BENEFIT claimants are to receive their welfare payments via prepaid cards to stop them wasting cash on drink and drugs, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday.
A pilot scheme announced by Mr Duncan Smith aims to ensure that benefits go towards claimants’ families rather than their “destructive habits”.
The announcement was part of a package of measures announced at the Conservative Party conference, and also included plans to extend Jobcentre help to 15-year-olds.
The prepaid cards scheme will be based on a pilot tested in North Tyneside. Claimants would be able to use cards in shops and online. There would also be an option to block cards from being used in off-licences and casinos, but only with a claimant’s agreement.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “I have long believed that where parents have fallen into a damaging spiral – drug or alcohol addiction, even problem debt or more – we need to find ways to safeguard them and more importantly their families, their children, ensuring their basic needs are met. That means benefits paid should go to support the wellbeing of their families, not to feed their destructive habits.
“I can announce that I am testing prepaid cards on to which we will make benefit payments, so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family.”
The scheme was cautiously welcomed by White Dee – real name Deirdre Kelly – the Birmingham mother who appeared in the Channel 4 TV series Benefits Street. She spoke at a fringe meeting just before Mr Duncan Smith made his announcement.
She backed action to prevent young people entering a life on benefits. But she clashed with an audience member who accused “people like you” of spending dole money on non-essentials.
“I have had to work hard to get the luxuries in life,” he said, “Why should people like you get fags and booze on the state?”
She said: “My children are my priority. I would never buy a packet of cigarettes above buying them a pair of shoes. But I understand there are people who would.
“I don’t think that’s a bad idea of introducing maybe a little card, where you can ensure people do get their groceries and school uniforms.”
But she questioned how authorities could control what all the people on benefits spent their money on.