Has the benefit system become an instrument of surveillance and punishment?

I read this article with interest “Britain’s epidemic of private despair makes this an economic crisis like no other“. It makes numerous valid points and raises a host of questions that this Government fail to answer. You could be charitable and say that none of the pain and suffering inflicted by Cameron, Osborne, and Duncan Smith in particular is deliberate. But that would be difficult to substantiate.

You would expect any Government to monitor the impact of its policies. If that revealed that whole sections of society were suffering disproportionately, or unfairly, as a result of particular policies, they would act to remedy that situation.

One phrase in the article above struck me; “the way in which social security has become an instrument of surveillance and punishment”. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the case.

How else can you explain the constant monitoring, reassessment and sanctions (or as I prefer, punishment) inflicted on people who are in very difficult situations.

Richard Fuller,  MP for Bedford and Kempston, has told me in an email that, “clearly it is not the intention of policy to cause anxiety and distress“. If that is the case then how is it possible that so many people feel such anxiety and distress when dealing with the DWP?

That is a question Mr Duncan Smith should be addressing urgently. If his Ministry is responsible for so much anxiety and distress why is he not acting to improve matters. Is it possible that he is not aware?

In an age of “customer service”, surely his department is collecting data on “customer satisfaction”. In an era of “targets” his staff are monitoring their “impacts”. If they are not, then how do they know they are being effective?

It is my assertion that Mr Duncan Smith is fully aware of the impact the policies of the DWP are having on people. He is reluctant for the data which shows the sort of “distress and anxiety” being caused to be made public.  Of course, if the DWP are not collecting such data, that makes it much easier to deny knowledge. Either way there is a charge to answer.

 

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