Grant Woodward: Defender of the disabled? Pull the other one, Iain

Why did it take Duncan Smith six years to realise the disabled were being stiffed?

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 7:55 am
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 7:57 am
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned - but the damage has already been done. PA.

BREAKING news just in – the Government has gone too far with slashing benefits for the disabled.

So says Iain Duncan Smith, Slasher-in-Chief for the past six years and a man who has been doing the job with no little aplomb.

Only now he says he doesn’t want to play any more. That nasty David and George have been ganging up on him again and this time he’s telling Matron.

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Has he undergone some kind of Damascene conversion, or is he just experiencing a long overdue crisis of conscience?

Because my one question for Mr Duncan Smith is not why he quit over the continued contemptuous treatment dished out by his Government to those with disabilities but why it took him so bloody long to realise that the cuts he was delivering weren’t fair.

It reminds me of a sketch from comedy series That Mitchell and Webb Look in which an SS officer gazes at the skull badge on his cap and has a sudden moment of realisation.

“Hans,” he asks a fellow Nazi. “Are we the baddies?”

Mr Duncan Smith, remember, is the man who took a chainsaw to a benefits system that was in need of some judicious pruning.

The man who used public grumblings about the rise of a benefits culture under Labour as an excuse to hammer the poor and vulnerable.

He instituted the Bedroom Tax, which did nothing to help people downsize from their council houses but still penalised them even though they were trapped, forcing them to choose between buying food or putting on the heating.

This was because Mr Duncan Smith – who lives rent-free in a £2m mansion with at least four spare bedrooms – ignored the fact that for 70 years governments built mostly three-bedroom houses and for the last 25 have hardly built anything at all.

Then there were the dreaded Work Capability Assessments which were so wholeheartedly embraced by IDS and his department. The line was that they would expose serial scroungers and force them into doing an honest day’s work.

Between 2011 and 2014, a total of 2,380 people died shortly after they had been declared fit for employment. That’s a rate of 90 a month.

But then this isn’t particularly surprising when you consider they included people with terminal cancer – all to save the Government £1bn over five years.

And, even better, sometimes those on the receiving end could be relied upon to do the job themselves.

A report by MPs last year warned that benefit cuts were driving people to suicide, with 40 cases identified by an all-party committee.

Ironically, the Government can truthfully claim that under Mr Duncan Smith the money being spent on disabled people actually went up.

But that’s only because he and his department wasted so much on failed policies, spending billions on IT systems that don’t work and a benefit reform – the universal credit system – that will never be implemented. Not a penny found its way to disabled people.

Even the reason for his resignation didn’t exactly cover him in glory. His main objection was the fact that these further cuts were announced at the same time as the Chancellor revealed he was taking hundreds of thousands of potential Tory voters out of the 40p tax bracket.

It was the “juxtaposition” of the two that IDS didn’t like. It suggests he’d have been perfectly happy if they’d have gone ahead without mentioning tax cuts for the wealthy.

Still, we do have a couple of reasons to be grateful to him. The Government has had to announce it’s shelving its plans and won’t cut the work and pensions budget. Plus we’re less likely to get George Osborne as Prime Minister.

But Duncan Smith as defender of the disabled and downtrodden? You must be kidding mate.

Is this fair on parents?

A LEAFLET popped through my letterbox the other day from one of the city’s private schools.

Normally I just stick them in the recycling but this one caught my eye – not least because it included a quote from this very newspaper.

The passage in question was from a YEP article about the pressure on school places in Leeds and the difficulty in getting a place at your local school.

Luckily enough, said the leaflet, there was a way to avoid all that worry – just as long as you could afford the £10,000 or so a year to pay for a private education at the school in question.

Two thoughts sprung to mind. First, how on earth did they think I was one of the people that had that amount of cash to spend on my children’s education? Have they seen our food bill?

But secondly, was it really fair to ramp up the pressure on parents this way?

Fair enough, you could say the school’s marketing team were just doing their job and selling the advantages of the education they offer at a time when state schools are struggling to cope with demand.

But the school are also putting out social media posts which ask parents: “Are you committing your child to school life in a portacabin?”

Talk about piling on the emotional pressure.

And anyway, I’ve always been of the belief that even the fanciest classroom is no substitute for a good teacher. Surely that’s what really counts.

Fancy job titles make me chuckle

PINGING its way to my inbox this week was an email filling me in on Arriva’s appointments to the management team that will lead the new Northern rail franchise from April 1.

It informed me that Richard Allan, currently Northern’s commercial director, has been appointed as the franchise’s new “customer and people experience director”.

And there was me thinking those muppets on The Apprentice had cornered the market in daft job titles (most of which they seem to have dreamed up themselves).

What’s a customer and people experience director when they’re at home? Answers on a postcard please.

Still, it’s inspired me to come up with a couple of new job titles for myself.

So I’m now officially a senior beverage fulfilment executive (I get the teas in at work) and I balance this role with my responsibilities as juvenile dental heath director. Oh, alright then, I’m in charge of brushing the kids’ teeth before bed.