Sunday, 21 October 2012

Demos policy wonk wants controls on how jobseekers spend their state benefits!

Busybody, Max Wind-Cowie, works as a social policy expert for the think-tank Demos and he loves to meddle, with the lives of others, especially the poor and downtrodden.  He runs the 'Progressive Conservatism Project' which identifies Conservative values and policies that have progressive ends.

At the recent Conservative Party conference held in Birmingham, Wind-Cowie, addressed a fringe meeting and spoke about a big idea that he would like the government to adopt. He believes that the state should be able to control how people in receipt of 'income based' Jobseekers Allowance, spend their money. He told the meeting:

"If it's my money you are spending I think we collectively should be free to lay down some ground rules on what you spend it on."

The Demos man explained to the meeting that technology such as pre-payment cards, like Mastercard, could be used to control the way in which people spent their state benefits. It was also possible he explained, for the system to distinguish between those who were on 'contribution based' Jobseekers Allowance and those on the means-tested 'income based' Jobseekers Allowance' who he believes, should have their spending controlled, because they are spending the state's money.

To support his case, Wind-Cowie, referred to a survey carried out by Demos which claims that of 2,000 people questioned, 60% said that the government should be able to control what people spend their universal credit on and 90%, said that some groups should have their expenditure controlled. It was also claimed that 68% of respondents think that people should be stopped from spending their benefits on gambling and 54% think, that people should be prevented from spending their benefits on things that are bad for their health, such as booze, cigarettes and pornography.

There were some Tories at the fringe meeting who were less enthusiastic about Wind-Cowie's big idea, believing that it might be all piss and wind. John Howell MP, felt that the idea that all people who were on benefits were scroungers, only applied to a minority, and that the vast majority of people were on benefits through no fault of their own. David Mowatt MP, felt that while the state had a legitimate interest in how people spent their benefits, people should be allowed to 'save up for a treat' if they wanted to.

Given the kind of negative press reports that the public are bombarded with on a daily basis about welfare scroungers, it is questionable whether surveys of this kind as carried out by Demos, have any real value. It is well known that public attitudes towards people on state benefits are often based on little knowledge or on misleading and biased reports that people read in the press.

Although it describes itself as an independent 'think-tank', Demos, which was founded in 1993 by the former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, and Geoff Mulgan, is closely linked to the Labour Party and was seen as central to New Labour's vision for Britain. Many think-tanks refuse to say who funds them but they are seen by the rich and powerful, as a way of exerting influence over government policy makers.

As the 'scrounger' caricature increases in popularity and people on benefits become demonised in the press, making it easier for the government to cut welfare spending, we should not be surprised that some people are now calling for controls on how people spend their benefit payments. But Max Wind-Cowie, can hardly take credit for launching this idea that as all the hallmarks of the 'nanny state'. Already, such a system is operating in Australia and it has had a mixed reception. Some people have complained that they feel stigmatised by having their spending controlled by means of a smart card while others, have said that the cards have helped them by controlling their spending.

It is unlikely that Wind-Cowie comes into contact with the unemployed very much, even though he's anxious to control their lives, but Demos say, that they are keen to have a debate on this "ethically difficult issue." If any of our readers feel inclined to join the debate and wish to tell Mr. Wind-Cowie how they feel about this issue, he can be contacted on:  020 7367 6311 or


Anonymous said...

Interestingly James Purnell was chair of Demos.

Steve Starlord said...

see also:

Love, Light & Laughter