Think tank Demos has called for the government to use new technology to control how people spend their benefit.
Speaking at a fringe session of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham today, Mr Wind-Cowie said technology, such as pre-payment cards which can be blocked for certain purposes, could be used to control the way people spend benefit.
Max Wind-Cowie, who runs Demos’ progressive conservatism project, said:
I believe there is scope, because we have the technology to make it a reality, but not only because we have the technology, to use our ability to have more control over what people spend the state’s money on.
He said the idea could be used to differentiate between benefit claimants that have paid into the welfare system through national insurance contributions and those that haven’t.
He said those who claim income-based jobseekers allowance, as opposed to contribution-based JSA, are spending the state’s money and should have their spending controlled. He said:
If it’s my money you are spending I think we collectively should be free to lay down some ground rules on what you can spend it on.
Demos today published a survey showing attitudes to the idea.
Of more than 2,000 people questioned, nearly six in 10 said the government should be able to control what people spend their universal credit on, while nearly nine in 10 said some groups should have their benefit expenditure controlled.
More than three-quarters of people said claimants with gambling or drug addictions should have their spending restricted. The figure was 69 per cent for criminals, 60 per cent for people with mental health problems, and 33 per cent for those on sickness benefit. Nearly a quarter said stay-at-home single parents should have their benefit spending controlled.
The survey found 68 per cent think people should be stopped from spending their benefits on gambling, while 54 per cent said people should be barred from spending on ‘things that are bad for your health’.
Matthew Mayo, head of business development at Mastercard in the UK and Ireland, said the technology already exists to prevent the spending of benefits on certain purposes. He said:
The technology is available and whatever is decided from a public policy point of view, companies like Mastercard are able to support it as necessary.
However MPs sitting on the fringe session panel were more cautious.
MP John Howell said:
We [the public] have a view of people being on benefits as being scroungers, that is absolutely the case in a minority of interests, [but] it is not the case in the vast majority of people who have slipped on to benefits through no fault of their own.
We need to help them get off those benefits and not continue to show they are still part of a benefits society.
MP David Mowat said the state has a ‘legitimate interest’ in how people spend their benefit, but said people should have the ability to ‘save up for a treat’ if they want to.
Source: Inside HousingACCEPT