Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Unemployment benefit; a modest proposal

In most industrialised societies there is a large unemployment problem. To wit; the people in receipt of 'benefits' don't always put those monies towards the purpose they were intended for. Essentially being fed and housed. It is widely acknowledged that those with less willpower are known to put the cash at their disposal not towards rent, seeking work or food for the kids, but instead investing in a bottle or five of cheap strong alcohol, or perchance something illegal; subsequently proceeding to get wasted and often becoming a less than productive, law abiding member of society.

Here's my idea; pay those on unemployment benefit or whatever via a special 'pre paid' credit card, rather like these 'Oyster' cards currently being trialled. Every week the unemployed person would get their money, not via cheque or cash, but via a limited credit account which they could then use for transport, food, and utilities. Rent would need to be funnelled direct to their landlords via a similar, but separate method. Like with ordinary credit cards, the bill could then be remotely monitored, and limits set in place. The methodology for such credit management is well established and deals for purchase tracking would readily be done with Mr Tesco or Mr Sainsbury, or as over here, Mr Safeway to honour said source of credit.

To placate the prohibitionists, purchases such as alcohol or tobacco and suchlike would not be allowable on said cards, but that's not what public money is for, is it? Such a card might be also usable for deep discounts on public mass transit and local facilities like Cinema, Theatre, Swimming pools, and fitness clubs, child care, night classes and training schemes etc. Said card might also be proof of eligibility for free medical assistance / prescription drugs. Payments made for non public facilities like pubs and clubs would be ineligible to take unemployment credit off said cards, therefore unemployed person on benefits therefore can't use unemployment credit for becoming more unemployable through drink, drugs, or daytime TV, as at present. People on unemployment benefit get fed, watered and allowed entertainment. No-one starves. Again, public money doesn't go where it shouldn't.

Of course there's nothing to stop those so inclined setting up a still or home brew setup for barter; that would involve actually doing something positive, and developing skills with a possible marketable value. Before the Excise man comes battering down the door of course. However, if said scheme was regulated by the revenue service, tracked purchases would mean the person bulk buying various ingredients might find authority figures politely enquiring what is flavour of the month sooner rather than later. Likewise; accounts would have similar safeguards to normal 'pre-pay' type credit cards put in place. User only with a secondary piece of genuine Photo ID for example.

I'm sure there are those who would decry the relatively minimal loss of civil liberties involved for the unemployed, but then, if the cash payments are hard to come by taxpayer dollar; whose money is it anyway?


delcatto said...

I think you should email this suggestion to No.10 and hopefully they would act on it. The government won't tho' because the wasted underclass are less likely to seriously riot and challenge the govt. unless the bread and circuses stop.

delcatto said...

One problem we have in community mental health teams is that of patients with schizophrenia being latched onto by drug dealers, spongers and other assorted pond life. They extend 'credit' by supplying overpriced drugs?booze and when benefits day comes they clean the person out. Eventually, no food and utilities with the rent in arrears and possible eviction looming leads to hospital admission. The cycle starts all over again because the same pond life are waiting on dsicharge and the patient is keen to avail himself of their facilities and 'friendship'.
I can hear the cries of the guardianistas now if your system was applied.

Bill Sticker said...


Did think of the public order side of things; but the scheme itself would probably need a phased rollout across whichever country it was implemented in, which would minimise the problem. Lets say it could be 'incentivised', with those 'volunteering' for the new scheme to be bumped up to a higher rate of benefits.

Overall, less drugs and alcohol available to the Lotus Eaters, and subsequent reduction overall in work for the Police. Apart from the few die hards who neither have the inclination or will to break the cycle of addictive behaviour.

I think it's got legs.

antikva said...

We have a similiar scheme operating here in Oz for the last 2 years in Indigenous Communities declared disadvantaged. They quarantine a portion [50 -70%] of the benefit so that essentials are all paid.
Legislation is [or has, can't remember as it doesn't affect me personally] being passed to extend the Income Management scheme to cover other welfare recipients.

It has stopped people being bashed for their welfare money and shops [alcohol,cigs etc] taking advantage of them by letting them *tick* things up then taking their whole payment to cover the bill, rinse & repeat.

There are mixed reviews on it's success depending on which political party you follow or who is releasing the statistics.

In theory, it seems to work or at least in the short term but it hasn't been extended to the general population yet and I'd imagine there is going to be a lot complaining once it is bought in across the whole country.

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