Poor and disabled? Tories think you’re a troublemaker

I wrote yesterday about the plans by Iain Duncan Smith to restrict what “troubled families” can spend benefits on through the use of smart cards, and why this is a terrible idea for many reasons. It’s even worse than that though. The plan is to get councils to send “troubleshooters” to confront these families and force them to conform to the expectations of the government. The Independent and BBC News both have more details.

What I didn’t write about yesterday is the definition that the government are using for troubled family, and that definition is very bad indeed. The Conservative Party have turned to research by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to decide who might be “troubled”. The government have decided that a troubled family is one that meets five out of seven criteria:

  • Low income
  • No one in the family who is working
  • Poor housing
  • Parents who have no qualifications
  • The mother has a mental health problem
  • One parent has a long-standing illness or disability
  • Unable to afford basics, including food and clothes.

Government Lies

In fact these criteria boil down to one thing: poverty. And the ESRC have come right out and stated that the government have basically made up their own minds about what it all means. They said “In the term ‘troubled families’ it deliberately conflates families experiencing multiple disadvantage and families that cause trouble.” The definition that the government are using does not mention child truancy, criminal records, ASBOs, police call outs, drug abuse, or any of the other things that they claim to be addressing.

It is quite likely that none of these conditions are under the control of the family themselves, and yet under government plans they can be penalised for it. Even worse than that, though, is the presence of illness, disability and mental health on that list. These are definitely not under the control of the people involved, but it is clear from what Eric Pickles told The Independent that the government do blame these people. Pickles said that these families must end an “it’s not my fault” culture of excuses and must stop avoiding taking responsibility for their own lives. He said that there would be “less understanding” and a tougher approach.

Victim Blaming

This is blaming the victim, plain and simple. It fits right in with the Bio-Psychosocial model of disability that the government have adopted after decades of being advised by insurance company UNUM. The model basically says that disability is all in the mind of the disabled person and they only need to adopt a better attitude to overcome barriers to work and other activities. This is the model that has seen so many people judged fit for work in their Work Capability Assessment by Atos, and now we see it being used to clamp down on poor people who the Tories find distasteful. Instead of helping them, which costs money, they are punishing them because they don’t fit their Victorian ideal of “deserving poor”.


120,000 troubled families could be legally banned from spending benefits on alcohol and tobacco [Telegraph]

Problem families told – ‘Stop blaming others’ [The Independent]

Councils back troubled families scheme [BBC News]

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

4 thoughts on “Poor and disabled? Tories think you’re a troublemaker”

  1. Another brilliant blog! I hope Eric Pickles comes and gives my Ehlers Danlos are stern talking to, gets tough with it, tells it to take responsibility for itself and it buggers off. What a brilliant idea, magically cured!

  2. so someone who gets disabled thru work is to blame for whatever caused his disability. the miner in a wheelchair with no lower body movement thanks to a fall of muck. the nurse with a back injury sustained after lifting a patient back in the days when there were no hoists and when to refuse would have meant at least being hauled over the coals by matron for disobeying a seniors instructions or at worst sacked from their job., could think of other scenarios but these i have witnessed for myself.

    Low income….. my pension is so low i qualify for pension credit.
    No one in the family who is working…no one works here……….im a pensioner
    Poor housing…does that mean council or ex council housing? cos i think they need to look at these places. apart from being small, they have new fitted kitchens, central heating etc. all that the LAST government had the councils doing. so hardly inferior places.
    Parents who have no qualifications…. oh I DO have a qualification in fact 2. SEN ONC/no good now of course as i let my registration lapse when i realised i was not ever going to be able to do the job again.
    The mother has a mental health problem…………only that caused by the stress this government is putting us all through from the homeless to those in well paid jobs and all points between.
    One parent has a long-standing illness or disability………….. again. mine caused by lifting heavy patients as descibed above only so far i havent landed in a wheelchair as the girl mentioned above did paralised from waist down……….tho prognosis is that i COULD depending how long i live and how quick it develops/ being ,ade to go back out to work could brinhg that day forward very quickly…….(I know not likely to happen to me as a pensioner but there are 100s more like me who are of working age.
    Unable to afford basics, including food and clothes…………..its getting harder for most to afford these things. prices going up constantly of those same commodities, fuel price hikes, transport price hikes. and benefits being stopped or lowered putting more n more into debt.
    but as shown above…those mentioned and their ilk including me and mine, are it seems gonna be grouped in with those who have unruly kids. and those few who are alkis and druggies. so much for trying to live a decent life and stay there.

  3. I find this development extremely alarming. A similar scheme using food vouchers for asylum seekers was ditched by the Labour government when it was decided that it was too degrading and humiliating. It shows how low in the scale of humanity poor, sick and disabled people are now placed. I frankly would sooner cut my wrists than be told by the government on what and where I was allowed to spend my sickness benefits. On the one hand they want people to take more responsibilty for themselves and then on the other they want to dictate everything from the food you can eat to the clothes you can wear and whether or not you’re allowed a ciggie and a glass of wine to combat the stress of it all. I don’t drink or smoke, I quit years ago because I couldn’t afford to so how anyone else on a benefit finds the money to fund an addiction I don’t know? I suspect pre-payment cards won’t stop people buying drugs or alcohol, they’ll just have to resort to crime or bartering valuable goods for a lesser amount of hard cash. I think this one will backfire in IDS’s face.

    Behind every benefit policy is a multi-million pound company set to profit hugely. Unum, Atos, G4S, Serco, all the insurance companies, assessment service and work programme providers must be rubbing their profit margins with glee, and now this. The idea seems to be strongly backed a Demos survey which was presented at the major party conferences courtesy of Mastercard.


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