UK

IDS Uses Benefits Street To Justify His Welfare Reforms

23/01/2014 08:59 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 12:59 GMT

Iain Duncan Smith has used the controversial show Benefits Street to justify his welfare cuts.

In a speech branded "ridiculous" by trade unions, the Work and Pensions Secretary is expected to warn of "ghettoised" communities that are like "a different country".

And he is to invoke the Channel 4 programme, accused of demonising the poor and misleading the people taking part, to back up his case.

Excerpts from his speech include: "With income inequality under Labour the worst for a generation, whilst the middle-class majority were aware of the problems in poor communities, they remained largely unaware of the true nature of life on some of our estates," The Guardian reported.

"We let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country. Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street."

The speech has been briefed elsewhere as a clear reference to Benefits Street.

Choosing to invoke the programme, which depicted life on a street in Birmingham and generated a fierce debate about the portrayal of poverty in Britain, will be a controversial move by the Work and Pensions Secretary.

In his speech to the Centre for Social Justice in London, he will also claim his reforms, including the so-called 'Bedroom Tax' and the Universal Credit, are driven by a desire to change people's lives for the better.

It comes after new figures showed a fall in unemployment, and an increase in the number of people in work to more than 30 million.

He is expected to say: "Our real success has been to reframe the argument - challenging a narrative beloved of the left, which focuses so exclusively on how much is being spent on welfare that it risks overlooking the real question ... that it is not about how much goes into the benefit system, but what difference it makes to people at the other end.

"The task that we have set out to achieve is hardly a small undertaking. It is not easy, as those arrayed against us do all they can to misrepresent what we are doing, angling for a return to the failed and expensive policies of the past, when success was measured by the amount of money you spent, not the lives you improved.

"The purpose for Government is not grand but simple. It is that through our economic and welfare changes we will have helped people feel that bit more secure about their futures ... feel more hopeful about their children's lives ... and rekindle their pride in their communities, as their neighbours also begin to thrive."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Iain Duncan Smith's claim to have made people feel more secure through his cuts to the welfare safety net is ridiculous.

"Across the country people fear the bedroom tax, and harsh and unfair disability assessments. They are also worried that however hard they have worked and contributed, they will soon be made to wait five weeks before receiving any benefit if they lose their job.

"The truth is that welfare fraud has just gone up, while millions of hard-working families have suffered from tax credit cuts and the child benefit freeze, and a whole new generation now fear future cuts to help for young people."