5 Oct 2014

Pre-paid benefits cards

There's talk of bringing in pre-paid cards for people on benefits, rather than giving them money to spend. There are a great many reasons for resisting this move, here are a a few, feel free to add more objections as comments. This is not jut an issue for people on benefits, this is an issue for all of us.

Stigmatising those on benefits by making them visible, and therefore vulnerable to bullying.

The assumption that people on benefits can't make responsible shopping choices is unfair and degrading.

Some things you have to pay for with cash - what will happen to people who need bus fares for job interviews and signing on?

This move benefits big business (who will be able to manage handling the cards) at the expense of smaller, local businesses. It will take money out of certain areas of the economy. Independent traders are under enough pressure already.

Often the cheapest option is the second hand shop, the car boot sale, and other places you'll have no hope of using this kind of card, making life more expensive for those who have least.

The government would like us to think everyone on benefits is a lazy, irresponsible scrounger. These cards reinforce that story.

They put the power to decide where money is spent (arguably public money, as in it is money belonging to the public and money the public funded to be available) in the hands of those in power. So expect these cards to work with large companies, It takes away the right to choose what is necessary, the right to have preferences, and the right to get the best deal you can. Even the right to make ethical and health choices. Maybe what you need isn't on the supermarket shelves. It divides those on benefits from those who are allowed to choose. We should not be comfortable about this.

The logic is that without this intervention. feckless poor people will spend their money on booze, drugs, fags and gambling. Anyone who has ever experienced addiction (and some of us are psychologically pre-disposed to it, and incredibly vulnerable) will know that forced 'cold turkey' is one of the worst things you can do. Some drugs have to be stepped down from carefully, or quitting can actually kill you. Addicts to anything, forcibly denied the means to access that, do not make the best choices, so without a great deal of support in place to deal with the consequences for those who would be affected this way, it's a grossly irresponsible non-solution. It is also wholly unfair on the many people who are not affected by these issues.

There are a number of conditions where people opt for self-medicating (perhaps unwisely, but often in the absence of any other available interventions). Depression and anxiety can drive people towards alcohol and cigarettes. Long term pain can lead people to adopt all kinds of measures to get from one day to the next. Addiction, when it's not a disease in its own right, very often comes about as a consequence of disease, and needs to be treated as such,

The best way to help people tackle addiction, is to help people tackle addiction, not to punish everyone on benefits for the 'crime' of being poor.

if you agree, there's a 38 degrees petition... https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/re-think-pre-paid-benefit-cards

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