Iain Duncan Smith looking sheepish. Photograph: Getty Images.
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IDS spends more on his unwatched YouTube channel than most people earn in a year

In the mood for watching some videos on benefits system reform? The DWP's got you covered.

The Department for Work and Pensions serves “over 20 million customers”, its YouTube channel boasts. Sadly, only 451 of these customers have bothered to subscribe to said channel, and even fewer have got round to watching most of its videos - like this, one, dealing with personal hygiene. It's had 12 at the time of writing:

Buzzfeed reports today that it a response to one of its Freedom of Information requests has revealed that in the nine months between April 2013 and January 2014, the DWP spent £31,064.52 on its channel, during which time 33 videos were made. That’s roughly £940 per video.

According to BuzzFeed, this 30 grand figure only covers the production costs, and doesn’t include the “small in-house team” that runs the channel from its offices.

(You’d think that for just under a grand you could hire some decent lights.)

We were curious to see if the DWP was particularly bad at attracting viewers, but it looks like a pretty poor performance across the board. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills beats it with more than 1,000 subscribers, but IDS still has one up on the Cabinet Office’s channel, which only has 139 subscribers. In the past year it's released 44 videos, the most popular of which is about government savings in the year 2011/2012. It has 874 views. Glory days.

Still, the government offices that have embraced the multimedia age are doing better than the Civil Service, which has a paltry 64 subscribers. But that’s still 30 more people than have watched the below video, sexily entitled: “DWP Social Justice: Working in partnership with government agencies and other organisations. pt.1”

BuzzFeed estimates that £31,000 is enough to get 75 young people onto the government's Help to Work scheme. Maybe some young talent might be useful in the DWP's social media department.

I'm a mole, innit.

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Theresa May's offer to EU citizens leaves the 3 million with unanswered questions

So many EU citizens, so little time.

Ahead of the Brexit negotiations with the 27 remaining EU countries, the UK government has just published its pledges to EU citizens living in the UK, listing the rights it will guarantee them after Brexit and how it will guarantee them. The headline: all 3 million of the country’s EU citizens will have to apply to a special “settled status” ID card to remain in the UK after it exist the European Union.

After having spent a year in limbo, and in various occasions having been treated by the same UK government as bargaining chips, this offer will leave many EU citizens living in the UK (this journalist included) with more questions than answers.

Indisputably, this is a step forward. But in June 2017 – more than a year since the EU referendum – it is all too little, too late. 

“EU citizens are valued members of their communities here, and we know that UK nationals abroad are viewed in the same way by their host countries.”

These are words the UK’s EU citizens needed to hear a year ago, when they woke up in a country that had just voted Leave, after a referendum campaign that every week felt more focused on immigration.

“EU citizens who came to the UK before the EU Referendum, and before the formal Article 50 process for exiting the EU was triggered, came on the basis that they would be able to settle permanently, if they were able to build a life here. We recognise the need to honour that expectation.”

A year later, after the UK’s Europeans have experienced rising abuse and hate crime, many have left as a result and the ones who chose to stay and apply for permanent residency have seen their applications returned with a letter asking them to “prepare to leave the country”, these words seem dubious at best.

To any EU citizen whose life has been suspended for the past year, this is the very least the British government could offer. It would have sounded a much more sincere offer a year ago.

And it almost happened then: an editorial in the Evening Standard reported last week that Theresa May, then David Cameron’s home secretary, was the reason it didn’t. “Last June, in the days immediately after the referendum, David Cameron wanted to reassure EU citizens they would be allowed to stay,” the editorial reads. “All his Cabinet agreed with that unilateral offer, except his Home Secretary, Mrs May, who insisted on blocking it.” 

"They will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay, which will be evidenced through a residence document. This will be a legal requirement but there is also an important practical reason for this. The residence document will enable EU citizens (and their families) living in the UK to demonstrate to third parties (such as employers or providers of public services) that they have permission to continue to live and work legally in the UK."

The government’s offer lacks details in the measures it introduces – namely, how it will implement the registration and allocation of a special ID card for 3 million individuals. This “residence document” will be “a legal requirement” and will “demonstrate to third parties” that EU citizens have “permission to continue to live and work legally in the UK.” It will grant individuals ““settled status” in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971)”.

The government has no reliable figure for the EU citizens living in the UK (3 million is an estimation). Even “modernised and kept as smooth as possible”, the administrative procedure may take a while. The Migration Observatory puts the figure at 140 years assuming current procedures are followed; let’s be optimistic and divide by 10, thanks to modernisation. That’s still 14 years, which is an awful lot.

To qualify to receive the settled status, an individual must have been resident in the UK for five years before a specified (although unspecified by the government at this time) date. Those who have not been a continuous UK resident for that long will have to apply for temporary status until they have reached the five years figure, to become eligible to apply for settled status.

That’s an application to be temporarily eligible to apply to be allowed to stay in the UK. Both applications for which the lengths of procedure remain unknown.

Will EU citizens awaiting for their temporary status be able to leave the country before they are registered? Before they have been here five years? How individuals will prove their continuous employment or housing is undisclosed – what about people working freelance? Lodgers? Will proof of housing or employment be enough, or will both be needed?

Among the many other practicalities the government’s offer does not detail is the cost of such a scheme, although it promises to “set fees at a reasonable level” – which means it will definitely not be free to be an EU citizen in the UK (before Brexit, it definitely was.)

And the new ID will replace any previous status held by EU citizens, which means even holders of permanent citizenship will have to reapply.

Remember that 140 years figure? Doesn’t sound so crazy now, does it?

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