Everything I know about people I learned from pens

Not given much of a mention to Justin over at Chicken Yoghurt of late, which is most remiss of me as he is consitently one of the best bloggers on the UK scene.

To redress matters, therefore, I should point you all in the direction of this piece on the ‘Minister of Lurve’s’ [that’s Blunkett, if you don’t know already] plans for welfare reform which can be summed up succintly as:

“Go out and get a job, you workshy lazy bastard!”

With his inimitable timing, Blunkett manages to hold forth on the future of welfare benefits at around the same time as it emerges that a combination of benefit fraud and departmental incompetence is costing the taxpayer £3 billion a year, thereby proving his timing to be as good as it ever was during his affair with Kimberley Quinn:

“You want me to do what? Withdraw? What makes you think a member of the Cabinet would ever do a thing like that?

Look, Kimberley. We took a collective decision to go in and having made that decision we have a duty to see things through right to the end. The British people would expect nothing less from a member of its government…”

Justin notes one or two rather scary developments, particularly a piece in the Telegraph which suggests that the DWP might use ‘lie detectors’ to assess whether telephone callers may be intending to commit fraud, which elicited this bizarre comment from a Mr Unknown Spokesman of the DWP:

“The [lie detector] idea is that we nip fraud right in the bud. Before you make your fraudulent claim, we will have detected that you are lying and the claim will not go any further.”

Which presumably means that as the article also quotes a American expert in voice stress analysis technology as commenting about current equipment that – “you could have obtained better results by flipping a coin” – suggests that the DWP think they’ll be getting their kit direct from ‘Q’ division and that Blunkett’s unlikely to be phoning the office too often if it is installed.

In fact, based on their apparent confidence in this technology I fully expect an announcement in the not too distant future that the DWP will also be introducing Laser Nose-length Analysis into one-to-one interviews with claimants as everyone knows that your nose grows if you tell a lie – at least such a system will be no less reliable than a lie detector.

I suppose we should only be grateful he hasn’t mentioned ID cards as well – although you have to suspect that’s where he’s slowly heading when starts talking about the Housing Benefit system being a mess ven though the real problem is pretty simple.

1. The Tories deregulated the rental property market and removed fair rent controls.

2, The Tories then found out the hard way that when you do that and you sell off council housing then, lo and behold, rents spiral upwards which increases the bill for housing benefit.

3. The Tories then introduce complex rules about only paying a ‘fair market rent’ irrespective of the actual rent that landlords are charging, requiring individual assessments of the property involved by a housing officer in each and every claim that’s made.

Can anyone else spot the common denominator here?

To cap this rant off, its worth noting Chris’s excellent comparison between Blunkett’s ‘principles of welfare reform’ and the principles outlined in the Beveridge report which led to the creation of the welfare state – the more things change, the more things stay the same, eh.

  • We may be guilty of many mistakes, but creating a welfare system as complex as Gordon Browns is not one of them.