UK Prime Minister David Cameron is threatening to seize computers and cars from people supposedly guilty of benefit fraud, according to media reports. This could reduce their chances of getting work and access to everyday activities, harming families and communities.
Benefit cheats will face sentences of up to 10 years, director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC has threatened. While punishing fraud by claimants – and frightening people who are honest but fear being targeted – will be popular with parts of the public, the lack of a sense of proportion is worrying.
The government’s war of words against disabled and badly-off people continues unchecked. The latest slurs by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Prime Minister and the Minister for Disabled People suggest that UK politics has become a largely fact-free zone.
The benefit system is notoriously complicated, leaving both claimants and officials struggling, says Savi Hensman. Errors are far higher in value than estimated fraud. This in turn is far less than the estimated £16 billion of unclaimed benefit every year. Yet the UK government is seeking to further punish the poor.
The ‘get tough’ approach to sick and disabled welfare claimants promoted by the big party players in the run up to this General Election, and in recent media rhetoric, is not just morally cheap, says Savi Hensman. It is reflective of a profoundly inadequate policy approach which ends up scapegoating those we should be supporting most.