Benefits could be limited to buying bare essentials as Iain Duncan Smith warns of dangers of giving claimants cash
Work and Pensions Secretary is examining how a 'welfare card' to limit how handouts are spent could work in practiceGovernment launches website to find work for jobless while they sleepLabour vows to oppose 1% cap on benefits rises

Matt Chorley, Mailonline Political Editor


16:17 GMT, 20 December 2012



02:07 GMT, 21 December 2012

Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said he was looking at how a 'welfare card' would work in practice

Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said he was looking at how a 'welfare card' would work in practice

Welfare claimants may soon be given credits on a card instead of cash to stop them buying alcohol or drugs with taxpayer money.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday: ‘For somebody who has a history of drug addiction, giving cash sometimes can lead to further problems.’

Tory backbencher Alec Shelbrooke recently suggested a Bill to stop all claimants buying anything with payments other than essentials such as food, clothing, energy, travel and housing.

However, a department source stressed that Mr Duncan Smith was only discussing addicts, adding: ‘A welfare cash card for all claimants would be completely untenable and would go against everything else we are trying to do.’

In another development, Mr Duncan Smith announced yesterday that jobseekers could see benefits slashed if they fail to look for jobs three times a week on a new website.

Called Universal Jobmatch, the system identifies suitable vacancies and provides advice on skills. It will be fully launched next year after a trial, with 370,000 companies already using it to advertise jobs.

Online recruitment firm Monster will manage the site, which will be compulsory for jobseekers to use at the start of 2013.

Mr Duncan Smith said: ‘Your CV will do
the work for you, even when you are sleeping, and notify you that a
suitable job has become available.’

said jobseekers would no longer have to use touch-screens in
jobcentres, or wait for a print-out of jobs which had probably already
been taken up.

‘If you
choose not to take a job that matches you, then the adviser will look at
your reasons, and if the adviser thinks “actually, these are pretty
specious reasons”, he may call you in and say “I think you really need
to be applying for these jobs”.’

Mr Duncan Smith backed the idea of benefits being added to a pre-pay card which can only be used for certain purchases.

He said: ‘I’ve been looking at this process to figure out whether it’s feasible, how would it work, how does it match with legal obligations, so we’ve already been examining this.

‘I genuinely think there are some areas where we might want to think about.’

He added that one cause of concern was drug addicts using benefits to feed a habit.

‘You know, somebody who has a history of real drug addiction, giving people cash sometimes can actually lead to further problems,’ he told BBC Radio 4.

It follows a move in the Commons by a backbench Tory MP to change the law to introduce a welfare card.

Alec Shelbrooke said he wanted to stop state money being used for non-essential, desirable and often damaging (NEDDs) products like alcohol, cigarettes, paid-for TV channels and gambling.

Mr Duncan Smith is prepared for a political battle with Labour over the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, which was published today.

Chancellor George Osborne claimed in the Commons the one per cent cap was to ensure fairness for those who go to work while their neighbours have their curtains drawn.

But Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: ‘The Strivers’ Tax Bill is a naked attack on hard working families to pay the price for this government’s economic failure.

‘I want to bring down the welfare bill. But they way we do that is with jobs. Labour will not support a Bill that does nothing to create a single new job yet punishes those who work.’