Iain Duncan Smith has announced that he does plan to go ahead with pre-paid cards – in the US called EBT, or Electronic Benefit Transfer – for people with drug dependencies. I’ve reviewed the practical arguments several times in this blog, in December 2012, June 2013 and October 2013. For claimants, the cards are restrictive and stop them shopping for value, which means inevitably that they find ways round them. For administrators, the cards are unreliable, insecure, and open to fraud. For government, they just can’t be controlled in the way that politicians imagine. They’re also, for what it’s worth, paternalistic and inconsistent with the free-market principles and belief in personal responsibility that modern day Conservatives are supposed to adhere to. It seems at times that no idea is so foolish or ill-thought-through that it cannot be revived to feed the faithful at another party conference.
Additional note, 14th March 2016: As I said, no idea is so foolish that it will not be picked up somewhere. The Australian town of Ceduna is ‘trialling’ welfare cards for all its claimants. The Mayor commented to The Australian newspaper: “We think this is the most significant thing ever to happen in Ceduna”.