Well, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone – hopefully you’ve been one of the lucky families who have had the good side of the Dickensian Christmas that we seem to be trying to emulate, rather than the bad side that so many people trapped in poverty have had to endure. This year, the Department for Wrecking People – sorry, the Department for Work and Pensions – has gone further than ever to ensure that the “bah humbug” attitude of the Conservatives rules over the Christmas period.
Today, some thirty two thousand people will be being paid money that should have been theirs on Christmas Eve. For the most part, these people are claiming for the first time, or who had applied for loans to cover their rent or other essentials. A spokesman called it on a “limited number” of people – which is pretty mealy mouthed – and claimed that the vast majority of regular payments have been made on time.
Wait – the vast majority of regular payments? The payments I just mentioned are classified as irregular or one-off payments, so they aren’t included at all in that figure. So on top of over thirty thousand people – whose paperwork and the attendant investigations and due compliance had all been properly completed in time for the payments to go out – there are also people reliant on regular payment who have also been left hung out to dry this Christmas by the DWP.
The issue – described as administrative – also affected the payment of arrears for people who were already owed money by the DWP, and a number of people owed for late payment of their pensions. A wide swathe of categories are affected, so it would seem that the problem lies with maybe one or two key people somewhere in the process to approve irregular payments. Adding further weight for this was a call by the DWP to people who were affected to get in touch with them on Christmas Eve so that they could be paid within three hours.
The names are probably well known within the administrative tangle that is the DWP. I’ve always taken the attitude that when things go wrong and there’s a choice between it being a conspiracy and cock-up to assume that whatever has happened is as a result of a cock-up. In this case, a case of people looking at each other knowingly and saying “Oh typical, so-and-so’s bunked off down the pub at lunchtime and gone home early, look what he’s forgotten to do: He’s only gone and forgotten to sign off on these irregular payments! Suppose we’d better tell someone.”
With apathy like this evident in the actions of such a high-profile government department, it shouldn’t be so surprising then that today’s Guardian has a poll showing that most people are angry with politics and politicians. With near identical and faceless men and women chasing the middle ground, there’s a perception that the political classes are micro-managing people’s lives without having to worry about the consequences of their actions.
Living off elaborate expenses, being convicted of fraud, and lambasting those who have to survive on DWP payments, is it any wonder that the narrative of an uncaring government spawns an uncaring operation by its departments? The sad thing is that as things stand, nothing is going to change. Our politicians will enter the New Year with us, carrying on just as before until we get to 2015, when suddenly they will all be falling over themselves to get us to endorse them. Then whoever manages to scrape together enough votes to claim their victory will use it as a national mandate to go back to business as usual. Why should we care about them when they so plainly don’t care about us?