. However, going forward the plan is to reduce the cap to £23,000.

Universal Benefit: This will replace the following benefits: Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseekers Allowance and parts of the Social Fund.This benefit will paid monthly and will be constantly under review by a new computer system, that currently is not working properly, so that as claimants circumstances change, so will their benefits. The people of Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington will be the guinea pigs for this one. No new claims for Tax Credits will be accepted after April 2014. Claims will have to be made for Universal Credit instead.


From mid-2014, it was hoped that all new benefit claims across the country would be for Universal Credit? Sadly, for Iain Duncan Smith that moment never came to pass; his plans for UC are in disarray and he’s in denial.
Disability: the torment continues

Those who support the cuts will be heartened to learn that the torment dished out to disability claimants by Atos Healthcare will continue apace. Atos have just received a new contract to administer assessments for Employment Support Allowances and they have been good enough to sub-contract this work to various NHS Trusts.

The Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by the Personal Independence Plan (PIP) and some 30,000 disabled citizens will have their benefits reduced as a result. PIP will be introduced in Cheshire, Cumbria, Merseyside, North East England and North West England for people who are very ill or disabled and who need help with day-to-day living. It will gradually replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is currently paid to under-65s who have daily care needs or difficulty getting about. Not everyone who gets DLA were not able to get PIP and after June 2013 no new DLA claims were being taken.


And here's a nice twist, anyone still in receipt of DLA in October 2015 will have to apply for a PIP, if its refused, their benefit will cease.
Benefit Cuts and income elasticity

Dave's apprentice chancellor, George Osborne, is unable to make any distinction between skivers and strivers. Osborne's cuts in benefit will hurt more people in work than at home in bed. Cameron, Osborne and Duncan Smith persist with their claim that everyone on benefits is part of what they brand as the "dependency culture".


Boy George fails to grasp the basics of economics, people working for minimum wages spend proportionately more on items such as food, heating, transport and rents than those who shop at Harrods, all these items are necessities and the overall impact of George's benefit cuts will be dire. Dire because the incomes of the poorest will be driven down, making work a more pointless enterprise for these people and instead of reducing the numbers of skivers, who keep George awake at night, he'll see a big increase to haunt his dreams and spending in the high street will take a dive.

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Unintended consequences

Manipulating the public's outlook has been quite successful, up to a point. However, some of Dave's policies have not yielded the desired results and in some cases have turned out to be perverse. He was hopeful that few beyond the hacks at the Guardian and the Independent have noticed.


Labour had not noticed the many complications arising from Dave's policies since all they cared to complain about was the 'cost of living crisis'. And as long as Labour insist on allowing Ed Balls to keep uttering his refrain about the economy flatlining, instead of putting forward, at least one radical alternative to the same old tosh, the result at the next election is in the bag for Dave.


At this point we need to remind ourselves that Labour are full square behind Dave in his efforts to give benefit claimants a good thrashing. For instance, Labour believes that Universal Benefit is a marvellous idea. However, private landlords are not so sure because under this scheme the rent goes to the claimant, not the landlord. This idea is causing not a few landlords to become a bit jittery, well, the drug addicts, alcoholics and scallywags can't be relied upon to pay their rent in preference to enjoying themselves - just one more time.

However, Dave has a plan to help out private landlords, introducing new legislation to make evictions easier. This is probably not his soundest scheme, when we consider that the court system is already being overrun due to lack of resources and perhaps more importantly, there are now more private tenants than social housing tenants. Why, because the social housing stock has dwindled to such an extent that councils are being forced to rely on private landlords to house the homeless.

Bless those landlords, they really are being besieged on all sides, the benefits cap is also causing them to rethink their letting policy. Claimants having their benefits capped increases the likelihood that they will default on the rent - might be better to evict them and let to foreign workers - key word, workers.

Currently, January 2014, Universal Benefit is still at the pilot stage, having suffered from some kind of computer malfunction. When UB goes nationwide, the combined impact of that and, the benefits cap, on the private rented housing market could be significant, as thousands of people are turfed out by their landlords. No doubt local authorities are already gearing up for this eventuality? 

Bedroom tax

Local authorities, bless them too, are already busy dealing with the fallout from another of Dave's policies gone wrong, the 'spare room subsidy', otherwise known as the bedroom tax.

Imagine a situation where a couple have a one room ground floor flat with a garden and they want to transfer to a two bedroom. Many have declared an interest to downsize due to pressure from the spare room subsidy but were unable to exchange with the one bedroom couple because they were in rent arrears and you can't swop homes if you are in arrears but they were put in arrears by the government's policy.

However, government policy on social housing is fatally flawed by the fact that the number of smaller properties that people are expected to move to just do not exist. A number of housing associations in parts of the long gone industrial north have larger properties sitting idle, leaking revenue for months on end, soon they'll be calling in the bulldozers - the cheapest option.

Loophole, do you mean black hole? In the meantime, IDS wants the names of whoever it was that missed the loophole that allows anyone who has lived in a property for 17 years to ignore the bedroom tax. More than a slight error since up to 40,000 could be exempt from the tax. Be assured, the loophole will be closed forthwith or as quickly as it's possible to get a piece of legislation through parliament - let's call it two years then. Objective criticism
In September 2013, the special UN rapporteur was very critical of the bedroom tax. Raquel Rolnik, the UN inspector, says she has never faced such an aggressive, hostile reaction from a government before. She was here to investigate social housing provision. Rolnik observed that the bedroom tax was causing great hardship and distress to the most vulnerable. The Bavarian Wing of the Tory party called her names. They just couldn't appreciate someone from Brazil casting a spotlight on their shadowy misdeeds. However, people's lives are being seriously disrupted and damaged by this coalition's penny pinching bedroom tax. The discretionary payments, that are supposedly in place to protect those in real need, i.e. the disabled and chronically sick, are insufficient to meet all the claims. At least one third of those claiming a discretionary payment are being refused.

More UN criticism (August 2014)

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities launched a formal probe into whether this country has committed ‘grave or systemic violations’ of the rights of disabled people. Tory MPs said Britain’s record on help for disabled people was among the best in the world. They claim this is proven by spending amounting to £50bn a year on the disabled. They did not tell us how many billions they are paying out to their private sector sub-contractors.

Iain Duncan Smith update

Duncan Smith resigned as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in March 2016 gibbering something about how he had enough of Tory austerity policies targetting poor people. Stephan Crabb stepped in for five minutes, until Mrs May took over from run-away Dave and replaced Crabb with Damian Green.

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