NAZI DWP AND DEMOS WISH TO STOP CASH BENEFITS AND FREEDOM
Majority believe state should control how benefits are spent
Six in ten people believe benefits should not be spent on luxuries such as alcohol, cigarettes, junk food and holidays, a new poll shows.
By Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent
2:08PM BST 01 Oct 2012
The survey by Demos, a think-tank, found widespread support for the idea of state controls on how people spend their benefits.
David Cameron has already floated the idea of giving people more “benefits in kind”, rather than doling out cash.
There are no current plans for the Coalition to introduce vouchers for welfare recipients, but the Prime Minister said there needs to be a public debate on the issue earlier this year.
“Is it right that we continue to pay the vast majority of welfare benefits in cash, rather than in benefits in kind, like free school meals?” he said.
The new poll suggests this would not be unpopular with voters. In a survey of 2,000 people, seven in ten said those with a history of drug abuse or criminal records should be subject to spending controls.
Two-thirds thought state support should be denied to those who spend their benefits on gambling, while just over half said welfare payments should not be spent on unhealthy items like cigarettes and alcohol.
Around half wanted to stop benefits being spent on branded goods like Nike trainers and just over a third thought benefits should not be spent on holidays.
The results come after a NatCen barometer of British public opinion showed sympathy for people on welfare benefits has fallen to its lowest ever level.
However, controls on benefits would be tricky to introduce without accusations that it would be socially divisive. Previous attempts to support asylum seekers with a voucher system had to be dropped over fears it stigmatised people.
The survey will be discussed tonight at the Labour Party Conference.
Demos said its findings present “ethical dilemmas that could open a Pandora’s box of ever-increasing government intervention”.
Claudia Wood, the think-tank’s deputy director, said: “The findings from our survey are surprising, and for some, quite concerning.”
“The fact the public – and particularly younger people – are so ready to support such intervention suggests the government and media focus on benefit fraud, over-spending and ‘problem families’ as part of the welfare reform agenda is influencing our wider understanding of what benefits are for, who should be entitled to them and what we should do with them,” she said.
According to the survey, pensioners and young voters were the two most likely groups to push for spending controls on benefit payments.
“Many now view the welfare state as a form of charity rather than social insurance,” she said. “If we still saw the welfare state as an insurance scheme – a contract of protection in return for contribution – then people would be more supportive of autonomy for benefit claimants.”