Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Iain Duncan Smith doesn’t support a welfare cash card

Those nasty Tories, they’re at it again. Now they’re trying to stigmatise benefit claimants by giving them special welfare cash cards so they can’t buy booze or cigarettes with their child benefit. That Dickensian Iain Duncan Smith was talking about the value of such a card on the lunchtime news, and has caused a bit of an uproar.

Except they’re not planning to do anything of the sort. I’ve just spoken to a source close to the Work and Pensions Secretary, who has completely refuted the idea that he’s going to bring a card in. The only hint he was making was that some vulnerable claimants such as people struggling with drug addictions might be better helped by a card, not every benefit claimant. The source says:

‘This is not something that is being considered, it is not in the pipeline. All Iain was saying was that if there is someone vulnerable,or someone who is on a drug addiction treatment programme and had children, would it really be helpful to give them money every month? But the whole point of universal credit is that we are saying we trust people on benefits: let’s not do down people on benefits, who have obviously fallen on hard times. A welfare cash card for all claimants would be completely untenable and would go against everything else we are trying to do.’

The furore has been stirred up by Alec Shelbrooke’s Ten Minute Rule Bill in the Commons yesterday, which did call for a comprehensive welfare cash card for out-of-work benefit claimants. Alex Massie shared some of his thoughts on these proposals with Spectator readers on this yesterday, and his point about this being an authoritarian approach to benefits is particularly strong.

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