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Today I read in The Guardian :

Alec Shelbrooke MP’s private member’s bill proposing a “welfare cash card” that could not be spent on “luxury goods such as cigarettes, alcohol, Sky television and gambling” has sparked much debate about smart cards (or prepay cards) as a way to control people’s benefits spending.

Four years ago, in between my father’s death and his funeral, I was in town here in North Devon with my elder sister – shopping for something to wear to the funeral. I think it’s fair to say I was a little off my head with what had happened, so when a man approached me in the middle of a street and asked for some cash, I couldn’t take in or remember why he said he needed it. I can remember visual things from those weeks but I temporarily lost the ability to take in much of what people were saying to me for a while. He wasn’t begging in a doorway, he walked over especially to ask. This is quite rare where we live. I noticed that he had a Merseyside accent and was poorly dressed for January, and very skinny.
I fumbled in my pockets and found some pound coins and two-pound coins. I can’t remember what I gave him – probably between 3 and 5 pounds. Not much.
“You know he’ll probably spend that on drugs or alcohol,” my sister said.
This had crossed my mind too. But why? Because he needed money??
I shrugged. “It’s his money now. He can do what he likes with it,” I said.

Whatever he did with it, it was such a small amount it’s unlikely it did much harm or much good.
When people have very little it shouldn’t give us more cause to judge their actions or their choices than those with large amounts of disposable income.

If I’m honest it’s often what people do with large sums of money that troubles me more.

More on Welfare cash cards here:
Thinktank recommends issuing benefit cash on ‘prepay’ cards

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. tu #

    Good for you. This has been one of my soap box rants for years, I’ve seen so many people sitting around tables, swallowing £20 bottles of Rioja and discussing how ‘most homeless people are fraudsters’ or judging how they might spend any cash given. The charities do a wonderful job, but human contact and a brief kindness in the street are worth their weight.


  2. A wonderful retort, Rachel. I totally agree. How dare people with plenty of money assume they know best what others should be doing with theirs. A friend told me the other week I wasted my money on books! I was stunned and would never dream of telling her she wasted her’s on tobacco.



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