Iain Duncan Smith has explained to the Daily Mail that there is no point in spending money to get children out of poverty because there are parents who will only waste the money on drugs and alcohol.
Duncan Smith explains: “There are around 100,000 people claiming sickness benefits whose illness is primarily down to their drug or alcohol addiction.” It’s debatable whether that figure is right. The DWP’s main figures on addiction come from population-based estimates, not from specific information about claimants. Initial figures of the numbers of people who attribute their incapacity to problem drug use put the figure closer to 10,000, but that implies disclosure and it might be a severe underestimate.
Even if Duncan Smith is right about the numbers of people with problems of addiction, however, it wouldn’t necessarily support his position. The figure he gives don’t seem to refer directly to families with children. Current estimates put 1.75 million children in households where no-one is working, just under a million households. There are 3.7 million workless households – that is, households where at least one person aged 16-64 is not working. So it’s only just over a quarter of households on ‘out of work’ benefits where there is any child under 16, and general statements about the numbers of benefit claimants mis-state the case. It’s not clear, besides, why some people with problems on ‘sickness benefits’ should raise any questions about ten times the number of families with children which rely on benefits for their basic income.
It looks then as if Duncan Smith’s statement boils down to the claim that families with children shouldn’t get benefits because some other people on benefits are awful. I have the uncomfortable feeling that if I ever have to claim, perhaps someone might decide that I’m awful too. I’d much rather we had a benefit system which didn’t depend on judgments of this sort.