Everyone’s favourite megalomaniac Victorian moralist Iain Duncan-Smith is at it again:
The current definition of child poverty is proving rather inconvenient, in that it encompasses families who just don’t have enough money to feed themselves, pay rent and heat their homes. Far too many people included. Fixing it would be terribly expensive and involve the government spending some of our taxes on actually making people’s lives better, rather than lining their private enterprise mates’ pockets. So, IDS has decided to tear it up and start again. If children are living in poverty, it must really be because their feckless parents are spending all their cash on booze and drugs instead of nappies and shoes, right?
Mr Duncan Smith said government polling showed people think having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol is the most important factor for a child growing up in poverty.
Oh, well if ‘people’ think that, then it must be a really good idea to base government policy on it, yeah? Never mind those pesky experts with years of hard and fast experience of the reality, like the Child Poverty Action Group…
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: ‘Children are much more likely to be in poverty today because they have a parent who is a security guard, care worker or cleaner than a drug addict or “feckless”.
…they’re just naysayers.
He added: ‘I’m by no means saying that every child in poverty will have drug or alcohol addicted parents
…no, but you’re implying it so heavily that the message comes through loud and clear anyway. And you’re basing policy on it. So if you don’t believe every child in poverty will have drug or alcohol addicted parents, why are you punishing the ones that don’t by withholding money that could make a real difference to their lives?
Instead of propping people up on benefits, we need to tackle the root cause of their hardship – the drug addiction itself.
Well here we agree. Tackling the root cause of their hardship sounds good. But unfortunately he and I don’t agree on how you do that. You don’t do it by giving them less money. It doesn’t work. The clue’s in the name: addiction. They’ll just find other means of paying for it, any means, and whatever they are, it won’t be pretty for their children. Here’s a crazy idea, how about we look at the reasons so many people want to escape and shut off from society? Why is life so miserable that shooting up or getting blind drunk and switching off for a while seems attractive? Does that sort of crippling addiction regularly happen to happy, fulfilled, secure people with decent well-paid jobs where they are treated with respect and feel useful to society, who live in nice areas where there isn’t broken glass in the stairwells and burnt-out cars and mattresses in the yard, where there’s grass and flowerbeds and playparks and a chance of nice things sometimes happening to you if you work hard, who aren’t constantly told how crap and feckless and stupid and worthless they are? But no. Far better to judge them. Take their money away. Make them more miserable and insecure and worried about where the next fix is coming from. Punish punish punish. Rub their noses in it, that’ll teach ’em not to do it again.