Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Welfare cash card bill axed as parliament ends

Legislation that would have limited how welfare claimants can spend their benefits has fallen by the wayside as the parliamentary session ended.

The end of the parliamentary year last week means bills that have not yet been passed will mostly be scrapped, including Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke’s Welfare Cash Card Bill.

This would have introduced a payment card for benefit claimants that would only allow them to spend the money on permitted items, such as food and clothing. Mr Shelbrooke wanted to ban the purchase of ‘non-essential, desirable and often damaging’ – or NEDD – items, such as ‘cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling’.

Other private members’ bills that have been axed include two that attempted to improve the private rented sector.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn had sought to bring in legislation to introduce five-year tenancies, tougher enforcement of environmental standards, rent regulation, and a ban on ‘discrimination’ against tenants on benefits.

Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders had introduced a bill to consolidate housing regulations across the social and private rented sectors with the aim of removing ‘imbalances’ and creating a stronger framework for investment.

Labour and Co-operative MP Gareth Thomas’ housing market reform bill has also not made it into the next parliamentary session. This would have placed restrictions on who properties bought under the right-to-buy can be sold on to in high-value areas, and required government agencies to do more to promote the benefits of co-operative housing.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Christopher Dale

    What's the betting the Cash Card Bill has been shelved in order not to appear too nasty in the run up to elections? Unfortunately I don't think we've seen the last of this particular piece of Tory nonsense.

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  • Chris

    Ouch! That's going to hurt the donations coffers at Tory Party Office - the card companies would have been expecting their share at the trough in return for all those dinners!

    Interesting presentation of Sky as being damaging, non-essential. What is not essential in this ICT age of having a phone service and a broadband provider - or even access to TV? Why is there no mention of banning Virgin on the same basis, as the other big player in the phone-broadband-tv package market, or even BT come to that. I am at a loss as to why Sky accepts this demonisation of its products and services, and of its subscribers without any comeback against the demonisers. Is there some sort of pact between parties going on here?

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  • Having seen firsst hand people drinking outside and then going into Brighton Benefits office, being given money order and going over the road and spending it in the off licence I totally agree that the card would possibly stop a lot of this happening. But people with alcohol and drug addiction also need to go into re-hab and if they don't then provide them with food only cards and pay hb direct. WHY Should those on benefits enjoy the luxury items at the expense of hard working taxpayers, many of whom are on low incomes? I know that there is a job crisis and many jobs are taken by foreign workers but at the end of the day benefits should be used to feed and clothe your children and yourself not spent on multi channel providers, gambling, drink, cigarettes or drugs!

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  • While you may dismiss this as a "piece of Tory nonsense", and I would agree that it clearly needs properly thinking through before it becomes law, something of this nature is needed.

    As someone who runs a service for people with substance misuse issues, I regularly see clients who get large DLA or similar payments which they then spend on drink or drugs. The evidence of how they spend the money, suggests that they do not need it. It seems entirely wrong to give people money for a particular purpose which they spend on something completely different (and in the case of drugs, illegal). But most of all, it makes their addictions worse, because the state is funding their habit. And it makes our job of trying to help them to address their issues all the more difficult.

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  • Problem there is that you immediately create a market for the cards. People will simply redeem them for cash with the nearest criminal and spend the cash on their drugs of choice. How would you address that?

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  • As I say, it would need more thinking to address issues like the one you have highlighted. But something is needed to address the problem of the state funding people's drug habits.

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  • People who are commenting here that benefit claimants buy alcohol with their benefits must be unaware that registered alcoholics receive extra money to buy alcohol. Therefore even if cards are introduced that extra payment will either be included and off licences allowable or they will receive a separate payment for their alcohol purchases. They also receive DLA, the benefit that is supposed to be for those with difficulties with mobility or personal care! Outrageous but true. I used to be a social worker dealing with addicts, both alcohol and drugs and both received extra income and DLA. I believe this is still the case, but I am not 100% sure. It was the case up to a couple of years ago though.
    So someone crippled in an accident and requiring help to get dressed and prepare meals is not better off than an alcoholic, even if they have worked for 25 years and the alcoholic has never not fair and the current welfare reforms are not addressing the payments to addicts just to the disabled! Got to love this government hey?

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  • I'm really surprised this card was even considered. This isn't just about creating a stronger arm of the nanny state it is about control. However, if the Government did want people on benefits to look after themselves better we would all have a fortnightly £5 gift card to buy fruit and vegetables, as these are foods you can not get from a food bank and they are foods which are not necessarily the cheapest in supermarkets. To access its use a reader of National Insurance numbers would do it. I also think they should reintroduce free milk in schools for the under 11's. As this would ensure that at least some protein and calcium was getting into the nations children.

    I also agree with the comments in respect of sky. It is stupid to say that it is damaging when some of the services are also provided by BT, Virgin and a number of other competitors. However, I am curious how anyone on benefits can afford so many contracts, Blackberry Nokia etc mobile phones, sky tv packages, film rental things etc.

    In view of the current austerity polictics in respect of bedroom and poll tax and the changes in employment legislation, I wonder if the job centre are intending to open internet cafes so that the unemployed can do job searches free of charge without having to have internet access at home. As this is also another cost against meagre benefits.

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  • That piece of legislation about the cards was so insulting to those of us that are on Social Security that do not drink, do not have Sky TV, heck I do not even HAVE a TV, oh what a waster I am I have a telephone and broadband, my LIFELINE, without telephone and broadband I would not communicate with anyone at all, so pay me by card, how do I pay for my car insurance? How do I pay for petrol? How do I pay my Gas and electric bulls? My water bill? How do I pay for car parking? How do I buy my occasional luxury of a 2nd hand book? This idea was not even as good as the American scheme which it was based on, I know that from personal experience, the American EBT card gave me $200 a month food stamps and $339 a month in CASH, yes cash, folding stuff, dosh, muller, shekels, MONEY! Because even in America they realise you pay more for things that are not food related than you do for food as with the way it works over there, people WILL sell the card value for a lower amount of cash to pay for things they REALLY want, I cannot afford to drink or party or anything else as by the time I have paid my bills I have £15-£17 a week to pay for food, luxuries such as toilet paper and washing up liquid and soap and shampoo, now what KIDS and alchoholics and drug users do with their money is one thing, responsible people such as myself and 90%+ will pay their bills and eat, do not put us all in the same bracket that the moron politicians do please, we are human beings same as you, please remember you also are one step away from being in my position.

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  • julie moors; Why should the many suffer because of the few? What gives the government, or anybody else the right to tell people how to spend THEIR money? Yes, it's theirs they paid into the pot like everyone else. What government are not telling you is, the number of jobs that are lost each year to technology! This is the main problem and has been for 45 years, companies making billions in profits while paying buttons in wages and the tax payer making up their shortfall? OPEN YOUR EYES!

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