Home » Politics: Thoughts, Ideas & Opinions » Benefits = food vouchers; the new Universal Credit, errr, card?

Benefits = food vouchers; the new Universal Credit, errr, card?


A poll commissioned by one of the many ‘think tanks’ has come up with a surprising response; people would be in favour of benefit claimants receiving vouchers, or indeed a ‘debit card’ solely to purchase ‘agreed’ items, such as food.

Needless to say these findings have provoked disgust from anti-poverty campaigners, who have been questioning the so called findings as the response of those ignorant to the full facts, and influenced by propaganda surrounding benefit claimants from the UK media.

Alison Garnham, director of the Child Poverty Action Group, was the findings harshest critic, stating that we could discount what 59% of the research group agreed upon, vouchers for societies ‘slouchers’.

“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,” Alison Garnham, Demos fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference.

In the United States, ‘food stamps’ are in the form of pre-payment card (debit card of sorts), that is then used by the claimant to purchase food and other essentials, which do not include the ‘luxuries’ of life such as alcohol and tobacco.

Well maybe Alison Garnham should think again, as the findings of this research demonstrates that people don’t think changing the current benefit/ social security system would be ‘offensive’. Many do in fact feel that this benefit ‘charity’ should end;

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 should prevent 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)

With Universal credit making an appearance very soon, six work related benefits will be lumped together, making this an ideal candidate for such controlled measures, and a pre-payment style card.

In fact, so far not even Prime Minister David Cameron has denied that he is not completely averse to exercising more control over how claimants spend their money.

Leaving out the fact that Universal Credit is just a one size fits all benefit, which benefits no-one, not even the working UK populace. How would such a pre-paid card (debit card) exercise such control, and prevent people from just living their normal lives? Well, online gabbling would be blocked by such cards. Such transactions wouldn’t be permitted, therefore they wouldn’t gain authorisation; like a debit card refused for lack of funds in the bank.

OK, but how can a mere debit card encourage people to make more healthy choices, surely this is a tougher question to answer? Does anyone have the right to control or outlaw what people choose to eat, drink or even smoke? Even the Police department responsible for stamping out illegal substances can’t boast that feat! People will do anything to get what they want; they do for drugs! So will this ‘ban’ increase the illegal selling and distribution of alcohol and tobacco? Will people commit even more crime to get such items one way or another?

I know the inspiration for this debit card system has originated with parents and families in mind. People on benefits are seen to choose those above luxuries over actually feeding their children. On a tight budget even one pack of cigarettes is surely unnecessary though; if it means more food on the plate, electric in the meter or clothes on your back, which would you choose? There are people out there who do blow all their money on nothing, regardless of their children or their house hold responsibilities; but how can we intervene completely, maybe stop paying them altogether? Don’t such issues also affect those who work too?

I agree that any benefit isn’t a charity hand out, it is there for hard times; even charities stipulate where their money can go to, and how it can be utilised, but again how can you differentiate between the people in receipt of a benefit? There are claimants who have never worked, and not because they cannot, but because they don’t want to; then again there are those who have worked, and want to work, and also those who are indeed too ill to work. I know I wouldn’t want to have anyone treat me like a brain dead moron just because I was claiming a benefit; I would not appreciate being told where to and what to buy. Plus, it is also the stigma attached to using such a ‘card’, its letting everyone know; ‘Hey, I’m on benefits’, setting people up for ridicule. It is a too general answer to a problem, as not everyone on a benefit is a scrounger. So where do you draw the battle lines and makes the distinctions?

I know there are people on benefits who go away on holidays, buy iPhone’s, drive nice cars, have great big televisions, and have nights out wearing the best clothes; I have seen that happen quite frequently, but it is not the genuinely needy people who do this. Those that con the system are also usually working and claiming (fraud), gaining illegal earnings from something or just don’t care about what happens when the money has run out. Not everyone claiming walks the straight and narrow, just like everyone who works doesn’t! Yet, I still want to control my money whether I work or have benefit; I think that would be my right as an intelligent and educated person who has worked and contributed into the system!!! I am not a feckless individual, even if there are those out there who are! Why should decent people bear the brunt, as they are the people who will suffer; who won’t break the law to get more money, and they will struggle to survive.

I do feel the poverty situation is being ignored here too, as people on benefits aren’t the only ones in poverty. I know people who work, and are so overwhelmed by just paying their way because the cost of living is ever spiraling out of control. They can’t afford to eat, go on holidays, and buy expensive food and all the rest. Yet, I do know benefit claimants who can have those luxuries! So again how can we iron out all these contradictions from an entrenched and ineffective system, without the innocent and genuine suffering? How do we help everyone who needs help?

In addition, one of the most striking findings of the Demos ‘think tank’ 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. Yet, these are the majority of people out of work in the UK. Plus only 2052 people were asked in the survey, not a gargantuan amount. How was the sample of participants chosen, where were they from; location and family background? Would be interesting to know.

Nothing in the UK social security/ benefit system is clear cut, therefore why should any of the decisions regarding its future be? Are those in power the right people to make the judgements? Surely those who live a real life need to have their say, before they are faced living their lives under some rule they then cannot change or influence.

Shameless; the true life of a benefit ‘scrounger’?

Copy Right Notice:
© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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2 thoughts on “Benefits = food vouchers; the new Universal Credit, errr, card?

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    • Hi, thanks for dropping by my website and taking the time to leave a very gracious comment.
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