“The question I’d ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It’s not a kindness. I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them?”
The Welfare Reform Bill will cap the total benefit – including child benefit – any family can receive in any one year to £26,000.
Iain Duncan Smith says (BBC, 18th January) that those who have savings of more than £16,000 would be expected to “dip into” their own money to support themselves after a year, as taxpayers needed to know that state support for those with a certain level of income was not “open-ended”. Iain Duncan Smith’s personal fortune is estimated at £1m.
IDS said (BBC, 20th January) that “the cap was aimed at making people’s lives better” and that
“there is, for a relatively small number of people, a process which has kind of trapped them… in an invidious position of not being able to go back into work, because they are now being paid so much money by the state, mostly to do with the size of the house they are in.”
He said overall benefits were being capped at the same level as average earnings – and said there were people in parts of London paying more than £100,000 a year in rent “which no-one on a regular income could possibly afford”.
Iain Duncan Smith is paid £134,565 a year. That by itself puts IDS in the wealthiest 3% of the UK. But his wife Betsy Fremantle is much richer than he is:
It is Betsy, too, whose inherited wealth is largely responsible for the family’s privileged lifestyle.
The Duncan Smiths live in a £2 million, 16th-century Tudor farmhouse near Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.
This “mini-Chequers” – set in three acres with tennis court, swimming pool and orchards – is part of the ancestral estate owned by Mr Duncan Smith’s in-laws, Lord and Lady Cottesloe.
The 5th Baron Cottesloe of Swanbourne and Harwick – who moved to a smaller home nearby when he decided to give up the family pile in favour of his eldest daughter last year – is a wealthy hereditary peer and a distant relative of Princess Diana.
Where, you may ask, is the bishops’ concern for Iain Duncan Smith, poor man, placed in a house he cannot afford?
On 18th January 2012, Macmillan Cancer Support stated that their calculation that as a direct result of Iain Duncan Smith’s “reforms” 7,000 cancer patients could lose up to £94 a week depending on their circumstances.
These figures have been rigorously and independently fact-checked.
Those affected will lose their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after 12 months simply because they have not recovered quickly enough. The majority want to return to work as it is a milestone in their recovery and a return to normality, in addition to the obvious financial benefits.
The Lords have made it clear that cancer patients should not be penalised and the current welfare reform proposals are unfair. We hope that the Coalition Government listens to these concerns, which are those of the whole cancer community, not just Macmillan. We want to work closely with them to ensure cancer patients get a fair outcome.
In 2009, Betsy Duncan Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer:
‘Betsy told me the doctor feared it was cancer,’ Duncan Smith says quietly. ‘He was correct. It took my breath away. I said: “right, I’m coming home.”
“I went straight back to my office, picked up my bag and caught the train. I didn’t come back to Parliament for some time after that.’
Sitting in his spartan, modern office at Westminster, this is the first time Duncan Smith has spoken about this heart-breaking time. A deeply private man, dealing with such personal issues does not come easy to him, and he is clearly emotional when recalling those traumatic days.
In the event, he didn’t return to work for more than six months. Virtually the only time he left the house was to drive his wife to hospital, where she underwent gruelling sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and frightening surgery. (Daily Mail, 19th July 2010)
Iain Duncan Smith believes that after one year off, cancer patients should be able to get back to work, and that those “with a certain level of income” should know that state support will not be “open-ended”.
In 2009/10, the same year in which Iain Duncan Smith took six months out of Parliament to care for his wife, he received an MP’s salary of £64,766. While IDS thinks that people in their sad situation – partner with cancer, other partner able to do some work from home but not able to go to their main place of work – should not receive “open-ended” support, he doesn’t seem to have grasped that to most of them, a guaranteed income of £64,766 would look pretty damned open-ended, compared to what they do get.
Just £64,766 a year would by itself put IDS in the top 10% of the population (discounting his wife’s personal wealth as that’s not a matter of public record, though her estimated wealth puts her in the top 1%).
But though £64,766 is nearly two and a half times the £26,000 that Iain Duncan Smith says ought to be the absolute limit that a family can receive from the state, it’s not all IDS gets. In 2008/09, he claimed £98,077 in expenses. (At that, the Telegraph reckons him in their saints category – most MPs claim a lot more.) So in total, in one year, IDS claimed from the state well over six times what he says a family ought to get.
Iain Duncan Smith said on Friday 20th January, that the House of Lords
need to recognise that we are determined as a government to get these reforms through, and if they have to come back to the Commons and if we have to take them back to the Lords I will do just that, because British taxpayers paying their money must believe that the system is fair to those who need it and to them who pay the money.
Ask Iain Duncan Smith if he’s willing to live by his words – will he voluntarily cap his benefits from the state at £26,000 next year? Will he argue that his fellow MPs should be required to “dip into their savings” to support themselves rather than expect this kind of open-ended support from
ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this.
Update, 10:24pm: I don’t read the Times – paywall. So while I was aware that Iain Duncan Smith was to be interviewed in the Sunday Times today, I wasn’t aware when I wrote this of IDS’s comments on the case of Cait Reilly, the graduate who was working as an unpaid intern in a local museum, voluntary work which she hoped and intended would further her chosen career, when Chris Grayling’s
slave labour workfare programme picked her up and handed her over to Poundland for two weeks unpaid “work experience” – shelf-stacking, for which Poundland was paid, but Cait Reilly was not. As she said herself:
I thought the “training” was optional, and it came as a shock to be told I was required to attend or risk cancellation or reduction of my £53 per week jobseekers’ allowance – despite the fact I have always actively sought paid work. So I began the “placement” with Poundland – it was not training, but two weeks’ unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably.
For me, this unpaid labour scheme lasted only two weeks, but some people, as part of the government’s work programme, will have to do such unpaid work for up to six months – longer than the community service orders handed out to many criminals.
The nature of such work is not the problem. I would be happy to do it if I had a say in it and, crucially, was paid. While hoping for a career in museums, I have also been applying for any job I am able to do. Like more than a million young people today, I find living on £53 a week extremely difficult, and would be delighted to find any paid work.
Faisal Islam, Channel 4’s economics editor, has got the money quote from Iain Duncan Smith’s interview – his view of a lower-class chit wanting to be paid for doing unskilled labour for a multi-million business:
“What a snooty so-and-so. She seemed to say she shouldn’t stack shelves because she’s intelligent. The way she sneered — as if she was too good for it,” he says.
“…It’s a human right for the taxpayer to know you’re doing something productive instead of wafting around looking for the job you want while someone else pays for it.”
I don’t think that many people will agree with IDS that it’s “snooty” to want to be paid if Poundlands are offering work. But perhaps he just means it’s “snooty” for someone from Cait Reilly’s kind of family, so unlike his own or his wife’s, to think she deserves any better (Telegraph):
The unpaid internship industry is, says Cait Reilly, pretty much a closed book for her. “I think it probably does skew the market against people like me. I live at home, but my parents can’t afford to support me. I have to make a contribution to my living costs. If I had the option of not signing on, I’d take it like a shot. It tars me with the same brush in the eyes of those who see anyone claiming benefits as lazy or scroungers. And yes, I would be prepared to travel and live somewhere else for work, but it would have to be paid for me to afford to be able to do it.”
So has her week of making headlines and taking calls helped her job search? “No,” she reports flatly. “Or not yet. Some of my friends think I am mad to go to court, that the legal action will mean that no employer will want anything to do with me, but for me it is an abuse that needs highlighting. The idea that any work experience, however irrelevant and menial, will be beneficial just doesn’t add up.”
Meantime, the House of Lords vote tomorrow on Iain Duncan Smith’s proposed “benefits cap”, limits for thee but not for he, which he knows already will ensure that:
One hundred thousand children will be pushed into poverty by the benefits cap, according to a leaked government analysis of the impact of the coalition’s flagship reform.
The Lords will vote tomorrow on the £500-a-week limit on benefits, a measure ministers say will encourage people back into work. However, figures produced for internal use by the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that thousands of children in families on benefits will be pushed into poverty, defined as homes where the income is below 60% of the median household income for families of a similar size.
Enver Solomon, director of policy at the Children’s Society, said: “These figures show the government has clear evidence that the cap on out-of-work benefits, which affects three times as many children as adults, will be devastating, punishing children for decisions they have no control over.”
You can contact Iain Duncan Smith’s office via firstname.lastname@example.org, phone him on 0207 219 1210, or fax a letter to 0207 219 4867. (Or write to House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.)
You can also write to a member of the House of Lords via WriteToThem. This is really worth doing – the Lords have already as a body shown they’re minded to oppose this rotten Bill, and IDS’s comments about “snooty so-and-sos” who think they deserve to be paid for a job of work, and this leaked government report showing that IDS knows what his benefits cap will do to the children of parents who lost their jobs – This is damning.
Sure, I think IDS should be challenged, asked why he thinks he’s entitled to six times the benefits from the hardworking taxpayers than the families of the “squeezed middle” – can’t afford to maintain an adult daughter at home if she’s not bringing in even a little money, couldn’t afford to get a mortage but too well-off to have been allowed a council house: I think: why does Iain Duncan Smith think he’s entitled to so much and his inferiors are “snooty” if they object to being used for slave labour?
But mostly: this bill should lose, and Iain Duncan Smith should resign.
That was Iain Duncan Smith on 18th January. This is the man in charge of Department of Work & Pensions on REMPLOY, Thursday 3rd May:
“Is it a kindness to stick people in some factory where they are not doing any work at all? Just making cups of coffee?
“I promise you this is better. Taking this decision was a balance between how much do I want to spend keeping a number of people in Remploy factories not producing stuff versus getting people into proper jobs.”
Stunned, Julie, 55, said: “We work in our factories!”
The minister barked back: “You don’t produce very much at all.”
Mark, 46, who has cerebral palsy, said 95 per cent of Remploy staff axed under Labour’s 2008 closure programme still do not have jobs.
Asked why the disabled were being robbed of a choice between a segregated or mainstream workplace, Mr Duncan Smith snapped: “How far do you want to go with the idea that you can choose to do exactly what you want?”
He said he would look at any viable plan to keep open the 18 Remploy factories at risk and may extend the 90-day consultation period.
He warned, however: “The reality is for those that are not viable it does not make any sense at all keeping people sitting not doing anything.”