The welfare reform debate seems to have been the issue burning on everyone’s lips ever since the election of the coalition government mid 2010. Finally, the proposals are starting to materialise with the recent discussions of government and the publication of the White Paper “Universal Credit: Welfare that works”. Predominantly, the discussions focus on the standard ‘job seeker’, a status which unfortunately many more citizens are becoming personally familiar with following the current economic crisis.
Currently the employment rate is at a record high at 2.68million, a rounded figure of 10% of the wider population. Quite a scary figure that 1 in 10 people who are fit and able to work for some reason or other are currently doing anything other than. The present welfare system is accused of not rewarding people getting back into work, with many families having a higher income on benefits than in work. Children are increasingly growing up in households where neither parents work. This is not just damaging to the economy but additionally stunting our next generations work ethic and society productivity. Many citizens are living in the Jeremy Kyle culture as opposed to opting in to work.
David Evennett, a tory backbencher recently availed in a house of commons debate that the successive labour government had developed a ‘complex, bureaucratic’ welfare benefit system. I have to say, I agree with him. With over 50 different types of benefits with varying criteria, purposes and procedures; even the experts and practitioners are confused, not to mention the normal lay person. Governments main aim is to make the benefit system much more simplistic. This would involve one benefit known as ‘Universal Credit’ which aims to incorporate a number of the current benefits
One proposal made involves possible changes to housing benefit, one of which that the benefit will be capped so as not to fall over the average household income of a working family. Therefore, the claimant would be in a no less fortunate position than the average tax payer; an additional reinforcement that citizens should not be in a more unfortunate position for making the choice to work for a living. Proposals are also in the pipeline to discipline claimants for not accepting work offered. The White Paper states that the aim is that claimants benefits will be withdrawn for a period of three years if three offers of work are turned down. A long awaited change in my opinion; I have experience many a person providing that they won’t undertake a certain avenue of work. If the benefit system were more strict, job seekers would be that indeed, people seeking work for any form of income whatever that may be. The lowest of work has potential; more hours, a pay rise, promotion opportunities. This lack of productivity and low work ethic which is upon us in today’s society angers me. This generation feels that the whole world owes them a living when all they have simply done is entered and abused it.
John McDonnell (Labour) argues that the welfare system is being attacked to justify the public pay cuts, which may be the case. However, in this current economic climate where even the most hard working of individuals has been forced to make certain sacrifices why should the tax payer carry the burden of people who chose not to work. Many of the current job seekers, a lot of whom I speak to on a daily basis are just that, genuine job seekers that have found themselves out of work after a life time commitment to the labour market due to no fault of their own. Although, there are many long-term claimants which have no future plan to get back into work but living from the system which this democracy has so kindly put in place for genuine claimants. Benefits should be a necessary support mechanism not a long-term reliance!
Along with abolishing the complexity of the current system the proposals aim to wipe out the administrative costs attached to this complexity. It was estimated that 5.2 million was paid out in error last year, an amount which could have been valuably allocated to policing, protection and safety of citizens, the homeless and the vulnerable. The aims also wish to give advisers more flexibility when granting claims. Advantages of this are that in such a personal situation how can a form justify what support that individual needs, advisers will be able to give just results. But with varied advisers and mixed interpretation inconsistencies and unfairness may arise in the system.
In today’s society my main belief is that this generation are nothing like their successors. When I was a youngster I didn’t have an Ipad, high speed connection internet and a mobile phone and I managed to develop just fine. In fact I think I developed better, I read books and interacted with living people, not an avatar on a screen. These days people see poverty as not having the most recent brand of clothes or the most up to date Ipod. I’m all for technology, but in science and developments in medicine but not a child shooting at a screen. Why are we moving backwards instead of forward? I don’t believe the new benefit reforms will push the average family into poverty. My view is it that it will support families and youngsters to productivity and promote a work ethic that our society was so proud of before de-industrialisation. Additional proposals to promote a work ethic through education would also be massively beneficial. The skills education provides are more than transferable to employment, however, getting into that employment is something which the education system currently seems to over look.
The main concern over the welfare reform is that the vulnerable will be over looked, the disabled, the elderly and the mentally ill. The proposals have somewhat brushed over what will happen to the vulnerable but simply states that it is an ongoing concern and these groups need to be protected and provided with the support that they require. These society groups are not getting the support they need, even now.
Proposals are still hanging in the balance whilst discussions are ongoing. Futher discussions take place Monday and only time will tell what the new welfare reform will entail.