Whether people are unable to work because of advancing years or because of illness, pain, disability physical or mental, we, as a decent society, one which helps people of other countries and advises them on human rights and decency, should look after them to a high standard.
This makes me sound like I’m Mr Iain Duncan Smith in the flesh, but of course that is where we part company.
IDS has said that his reforms will make it always pay to take a job. And because, of course, he would not be willing to insist on a liveable minimum wage, that means reducing benefits. This is roughly what Mrs Thatcher did in the 1980s, removing the earnings related supplement and then reducing benefit entitlement based on National Insurance payments to 6 months instead of a year. Then when she had managed to reduce the level of benefits, she abandoned the wages councils and allowed companies to pay as little as they liked. (The state of course had to take up the slack with housing benefits and supplementary benefit, but that’s another story.)
Mr Duncan Smith said a new Universal Benefit would lift 350,000 children and 500,000 working age adults out of poverty, while the number of “workless households” would be cut by 300,000.
Super. Let’s just make this very clear. At minimum wage of £5.93 per hour, working a full week of 37.5 hours, this brings in a top line income of £222.38. That is an annual salary of £11,563.
An internationally recognized way of calculating poverty is to mark it at 66.6% of the average wage. (Yes, I know it’s flawed, but it’s the best we have, and poverty can be described as comparative.) The average wage has dropped by £2,500 over the last year to £25,543. That would make the point below which one drops into poverty by UK standards (on which I assume Mr DS is working) at £17,011.
To take people out of poverty, without recourse to benefits, Mr Duncan Smith will need to provide full-time jobs at somewhere in the region of £9 per hour. Is that going to happen?
IDS insists that he will be able to cut £1 billion from the amount that is taken, either fraudulently or in error, which is marvellous, and I commend him for this. But I think that without any doubt he has exaggerated the anticipated results of his policies in order to overshadow the downside of all of this which is that, in the hands of target driven, under trained, underpaid clerks on the front line, and managers with precious little idea of how to manage, this will bring untold misery to many totally innocent, poor people struggling to survive. A downside which is seen by some on his own side, including the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Let’s also remember that the DWP is currently being investigated for falsifying statistics and that Duncan Smith’s assistant Chris Graying seems to have a habit for exaggeration (going back over many years) of that which he sees in his mind’s eye and wishes to be.
Nonetheless, I wish Mr Duncan Smith every success in his quest to find work for people. I’ve been engaged in this pursuit for quite a while now, and it’s not an easy one, but it truly is a satisfying one..
Photographs: IDS, who has genuinely made an effort to learn the problems of the Benefits System (whether this has been successful or not, I'm not sure); Boris johnson, who just looks bored with the whole thing (who could blame him?); and Chris Grayling demonstrating his talent for exaggeration (!!!!!).