What you’re not being told about Europe’s verdict on social security

Vox Political


“Manifestly inadequate” are words that should ring in Iain Duncan Smith’s ears for some time to come.

They are the Council of Europe’s verdict on the UK’s social security system of payments for jobseekers, pensioners and recipients of both short- and long-term incapacity benefit.

The Council, an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation, is home to the European Court of Human Rights.

The finding was made in an annual review of the UK’s adherence to the council’s European Social Charter. If the UK’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition government takes no action to rectify the situation, then the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers may address a recommendation to the UK, asking it to change the situation in law or in practice. This is clearly a weak way of handling a situation…

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  1. Trevor

    Of course benefits are manifestly inadequate – they always have been. As for the oft-quoted comments from right-wingers that social security levels are too “generous”, I’m old enough to remember the 1984 World in Action episode when, then Tory MP, Matthew Parris (a proponent of minimal benefits) was challenged to live on dole money for a week in Newcastle. He couldn’t even manage that, ending up skint before his allotted time was up. Viewers then expecting anything vaguely resembling contrition from the “Honourable” gent was left disappointed: yes. struggling to make ends meet on benefits was tough, he agreed, but that’s the way it should be; if it was too easy the jobless would be disinclined to seek work. In other words, blaming the unemployed for unemployment not economic factors.

    Such views are now the norm, despite benefits being worth far less in real terms than they were in 1984.

    Hard times, and even harder hearts.

    • untynewear

      I remember several such attempts at benefit level justification, possibly including the one you mention. One I recall, the MP ended up doing things like living off chips and visiting a dog track – not because he had any interest in racing, but because that was what he thought poor people did !
      Any can survive on benefits for a week (or should be able to) – its when the weeks turn into months, then years, and things wear out and cant be replaced. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who made long-term unemployment a ‘lifestyle choice’.

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