The Tories announced two new welfare policies this week. The first was their plan to remove benefits from those with drug and alcohol problems or who are obese and who are refusing treatment, while the second, announced today (not for the first time?), seemed to be all out work for the dole for 18-21 year olds.
I was listening to a talk show discussion on the radio yesterday about the first policy, and was struck by how there was a neat divide between those who worked with addicts or in the healthcare sector in general, and those who seemed to me the type of people who think what’s printed in the Daily Mail is the unvarnished truth. The healthcare professionals universally thought it was a ridiculous idea, while the Daily Mail readers thought it was simple common sense. Guess which these policies are designed to appeal to?
There was a Tory MP called Alec Shelbrooke on the programme to speak in favour, and he was basically spouting the hardworking taxpayer funding lifestyles line. When asked what would happen to a person whose benefits were stopped, he declined to give an answer, but it seemed fairly obvious his view was “fuck ’em”.
There’s no doubt policies like this are popular with a sizable chunk of the public who are quite keen on poor-bashing, but I think policies like this should at least be based on some semblance of evidence. Welfare policies should be designed around what works rather than what will make ‘hardworking taxpayers’ give a little less thought to how hard they are being screwed. At the moment, though the Tories seem to be taking their manifesto pledges directly from the Daily Mail. Both these policies seem to be of the traditional ‘nasty party’ variety. From what I was hearing on the radio about the addiction/obesity policy, it just won’t be effective at turning people’s live around, and seems just about being vindictive. On the 18-21 year olds policy, I just think, why not give them a job, rather than making them pick up little for the same as Jobseeker’s Allowance?
UPDATE: Via Twitter, someone sent me this link, which details how the Government already ruled out the drug/alcohol benefit withdrawal policy, giving good reasons why it wouldn’t work, so they are now seeking to go against their own advice.