Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Claimant Spending to be Controlled to Stamp out ‘Vice’ ?

with 33 comments

Brian Wheeler of the BBC reports, (2nd October)

Should claimants be paid vouchers to stop spending on ‘vices’?

Should benefit claimants be prevented from spending the money given to them by the state on alcohol, gambling, cigarettes and other “vices”?

A poll commissioned by think tank Demos suggests most people would support such a move.

But the findings have been met with horror by anti-poverty campaigners, who have questioned whether the British public really feel that way, or whether they have been denied the full facts on poverty by the government and certain newspapers.

Alison Garnham, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the poll, in which 59% agreed the government should control what people spend their benefits on, should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

“In the United States in the 1960s, welfare rights campaigners argued for food stamps for certain groups on the basis that some of them were alcohol abusers, but it’s not an argument that ever took traction in the UK because people would find that offensive.

“I think we have a very different culture. I just don’t think it would be acceptable in the same way,” she told a Demos fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.

‘Cool card’

In the United States, people on “food stamps” are given a pre-payment card that they can use to buy food and other essentials – but not luxuries such as alcohol and tobacco.

The introduction of the Universal Credit next year, which will see six work-related benefits rolled up into a single payment, potentially opens the door to a similar system in the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron has not ruled out exercising more control over how claimants spend their money, although there is no suggestion, so far, that food stamps will be introduced in the UK.

Some, including Mastercard, which sent along a representative to the Demos fringe meeting, are pushing for the combined payment to be loaded on to a pre-paid card.

If such a card were to be introduced, explained Matthew Mayo, Mastercard’s head of business development in the UK and Ireland, claimants could be blocked from using online gambling sites, for example, but not from buying booze at a supermarket.

Cards could also be used to incentivise healthy behaviour, he added, and some local authorities are already experimenting with such a policy.

In the London borough of Camden, primary school children on free school meals can apply for a “Cool card”, which entitles them to £15 a month worth of activities such as drama tuition, climbing wall and martial arts.

‘Feckless’ claimants

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, an aide to shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, said she backed the idea, in principle, of using pre-paid benefit cards to encourage people to make healthy eating choices by offering discounts on fruit and vegetables, for example.

But she rejected the “obnoxious” suggestion that “feckless” benefit claimants blew all their money on “fags and booze”, instead of feeding their children.

Like Alison Garnham, she feared controlling what benefits are spent on would rob the poor of control over their lives and add to the stigma of being on benefits.

What alarms Labour politicians is that voters appear to have stopped thinking of benefits as social security – something they pay into for use in hard times – but rather as a charity handout to the poor, and that this will fatally undermine the welfare state.

One of the most striking findings of the Demos survey was that 18-24-year-olds were one of the most likely age groups to call for government controls on how benefits are spent.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne agreed that a majority of people thought benefit recipients were lazy and did not really want to work.

Campaigners like Alison Garnham argue that the public attitudes have been influenced by tabloid caricatures of benefit scroungers when, in fact, the amount paid to out-of-work people had gone down, in real terms, over the past 40 years.

“Six out of ten poor children live with a parent who is working. The reason they are poor is because their parent is a cleaner or a care assistant not because they are a drug addict or an alcoholic,” she told the Demos meeting.

“It’s generally desirable for claimants to have control over their own money, not paid on their behalf to somebody else. So I find myself asking why would the state want to have more power to interfere with how this money is being spent?”

“There will be a small group of people who have trouble budgeting or who are alcoholics, for example, but there is some really good evidence that poor families are very good at budgeting their incomes.”

Demos deputy director Claudia Wood said the think tank would be staging a similar debate in Birmingham next week at the Conservative Party conference, which, she added, might produce a very different response.

Article + comments here

The Daily Telegraph states that the Government says,

“”There are no current plans for the Coalition to introduce vouchers for welfare recipients, but the Prime Minister said there needs to be a public debate on the issue earlier this year.”

Demos poll

  • 59% agreed the government should control what people spend universal credit on
  • 77% said yes to monitoring people with a substance or gambling addiction and 69% for those with a criminal or anti-social history
  • 68% agreed the government should stop all recipients from spending their benefits on gambling
  • 54% agreed with the government stopping people spending their benefits on unhealthy items such as cigarettes or alcohol
  • 46% opposed benefits being spent on branded goods such as Nike trainers
  • 38% backed a ban on buying junk food and 35% on holidays
  • Poll was carried out by Populus Data Solutions, based on a survey of 2,052 adults

Comment: The Busy-Bodies behind this idea should be taken to the nearest public stocks.

Claimants will be supplied with rotten Supermarket vegetables and  invited to express their views on this proposal.

Note: Demos was originally set up by a New Labour supporters.


Written by Andrew Coates

October 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

33 Responses

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  1. “Im hoping someone on here will be able to give me some advice. I have been recieving JSA for about 18 months. The jobcentre sent me to a work focused training programme which I have been attending. I recieved a sanction due to non attendance. The sanction was for 2 weeks. I took every letter that I had recieved into the job centre which showed every appointment I had attended but was told i had still missed some. The sanction was then lifted and 2 weeks later I was sanctioned again for a month. The training provider told the job centre that I was not attending appointments even though I had signed in every time I had attended. Again, they said I had missed some that they had booked.

    As soon as this sanction was up, they immediately hit me with a 6 month sanction for exactly the same thing, despite the fact that every appointment I recieved, I attended. The job centre said it was basically my word against the training providers as they were saying I had not attended every one.

    I have appealed against the decision and have lost the case. I have had no money at all since the beginning of June and my next pay is looking to be the middle of December.
    I have applied for crisis loans, budgeting loan and hardship payments, all of which have been refused.

    I have spoken to Citizens Advice but they had no real advice to give me. Surely they cannot expect me to survive for so long on nothing. I am still signing every 2 weeks and still attending the training programme. I just dont know what to do now. I cant go on like this much longer. I have told the job centre so many times that I need help or advice and their stock answer is “You are on a sanction, we cant do anything”.
    I am still recieving housing benefit which is great but have no way of getting food or topping up the utilities. Beyond stressed now. Any advice much appreciated”

    Forum thread here .

    Money Saving Expert

    October 3, 2012 at 11:36 am

    • I think the only option left open to you is to take the evidence that you have attended all appointments along to your local MPs surgery as soon as possible. I would also write a formal complaint to the DWP decision maker, again including any evidence that you have of your attendance on the training programme. Also, every local authority should have a welfare officer who can support you with this matter and help you to complain. I would also keep applying for hardship payments; the DWP should at least be providing you with that. Research any welfare rights organizations in your area to see if any will help.

      The Salvation Army provides food parcels; visit them to find out if you need a referral from someone, usually a GP social worker or welfare rights worker; similarly the Trussel Trust. As for utilities, every company has their own trust fund to help people cover their arrears, so find out about that as well.

      When you do finally get your JSA back I would make an appointment at the Jobcenter and ask them how you can prove your attendance, perhaps you can make people sign and date a simple form stating that.

      Good luck with it and don’t give up! Keep fighting for your rights.


      October 7, 2012 at 9:52 am

  2. debbie abrahams has denied saying she supports food stamps on twitter.

    I don’t really care, Labour are a busted flush. Until we get a decent left wing option there’s no point to them.

    Ghost Whistler

    October 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    • Busted Flush?! – you won’t be going gambling with your food stamps, Ghosty 🙂

      B Roke

      October 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm

  3. Abrahams is still patronising telling us that we ought to have “pre-paid benefit cards to encourage people to make healthy eating choices by offering discounts on fruit and vegetables”. And for all the talk about ‘discount’ (how bloody likely is that to be real..) somebody (card providers etc) would be making a pretty penny out of that.

    Andrew Coates

    October 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    • ffs scrap the Cap (Common Agricultural Policy) then – a policy designed to artificially inflate the price of food by buying produce then DESTROYING it as well as lining the pockets of toff landowners such as the Duke of Westminster (the RICHEST person in Britain) for NOT growing produce. This bullshit policy consumes over half the EU budget. There is NO shortage of food, don’t buy into the capitalist “scarcity” . Mother Earth provides ample for all; you got ask why so many are starving. Maybe, the answer lies in the Great Depression when the shops were chock-full of produce, yet people were starving – because they had no money.


      October 3, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      • And so the cycle starts again..I remember the pension boom/scam from the eighties when the c*unt Thatcher was on the throne.They took the money, had fancy offices, top-of-the-range flash cars, fat salaries,all the perks,big advertising budget etc…Then guess what? “Sorry things did not go quite as planned,your money has disappeared into a mysterious financial black hole.” Now they’re going to fish another generation into the fraud.

        State pension is no different,money gets spent on other stuff,like war to steal oil to sell back to you at an inflated price,they move the goal posts,have to work till you’re 80,and then no doubt tax you on the dregs that are left.

        Old Timer

        October 7, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    • The only ones who will benefit from this policy are the rich toffs who own Mastercard and the supermarkets who will be in on the deal.

      Similar to the scam op-in pensions. Sure it will be “invested” 🙂 at 7% 🙂 When the time comes to collect we will all be told that the “bankers stole all the money”, “the Stock Market crashed”, the “fund manager done a runner”, why oh why do folks keep falling for the same old bullshit and scams over and over again. Time to grow a pair and tell these toff c*unts to F*uck off!

      Government policy is being dictated to us by BIG BUSINESS – why doesn’t the Government not just float on the Stock Exchange and be done with it!


      October 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      • The pension that vanishes just at the moment you go to collect it. The don’t give a f*uck about you and me, they don’t give a f*uck.

        George Carlin (RIP)

        October 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      • And so the cycle starts again..I remember the pension boom/scam from the eighties when the c*unt Thatcher was on the throne.They took the money, had fancy offices, top-of-the-range flash cars, fat salaries,all the perks,big advertising budget etc…Then guess what? “Sorry things did not go quite as planned,your money has disappeared into a mysterious financial black hole.” Now they’re going to fish another generation into the fraud.

        State pension is no different,money gets spent on other stuff,like war to steal oil to sell back to you at an inflated price,they move the goal posts,have to work till you’re 80,and then no doubt tax you on the dregs that are left.

        Old Timer

        October 7, 2012 at 2:27 pm

  4. And here comes the black market:


    Not only will these vouchers or cards be sold for cash on the black market, but worse still they are likely to be stolen.

    Expect robberies and violent muggings to go sky high.

    Another ugly side-effect of these ill thought out Tory policies to control the poor.


    October 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

  5. what the hell is this country becoming when other humans will be prepared to inflict this on the already most vunerable in society , well lests see their opinion change when crime goes through the roof, riots ect, unbelievable..

    christine redmond

    October 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    • It kind of screws up the “humiliation” intent of this c*unty policy because it wont be the intended recipients who will be “spending” these coupons/cards – it will be the “dealers” lol


      October 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  6. Stamp out vice, not claimants!

    Richard Comaish

    October 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm

  7. Of course all this diverts and flips attention on the unemployed,taking the spotlight of of others.



    October 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm

  8. As a non-smoking teetotaller whose only gambling stretches to the odd pound coin spent on the National Lottery every other week or so, I’ll probably be able to survive (just!) these miserable, penny-pinching measures if they’re ever implemented. Many won’t, so expect more overcrowded jails as the poor turn to crime to survive (six months’ incarceration at Her Majesty’s Pleasure now costs an eye-watering £20,000!. Quite how all those right-wingers forever moaning about tax increases think it’s sensible to cough up amounts like this rather than paying paltry JSA is baffling – talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!).

    In short, proposals like this make it crystal clear that for all the Tories pontificating about “rolling back the state” and “getting the state off people’s backs”, they’re just as (if not more) authoritarian and statist as Blair’s New Labour was.


    October 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm

  9. During the 2nd World War George Orwell was a propagandist for the BBC; part of his job was to exhort the benefits of offal to housewives. The BBC tried it a few years ago when they were telling us how nutritious lard was. Don’t even think that you will able to purchase nutritious food with these these vouchers/basic card – offal and lard will be all that will be on the menu!

    Georgina Orwell

    October 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    • About the only place I’ve seen offal recently is in Birmingham Bull Ring Market.

      Round here I bet you’d only get it, at a high price, in some gourmet Butcher’s in Woodbridge or Farm Shop.

      Andrew Coates

      October 4, 2012 at 2:52 pm

  10. How will this work if you are on Workfare/Community Action, would you expected to do a full weeks unpaid work for a handfuls of food stamps? That would be the ultimate piss-take.


    October 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    • The ConDems’ ultimate aim is to introduce an American-style “welfare” system in the UK. Workfare and people relying on food banks we have already; food stamps and tent cities are on the horizon. And with Labour seemingly thinking along similar lines things won’t get better after the next election whoever gets in.

      Sir Scab

      October 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    • Workfare, food stamps and living in a tent city – that is the future.


      October 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm

  11. Has anyone any personal experience of the Community Action Programme? I’ve yet to read anything on the internet from one of its victims.

    Charlie D

    October 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm

  12. @ Money Saving Expert: You could report it to the police! Because, it sounds to me that some sort of deception/fraud has occurred involving your advisor(s), if so, I’ll bet there’s money involved somewhere along the line.

    A. Ellis

    October 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

  13. A million working adults face benefits cuts next year

    Nearly 1.2 million people may be sanctioned if they do not obtain extra work, increase their hours or find a higher paying job

    Patrick Wintour, political editor, Thursday 2nd October 2012

    Nearly 1.2 million working adults will for the first time next year face losing some of their benefits if they do not comply with new state requirements to work longer hours, find an additional job or seek higher wages, it has emerged.

    Article + comments here .
    Until now benefit sanctions have only applied largely to those out of work. The new sanctions regime is an unprecedented byproduct of the government decision to introduce universal credit, merging most existing means-tested benefits and tax credits together into a single system.

    The aim is to increase the incentives to work but it means that people will lose money if they don’t find extra work, even if there is none available where they live.

    There are currently 1.4 million people working part-time because they are unable to find full-time work – compared to 500,000 in 2004.

    The claim that 1.2 million working adults will be brought under the oversight of the department of work and pensions sanctions regime is made by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, and is based on figures supplied by the DWP for the first time.

    The foundation suggests about 700,000 single people will be affected, as well as 500,000 who are living as part of a couple.

    The conditions will be set on payments to many working claimants who earn less than the weekly equivalent of the minimum wage – £212.80p for a single person.

    The Resolution Foundation claimed on Wednesday night that the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith was moving into unchartered territory and questioned whether DWP jobcentre advisers have the capacity to cope with double the number of claimants subjected to potential sanctions.

    Universal credit removes the requirement to work at least 16 hours to be entitled to benefit, so allows claimants to receive state help if they are working as little as five hours a week.

    To counter the clear financial incentives for low-hours work in the new system universal credit introduces, for the first time, a bolstered system of personalised conditionality, including directed mandatory activity to help people obtain and prepare for work.

    Claimants will be expected to meet a new, higher conditionality earnings threshold, equivalent to 35 hour week at national minimum rates through a combination of measures. These can include: increasing their hours or their hourly wage with their current employer, finding one or more additional jobs alongside their existing employment or finding a new job with a higher income.

    The foundation warns that “with little over a year until implementation it is of concern that little has been said about how a fair, consistent and adequately resourced conditionality system for working claimants will be implemented. It also questions “whether an extension of conditionality to working claimants can function in the current context of a chronically weak labour market in which millions of people want to work more hours, but are unable to do so”.

    Article + comments here .

    The Guardian

    October 5, 2012 at 8:11 am

    • Thanks for posting this. It seems to me that people are going to have to spend a lot of time juggling their working hours, benefits, and so forth., to see what they’ll get. This is humiliating for anybody trying to make a decent go of their lives.

      Andrew Coates

      October 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  14. A million working adults face benefits cuts next year

    Nearly 1.2 million people may be sanctioned if they do not obtain extra work, increase their hours or find a higher paying job

    Article + comments here

    The Guardian

    October 5, 2012 at 8:26 am

  15. Stamp out vice? I was (literlly) pimped by A4E when benefit errors left me with £20 a month for all living expenses. They refused me advice because i was on IB so they wouldn’t get paid for helping me find work. Going on the game was my only alternative at the time – they said that was fine by them – my health condition has since worsened and i think only the most dangerous and abusive forms of prostitution would be available now if my benefits get withdrawn – i wonder how many punters replied to the survey…

    Sylvie Shilling

    October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm

  16. Long-term jobless take a 20% dole cut and work in the community

    Those out of work for more than a year should have their benefits docked by 20%, a panel of leading Conservative thinkers have said.

    Anyone on Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than six months would also be obliged to undertake 30 hours of work in their local community each week under the controversial plans, which will be discussed at this week’s Conservative Party conference.

    The proposals feature in a radical manifesto of 15 measures to boost economic growth and restrain public spending compiled by the Free Enterprise Group, whose membership include a number of ministers and MPs close to George Osborne, the Chancellor.

    Supporters of the group include Matthew Hancock, Mr Osborne’s former chief of staff who is now a minister at the Department for Business, and Sajid Javid, a minister at the Treasury.

    As well as a range of policies to cut tax and red tape, the manifesto calls for the introduction of a new “enterprise card” for immigrants, that would allow people from outside the European Union to work in Britain but be denied access to schools, NHS care and other parts of the welfare state unless they paid in advance.

    Only after they had paid British taxes for 10 years would an enterprise card holder be eligible for British citizenship. The system is similar to the Green Card system operated in the United States.

    Kwasi Kwarteng, the chairman of the Free Enterprise Group, said: “These are some dynamic and thoughtful ideas which we believe will get the British economy going in the next few years.

    “Fostering free enterprise through reforming public spending, cutting taxes and getting the welfare budget under control needs to be at the heart of our political agenda.”

    The manifesto will add to pressure on Coalition ministers including Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, to deliver more business-friendly policies.

    Britain sank back into the second leg of a double-dip recession earlier this year.

    Official figures published later this month are expected to show that the economy grew slightly during the third quarter of this year, but the outlook for next year remains bleak due to the Eurozone debt crisis and the dire state of Britain’s public finances.

    The policies will be launched in a joint event hosted by the Free Enterprise Group and the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Right of centre think tank, at an event in Birmingham on Tuesday.

    Devising ways to get the long-term unemployed into work remains one of the greatest challenges of welfare reform.

    The Free Enterprise Group recommends that the jobless should have 10% of their Jobseeker’s Allowance removed after six months, with another 10% withdrawn if they remain out of work after a further six months.

    Such a move would raise eyebrows amongst Liberal Democrat members of the Coalition who would almost certainly seek to block the proposals. Those under 25 currently receive £56.25 a week under Jobseeker’s Allowance. This rises to £71.00 a week for the over 25s and £111.45 for couples.

    A senior Liberal Democrat source said: “I wonder sometime what planet many of the Tory Right are living on. They did not win the last election. They are in Coalition and with people who understand how much damage polices like this would do.”

    Article here .

    The Torygraph

    October 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

  17. If the Lib Dems wonder what planet the Tories are living on, why don’t they pull out of the coalition, this would force an immediate general election.

    Wow, what a good idea, c’mon Clegg pull out.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    October 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

  18. Iain Duncan Smith wants to control they way claimants spend their benefit, Mr Osboure wants IDS sacked and Mr Cameron why haven’t you kicked IDS out on his ear after telling you he would not be moved out of the DWP? it’s not his choice, it yours Mr Cameron – get rid of this idiot now.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    October 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm

  19. Iain Duncan Smith needs removing from his position at the DWP as he is damaging your party way more than any other MP you have or have ever had at anytime in the Conserative party’s entire history, including the Thatcher regime.

    IDS is the most TOXIC polititian ever – GET RID – NOW.

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    October 15, 2012 at 1:39 pm

  20. I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit
    of it. I have got you book-marked to check out
    new stuff you post…


    July 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    • There was talk of a Benefit Payment Card about a year ago:- Food Electric And Gas Etc
      But not Mobile Phone Top Up Tobacco Or Alcohol


      July 20, 2013 at 7:58 am

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