Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke thinks it’s a good idea to closely monitor the spending habits of everyone in receipt of benefits and, in December, introduced a bill to make them use a “Welfare Cash Card” to buy only the essentials of existence.
Several questions arise, which Shelbrooke has so far failed to answer.
Firstly, what are the essentials? Well, food, obviously, is one, but what food, and from where? One of the problems with having a limited budget is that good, healthy food tends to be more expensive. A free range chicken, for example, is much more expensive than a battery one, but has a lot less fat. Thus, seemingly paradoxically, the less you have to spend on food, the more chance of obesity.
By shopping around, that free range chicken may be affordable, but a “Welfare Cash Card” will, inevitably, limit the cardholder to “approved” shops, and shopping around will be difficult, even impossible, and most certainly extremely humiliating when payment with the card is refused.
Transport, too, will be difficult. Jobseekers need to get to interviews, sick and disabled people need to get to doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. Not all bus companies, for example, will accept dedicated travel cards (like the ones that used to be issued to jobseekers when they were put on certain courses) let alone this proposed one-for-all card.
Those are just a couple of examples, but I’m sure that people who are prepared to think can find even more.
On his blog, Shelbrooke, incredibly, claims to be defending the Welfare State, against a Labour Party who, he says, is intent on destroying it! I expect to learn, in his next blog post, that up is down, black is white, and the moon is made of blue Stilton.
He inadvertently gives the game away, however, with the use of an image to illustrate his claims. It shows that, far from defending the Welfare State, he is fighting it, and is calling for support in that fight.
It is also rather odd that the image is that of an American icon, and that it has the word “sample” plastered all over it. That smacks of laziness to me.
Shelbrooke! You bloody shirker!
- Welfare cash cards and spying: the Tory approach to unemployment | Wail Qasim (guardian.co.uk)
- Concerns about prepaid benefit cards (latentexistence.me.uk)