- The Guardian, Tuesday 30 July 2013 21.00 BST
Iain Duncan Smith describes his welfare reform plans as “the most aggressive … Britain has ever seen”, which betrays his mindset (Benefits: our achievement, 29 July). Such bellicose language ill becomes someone charged with finding equitable solutions to problems rather than attacking the more vulnerable members of society.
Few would disagree, for example, that “nobody should be able to earn more in benefits than the average family earns going out to work”, but the more obvious, less divisive answer would be to increase the amount that work pays.
Duncan Smith’s banking colleagues can explain this to him, although, of course, the colleagues whispering caution in his other ear would be the employers who pay such low wages that seven million of their employees are entitled to working tax credits.
• Iain Duncan Smith practises a deceitful sleight of hand in differentiating “the people who use [the welfare state] and the taxpayers who pay for it”. All in the UK, whether or not on benefits, are served by the welfare state – and, for that matter, all are taxpayers, if only of VAT. Duncan Smith has imported US language and used it as if comparing like with like. In the UK the payment of benefits and pensions are, or should be, expressions, within the overall concept of the welfare state, of the aspiration that everyone should have financial security.
In the US, such payments comprise virtually the whole of welfare provision. And in not mentioning the distress caused by the bedroom tax, the ever-increasing number of hungry people who have to beg for food or the increasing number of children in poverty, Duncan Smith shows himself to lack any sense of justice.
Rev David Peel
• Iain Duncan Smith may take it as a compliment that this government has destroyed the welfare state in only three years. Disinformation from the Department for Work and Pensions (more in Monday’s Guardian) would have us believe that anyone claiming benefits is either a cheat or lazy, thus turning back the clock more than a century to the definition of poverty as “immorality”. That is his achievement.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
• It is interesting that Iain Duncan Smith never mentions the underlying purpose of welfare benefits, whether the relief of poverty; the maintenance of an adequate standard of living; or support for contingencies over which individuals have little control, such as unemployment. He talks about saving money and “fairness”, but is overseeing a significant reduction in living standards in what is already a low-wage, low investment economy. Almost 4 million British children went without basic necessities such as a winter coat and properly fitting shoes in 2012, an increase from about 2 million in 1999. It will get only worse with the changes to come.
• Is Iain Duncan Smith claiming that he has cured the shirkers or previously maligned the unemployed when he states “people are using our Universal Jobmatch website for more than 5m job searches a day”?
Market Drayton, Shropshire
• So Iain Duncan Smith says that Tory reforms will put an end to people being left on sickness benefits year after year. Perhaps he would like to inform the public of the miracle medical cures he has in mind to achieve this claim?
• It is good to see Iain Duncan Smith joining the growing numbers reassessing the reputation of Margaret Thatcher. It was her administration that tried to massage the unemployment figures by putting and leaving people on sickness benefits. Now he claims to have slain this Tory dragon, perhaps he could also turn his attention to the current Tory deception of counting people on insecure zero-hour contracts as employed. A further example of Tory untrustworthiness.