Under new welfare measures implemented by the Conservative-led government, food stamps arriving in April will be issued to thousands of vulnerable people facing short-term financial crisis as oppos
Under new welfare measures implemented by the Conservative-led government, food stamps arriving in April will be issued to thousands of vulnerable people facing short-term financial crisis as opposed to offering cash loans. Around 150 local authorities in England who run welfare schemes will assist new applicants with emergency aid in the form of redeemable vouchers for good such as food and nappies through payment cards. This will not allow them to buy alcohol, cigarettes or use them for gambling purposes and will be monitoring the payment cards.
Inquiries made by The Guardian have discovered that Manchester City Council offer applicants of loans through a credit union as opposed to food vouchers. Additionally, Bristol City Council’s crisis fund allow emergency payments only to cover food, heating, nappies and toiletries, enforcing the code that these cards should “not be used for cigarettes, alcohol or entertainment.” Those who misuse these regulations, the council will seek repayment.
The Conservative-led government have argued that these changes will make the welfare system more efficient, with some critics sharing the enthusiasm for the measure. Fans of Daily Mail vitriol (headlines such as: ‘why should I work when I get benefits’ screams to mind) approve of the replacement of cash loans, convinced that the vulnerable poor are spending hard earned tax payer’s money on alcohol and gambling and that food stamps will act as a deterrent to spending on unnecessary frivolities. One user has commented, ‘At last! Those genuine people will use them for food and not to get newt eyed on.’ Another has commented, ‘The first welcome steps in a much needed reform! If you don’t like it, get a job!’
Perhaps these new welfare movements are a step in the right direction as they directly help to alleviate hunger. The results of recently published report A Zero Hunger City: Tackling Food Poverty in London has showed the alarming levels of hunger in London, with figures from the Poverty and Social Exclusion report revealing that half a million children in the UK live in families that are unable to feed them properly.
But is it the government’s responsibility to instruct what and how a person’s cash loans should be spent on? Granted, it is a preventive measure and ensures that recipients are using it wisely on food, but society are victimising the poor from all sides and treating them like children, incapable of spending money wisely and monitoring their expenses. Such unfavourable and inaccurate press coverage of arguably the most vulnerable people in our society is a myth, leading to a misconception of the day to day realities of society’s poorest among the native British public. What happens if, say, a boiler breaks down—how would a tin of baked beans from food vouchers solve the problem?
Society’s poorest are the most vulnerable in our society and should be supported and treated with fairness as opposed to contempt and the denial of even allowing them hold currency is appalling and somewhat dehumanising. The new welfare systems are not a viable, long-term solution, rather a short-term strategy. If our government stays dependent on charities to help the vulnerable, then food stamps replacing cash loans will be here to stay permanently. Welfare has a vital role in engaging those excluded from its services but the government are not doing a right job.
So much for the ‘Big Society’ the Tories pride themselves on.