Iain Duncan Smith, quite possible the most emotionally vacant Tory minister, has admitted that quotes about benefit sanctions helping those who were sanctioned were made up by civil servants and matched with stock photos of random people. As low as that is I am not in the least bit surprised as anybody looking at the DWP’s sanctions policy would clearly see that it is undermining the very principles of the Welfare State and increasing the suffering of the needy.
Benefits sanctions are not a tool to encourage people into employment, they are a cruel political tool to appease the British public’s poisonous attitudes towards those on benefits; as a result of this hostility towards the needy benefit sanctions will remain government policy and wider society will suffer as a consequence.
The number of people in Britain requiring assistance from food banks is rising and homelessness is becoming increasingly concerning, yet there public consensus is that the welfare budget must be reduced. Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of benefit sanctions are exactly the kind of Draconian punishment of the poor that the British public finds socially acceptable in the name of ‘living within our means’. However as these benefit sanctions continue to be implemented, along with other welfare cuts to the Independent Living Fund and Tax Credits, the DWP are banking on working-class Tories that support reducing the welfare budget coming out to vote in greater numbers than those appalled by this policy.
What is the most depressing about this policy is that reduces the welfare budget at the expense of the poorest in society, as proven by the lack of people who have been sanctioned willing to support the DWP in its only literature. This policy is expressly designed to turn working class people against each other and scapegoat the most vulnerable as the cause of Britain’s economic woes rather than going after those who caused the Great Recession.
However the hostility towards the Welfare State from Tory ministers is actually part of a wider capitalistic ideology that resists policies that could bring down the welfare budget, despite centre-right governments elsewhere endorsing such policies.
The policies that legitimately reduce the welfare budget without hurting the poorest including rent caps to prevent landlords from extorting their tenants, a massive social housing construction scheme and increasing the minimum wage to an actual living wage (not the propaganda seen in the Osborne’s Summer Budget). Furthermore the nationalisation of energy and utilities would be able to reduce prices thus reducing the number of people in fuel poverty, the nationalisation of transport infrastructure would reduce fares thus making travelling to jobs cheaper, and state investment in local organic farming would make Britain self-sufficient in food production, eliminating the need for food banks.
All of these policies would hugely improve society whilst protecting the poorest and reducing the welfare budget; they shall all be rejected because the Tories are ideologically opposed to interfering with the market unless it can benefit them financially. In post-Thatcher Britain the economic consensus has shifted away from state involvement in the economy, even though nationalised industries exist across Europe and rent controls are used very effectively in Germany who led by that militant socialist Angela Merkel.
People have been bombarded with examples of individuals who have exploited the the Welfare State as if they the norm rather than the exceptions. Fabricating support for a policy like benefit sanctions is incredibly immoral but also not surprising when legitimate policies that could lower the welfare bill are being ignored for being too left-wing despite their overwhelming popularity and their success in other countries with neo-liberal governments.
Rather than looking out for the common good by supporting those less fortunate than ourselves, this government and the media is actively pushing people toward depression, destitution and, in some cases, suicide. To say that this policy is doing anything than tearing society apart is false.