£8.5 million spent on a furry toy, it’s good that the government hasn’t lost its sense of humour—but I clearly have

 

On Tuesday the 20th of October 2015, the nation was introduced to a new government figure between Coronation Street and Emmerdale at 7.25pm which was supposed to be the ‘physical embodiment of the workplace pension’. His name is Workie, a giant furry character that’s been compared to Sully from Monsters Inc. He’s been involved in a national television campaign, and chances are you’ve seen him hitching a ride on the side of your local buses too.

He also cost a staggering £8.5 million of public money. And I for one am not happy about it.

The Pensions Minister, Ros Altmann, was personally involved in the design of the character that cost millions of pounds out of the public purse and was described by Guardian columnist, Peter Bradshaw as an ‘outrageously condescending gonk’.

When you think about it, it’s true. The character has an aura that looks as though it’s designed to appeal to children on Nick Jr advertising a new toy in the run-up to Christmas, instead of informing the general public about workplace pensions. Besides, who decided his name should be ‘Workie’ when he’s supposed to be advertising pensions?!

Even when you take how condescending this character is out of the equation, there is still a massive problem with him that I personally think needs to be addressed.

When David Cameron’s government was elected, George Osborne made the very unusual move of calling a Summer Budget. The reasons for him doing so I’m still unaware of, but in that Budget he announced that student maintenance grants, a vital pot of money that many university students rely on to get them into university and enable them to stay there, are being replaced by loans and housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds is to be scrapped.

The plans the Tories set out involved cutting £12bn from the welfare budget, and this seems to have affected young people the worst.

That £8.5million the DWP have just shelled out on Workie could’ve provided at least 1,480 students at university with a maintenance loan. The average student is already set to be weighed down with a debt of around £43,500, and this new system is only set to make things worse.

In a country where austerity is rife, and all we hear Cameron and Osborne doing is blaming the deficit for everything that goes wrong, how can the government justify spending £8.5 million on a furry creature used to advertise a workplace pension, knowing that the money spent on that could’ve subsidized benefits for those who really need them?

Of course it doesn’t make sense. Cameron’s government has seen a rise in homelessness, housing waiting lists, and the tax credits (however long the Lords were able to delay them for) are still going to be cut. And all this, even when it’s been proven that if they put more money into finding the people that abuse the welfare system they would be able to save a lot more than by pressing ahead with the cuts.

So if Workie does come up and sit next to you on a park bench, I would definitely advise you to keep ignoring it.