My local Tory MP, and his vicious attack on benefit claimants

December 20, 2012 12:15 pm

Earlier this week Elmet and Rothwell Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke launched a vicious attack on families and individuals forced to live on welfare payments. In an extraordinary attack he accused welfare claimants of “idleness” who are part of a “something for nothing culture”.

On Wednesday Alec Shelbrooke introduced a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ in the House of Commons for a ‘Welfare Cash Card’ which would take people’s benefits away leaving them with a card that could only be used to pay for what he considers to be ‘essentials’. However, despite his jibes about ‘idleness’ Shelbrooke’s restrictions won’t just apply to those out of work, but will also penalise families who have jobs and are working hard and struggling to get themselves out of poverty.

The ‘Welfare Cash Card’ would prevent families on welfare from buying non-essentials. However, even on some of his own figures they would be left just £12 a week better off, which is hardly enough to lift them out of poverty. Even in the tax-payer subsidised House of Commons bars that Shelbrooke frequents this would barely buy a round of drinks.

The result of Shelbrooke’s plans would be to stigmatise some of the most vulnerable families in society, particularly those where at least one person is working hard, but on a minimum or low wage, far below what is needed to live on.

I’m a councillor in Alec Shelbrooke’s constituency having won my seat off the Liberal Democrats in 2011. Every day in Rothwell I meet families who are striving to make ends meet. Struggling to make a decent, happy life for their families. The type of life that most of us take for granted.

Given the damage the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government’s policies are doing to the economy and the cuts they are forcing local councils to inflict it isn’t just affecting families living on some of our most deprived housing estates. Families who’ve previously had good jobs that have disappeared because of the recession and cuts are also living on welfare and desperately trying to find new work. Shelbrooke’s cash card plan would perhaps hit these families the worst. Hardly the shirkers and idlers that he claims to be targeting.

There are many potential unintended consequences (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he doesn’t want these awful things to happen) that could hurt vulnerable people and damage our society.

Depriving and restricting people from spending their money in the same way that the rest of us can risks driving them into the hands of loan-sharks. And these aren’t even the types of legal loan-sharks that you see advertising on TV, but the type of loan sharks who charge you sky-high interest rates and pay thugs to visit you in your home if you can’t pay.

It is also likely to increase crime as people resort to stealing to get cash to buy legal items that they aren’t allowed to have, or shoplifting and hurting small neighbourhood shops. You can also imagine a thriving black-market as families on welfare use their cards to buy food and then swap it with friends, neighbours and family in order to get what we take for granted and they are not allowed to have.

Shelbrooke should be spending his time more usefully for the people of Elmet and Rothwell by looking at ways to make big companies like Starbucks and Amazon pay their fair share of tax. And looking at ways to help struggling, small businesses in the constituency who are fighting for survival while paying their fair share of tax. Or finding ways to stimulate the economy and help create more jobs to get local people off benefits and into work.

David Cameron tried to rebrand the Conservative Party so it is no longer the ‘nasty party’. Unfortunately, Alec Shelbrooke doesn’t appear to have got the message.

Alec Shelbrooke MP is a disgrace to the Elmet and Rothwell constituency. Roll on 2015 when we’ll have a chance to send him a message and vote him out.

  • John Ruddy

    A seat with a 4,500 majority over Labour, with 9,000 Lib Dem voters to pick up? If this seat doesn’t go Red in 2015, we might as well pack up and go home.

    • RedRiding

      I was just about to post that…if I didn’t have an equally obnoxious Tort Tw*t as my MP (Philip Davis, Shipley) I would go down to Rothwell and help with a few leaflets… especially asking those receiving in work benefits how they fancy a payment card!

  • NT86

    This was reported on the regional news here some days ago. Another utterly horrid, reactionary Tory who says things based on tabloid scare stories than real facts. Alec Shelbrooke’s proposal sounds similar to a system they have in America (I think) called an EBT card.

    His seat is a key marginal which Labour should have its sights on in 2015. We don’t need these wicked lies being perpetuated by some hypocrite politicians whose very salaries and expenses are paid for by the taxpayer.

    This 2010 intake of MP’s is proving to be just as nasty and myopic as its predecessor. So much for Tory modernisation. Just like swivel eyed colleagues like Phillip Davies, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel, Mr Shelbrooke has really shown his true colours here.

  • Monkey_Bach

    I feel that Mr. Shelbrooke should be thanked for his recent slim contribution to the welfare debate. If more people like him crawled out from under their stones and made their views public in a similar way I feel that a Labour victory at the next general election could be taken as a given. Eeek.

  • Pingback: Elmet and Rothwell MP’s vicious attack on local families | Karen Bruce()

  • AlanGiles

    It’s a great shame 36 year old Mr Shelbrooke didn’t stick to mechanical engineering – an honest and worthwhile occupation.

    I suspect, given Duncan-Smith’s World At One interview today (20th Dec) Shelbrooke is just the bright eyed boy Smith needs to cheer on the new compulsory work website, which as other LL posters have said, intrudes into the browsing habits of the claimants. It went live in a pilot scheme last month and goes national in January apparently.

    I remember 1976 as the greatest summer we ever had – what a pity it produced this ratbag as well, hopefully he will be an ex Mp before too long.

    • Monkey_Bach

      Iain Duncan is a liar.

      Universal Jobmatch, his automated sanction generating website, went live nationwide on the 19th November 2012. The £19 million site has turned out to be so unusable, insecure, intrusive, and badly designed I suppose one way to excuse its shortcomings would be to reclassify it as a “pilot” or relabel it using some similar euphemism for “b*ll’s up”. If you want to check it out yourself click on the link below:

      https://www.gov.uk/jobs-jobsearch

      Enter your postcode or town and click on one of the links associated with some position. Notice the drop down list labelled: “Or, tell us why you don’t wish to apply for this job.” If you check on the options you will notice that pretty much all of them are grounds for a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant to be stripped of their benefit for three months, six months, or even three years! People could actually lose their right to support from the State by perusing a job advert, deciding the job was unsuitable, for whatever reason, and making a wrong selection from the list of options available guilelessly and innocently.

      For example, perhaps an unemployed single parent looking for employment as close to home (and their children) as possible, for obvious reasons, might decide that a job involving a forty mile commute was incompatible with their child caring responsibilities and pick the “Job is too far from my home” option from the list. This could get that person sanctioned because from the system’s point of view they are restricting their official travel to work “as the crow flies” distance. Or perhaps a young girl looking for work might mistakenly scrutinise out a job advert for a model, only to discover that the post involved glamour work. If this young lady were to then select the “Job isn’t in my desired industry” option she could get sanctioned for refusing to apply for a job that she could do in theory but rejected for personal reasons (modesty).

      You get the picture.

      The idea of Universal Jobmatch is not a system designed to help people into work but one engineered and booby-trapped with a view to tripping them up, catching them out, and stripping them of their benefits leaving them with nothing. To fully use the site, such as it is, you must upload a lot of personal data and allow the DWP to monitor and interfere with your activity requiring you to explicitly waive protection in respect to security and privacy expressly granted to you under British law by the Data Protection Act 1998, a very silly thing to do given the bonkers and incompetent people temporarily running the Department of Work and Pensions.

      Very Iain Duncan Smith and David Freud I think you will agree.

      We’ll all be hearing a lot more about this and worse things in the future.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Monkey Bach,

        I think you have genuine concerns and I share them. There is a little more detail on how the scheme is meant to work at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9757895/Jobless-to-be-remotely-monitored-by-Government.html

        However, having looked at your link, it is possible to access lists of available jobs by only entering a post code, so this may itself be helpful. You do not have to register for this. Even if there is more “functionality” available to registered users, people could I imagine register under a “throwaway” email identity to avoid this level of intrusion.

        But, the concept of tracking activity online and then linking that to benefits is not something that I support, and you are correct.

        • Monkey_Bach

          It is true that it is possible to search and apply for particular jobs on Universal Jobmatch without logging in (and identifying yourself to the system) but if you play with the site for a while it soon becomes apparent that many of the jobs listed cannot be applied for directly and privately, on a one-to-one basis, because the necessary contact details are deliberately omitted. Under these circumstances the only way to apply for a position via the site’s “Apply” button which is used to transmit personal data previously uploaded and stored in Universal Jobsearch databases electronically to the employer by proxy. When applying for a post like this you frequently have no idea who the employer actually is or even whether that person (or those persons) is (are) a genuine employer at all.

          There are real physical dangers here, e.g., an advertisement for an interesting well-paid job, posted by a psychopath, to try to lure young women to bogus job interviews up dark alleys and such like.

          As you say Universal Jobmatch surveils and logs the minutiae of user behaviour using tools like web beacons and a .NET technology called VIEWSTATE. Comprehensive logging of user activity is done without consent, in an highly intrusive fashion, not normally seen outside totalitarian states (like China) or institutions such as jails and psychiatric hospitals where it is used to monitor the internet activity of prisoners and inmates. Such scrutiny on public websites available to any interested party in Great Britain is as bizarre as it is unnecessary and inappropriate.

          Universal Jobmatch is redolent with danger.

          Channel 4 have reported several times about the potential dangers associated with Universal Jobmatch and, as you say, articles have begun appearing in the press. For instance here’s one of C4’s news items which should worry anybody concerned about privacy, data security and personal liberty:

          http://www.channel4.com/news/security-holes-remain-in-government-jobseekers-site

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Perhaps the situation is retrievable, if the software is very slightly altered.

            On the positive side, it seems to be a comprehensive list of available jobs, and as such, a “resource” of great use to those job seeking. As an example, in the last couple of hours, I rang the house of a couple my wife and know slightly, to alert them to one particular job (a teaching role, only maternity cover, but 12 month contract) that I felt may suit her. She is trying to re-enter the job market after about 12 years off while bringing up their children. The point is, she had not seen this particular job advertised, despite registering with all sorts of agencies. She will be following it up in the morning.

            Given that you can search and apply for various jobs while “anonymous”, surely the addition of a tiny little script, to aggregate and report a list of all of those jobs that you have been viewing and applying for, would / should be enough for a benefits inspector to affirm that the applicant is not lying about in bed all day?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Perhaps the situation is retrievable, if the software is very slightly altered.

            On the positive side, it seems to be a comprehensive list of available jobs, and as such, a “resource” of great use to those job seeking. As an example, in the last couple of hours, I rang the house of a couple my wife and I know slightly, to alert them to one particular job (a teaching role, only maternity cover, but 12 month contract) that I felt may suit her. It was purely your link that made me spot it, on the first page of a search on my postcode. She is trying to re-enter the job market after about 12 years off while bringing up their children. The point is, she had not seen this particular job advertised, despite registering with all sorts of agencies. She will be following it up in the morning.

            (If she gets the job, and is happy in it, I’ll tell her she has a Welsh monkey to thank!)

            Given that you can search and apply for various jobs while “anonymous”, surely the addition of a tiny little script, to aggregate and report a list of all of those jobs that you have been viewing and applying for, would / should be enough for a benefits inspector to affirm that the applicant is not lying about in bed all day?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Perhaps the situation is retrievable, if the software is very slightly altered.

            On the positive side, it seems to be a comprehensive list of available jobs, and as such, a “resource” of great use to those job seeking. As an example, in the last couple of hours, I rang the house of a couple my wife and I know slightly, to alert them to one particular job (a teaching role, only maternity cover, but 12 month contract) that I felt may suit her. It was purely your link that made me spot it, on the first page of a search on my postcode. She is trying to re-enter the job market after about 12 years off while bringing up their children. The point is, she had not seen this particular job advertised, despite registering with all sorts of agencies. She will be following it up in the morning.

            (If she gets the job, and is happy in it, I’ll tell her she has a Welsh monkey to thank!)

            Given that you can search and apply for various jobs while “anonymous”, surely the addition of a tiny little script, to aggregate and report a list of all of those jobs that you have been viewing and applying for, would / should be enough for a benefits inspector to affirm that the applicant is not lying about in bed all day?

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            Perhaps the situation is retrievable, if the software is very slightly altered.

            On the positive side, it seems to be a comprehensive list of available jobs, and as such, a “resource” of great use to those job seeking. As an example, in the last couple of hours, I rang the house of a couple my wife and I know slightly, to alert them to one particular job (a teaching role, only maternity cover, but 12 month contract) that I felt may suit her. It was purely your link that made me spot it, on the first page of a search on my postcode. She is trying to re-enter the job market after about 12 years off while bringing up their children. The point is, she had not seen this particular job advertised, despite registering with all sorts of agencies. She will be following it up in the morning.

            (If she gets the job, and is happy in it, I’ll tell her she has a Welsh monkey to thank!)

            Given that you can search and apply for various jobs while “anonymous”, surely the addition of a tiny little script, to aggregate and report a list of all of those jobs that you have been viewing and applying for, would / should be enough for a benefits inspector to affirm that the applicant is not lying about in bed all day?

          • Monkey_Bach

            A much better website which collates vacancies from many other sites and that does not harvest data is:

            http://www.indeed.co.uk

            The real point is that Universal Jobmatch tracks all users not just unemployed users. When the Coalition tries to introduce Universal Credit next year not only the unemployed but men and women in part-time paid employment in receipt of some benefit, earning less than 35 hours pay on the minimum wage, will be expected to look for a full-time job, or a better paid job, or a second job in order to continue to receive top-ups from the State. Somebody currently working 20 hours a week will have to spend 15 hours a week of their spare time looking for alternative employment. Part-time workers may even be expected to do workfare or to take time off from their part-time jobs to attend interviews with employers or Jobcentre Plus advisors in exactly the same way that unemployed citizens do. Unemployed men and women will be expected to spend a preposterous 35 hours a week, i.e., 7 hours a day every working day, actively seeking work, for the most part on their own without help or resources. With the best will in the world I do not see how this could ever be possible. Thinking about it, if I ever found myself in a position like that I have absolutely no idea what I could do to fulfil ridiculous “conditionality” like day in and day out, day after day.

            Universal Jobmatch has obviously been designed to police jobseeking activities of every user that logs on to the system and in the case of benefit claimants to punish them mechanistically and automatically While I think it is quite reasonable for unemployed people to have to produce evidence in respect to job applications, e.g., a list of positions applied for and other activities carried out in the recent past with a view to securing a job, I do not think it is reasonable to penalise someone who has simply looked at a job advert on a website and then decided not to apply for it at that moment for whatever reason. People should look for work but have to be given some latitude in order to try to arrange employment that suits them based on their own circumstances.

          • http://www.facebook.com/pepe1984 Pedro Pereira

            Another website that collates that and does not store it is http://www.adzuna.co.uk and they also provide in depth data about salary trends and location

  • Mr Arthur Cook

    I personally would like to thank Mr Shelbrooke for doing sterling work in debunking the myth of the “no longer the nasty party” nonsense.
    We’ll done Mr Shelbooke sir!! Speak out!!! Let us see the true nature of a typical Tory.

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