Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The future of "welfare", part two

I've been putting off writing this.  It's easy enough to write about the history of social security, but the future is necessarily speculative.  And it becomes increasingly obvious that there may not be a future for welfare at all.  This appeared yesterday in an article in the Telegraph by Peter Oborne: "Iain Duncan Smith's brave and ambitious programme to reshape the welfare state along the lines envisaged by Beveridge 70 years ago is making some progress."  This is so nonsensical that one must assume that Oborne wasn't taught history at his public school.  Yet this is part of the narrative with which this government is destroying the whole concept of social security.  It will become, again, the punitive last resort of the 1834 Poor Laws.  Running it will be a profit opportunity for private companies, with no involvement of the tatters which remain of the public sector.  There will be a huge role for charities.  Universal Credit, if it ever happens, will signal the final killing-off of the idea of National Insurance.  Benefits, already no longer seen as a right, will cease in their present form.  Welfare will have been reformed out of existence.
This is not inevitable, unless a Conservative government comes in in 2015.  Even with a Labour government, though, the future looks precarious.  One hopeful sign is that some Labour thinkers have talked about returning to the contributory concept in social security.  I believe that this is essential.  Benefits, as of right, should be paid if the claimant has contributed over, say, 6 months in the preceding year; paid at a fairly high level for a limited period - again, say 6 months.  Once those contributions run out, then benefits should fall to a level set as the minimum someone needs to live on decently.  This minimum should be sacrosanct.  No one's income should fall below it.  There would have to be means-testing, but not of the old kind.  And "conditionality"?  Yes, there would have to be the condition that the claimant is looking for work, if that's possible.  Sickness and disabilities would attract the same minimum income but recognise additional needs.
Housing benefit is a huge cost, and it's money paid to landlords, not to the claimant.  There should obviously be a big push on building and buying more housing in the public sector.
And there should, equally obviously, be massive job creation.  That's not easy in a capitalist economy, but it could be done, through local authorities, for instance.  Unless there are jobs to go to, as we are seeing at the moment, long-term unemployment will remain high.
What we need is not tinkering around the edges.  Nor is it the kind of change which this government is engineering, based on personal aggrandisement and contempt.  We need an agreed set of principles on which to base a system which doesn't divide people into skivers and strivers.  Any thoughts?


  1. We really need more jobs and companies willing to take people on, not a major overhaul of the safety net that protects those out of work.

    I'm not sure how this will be taken, but I'll say it all the same.

    If the population of a country is considered to be it's workforce, what possible good will come of ending money for those out of work?! I know desperation "can" help with people making the choice to look for work, but, there will always be those that are not willing to and they will litterally fight against the government (or any other forms of authority) to have things changed or just to cause chaos. This won't just be isolated to stealing, it will flow over into attacks against people who work in the government.

    Simply put, you can't just cut back on things and EXPECT people to respond the way you want!! All this will do is cause problems, of which we've seen a lot of and a serious increase over the last few years.

    As the old saying goes, "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely". Most of these big names in government are those that went to these high brow schools and colleges with the intention of getting into politics. They probably think that having all that knowledge will somehow help.

    Sorry for the rant, but it's pretty much all true.

    Here's to a happy new year. All the best, Historian.

  2. I just hope that the great British public wake up to what is happening and try to do something about it. We are seeing the systematic dismantling of a great institution - the welfare state ("welfare" in the true sense, not the derogatory overtones bestowed on the word by our current rulers). It really is worth saving.
    I fear however that we will be unable to rid ourselves of the mendacious, selfish crew now in charge until 2015. Until then we must do all we can to spread the word and minimise the damage that is being done. We must also hope that the Labour party rediscovers its roots and fight for a much fairer society.
    Finally thanks for this blog and the occasional post of mine that makes it to publication.
    Happy(or happier) New Year.

  3. I think part of the problem is people dont think about money, They see money and think about it but they dont see what happens with it. Say i get a job, i earn money I will spend that on food/services etc, which will pay the staff there and pay for more items to be bought by them, who will buy things for themselves and so it goes around..Too many cuts to wages/.benefits means less money flowing around the circle.. So people have less money, buy less, so more people will lose their jobs, which means less money. a downward spiral. Unfortunately people cant see beyond I have money, they cant see that the economy relies on internal spending of money.

    Unless companies/governments want to spend more money on people and wages for low level workers then the economy wont grow as much, The only time when this money stops moving is when it vanishes into offshore accounts, a few years ago as you know if you did these training schemes they gave you a little extra to cover costs.. i say yes but if they have a placement for you you should be paid more, maybe not the same amount as a wage, but enough to give people a boost of ego, and to help the local economy grow. This would have extra benefits,the self confidence of getting something for your work feeling like you have done something rather than being forced to work for nothing..and giving you money to spend locally will help the local companies hire more.

    combine this with local charities running these schemes, it would help far more people, as local groups KNOW the area know the situation, rather than national and multinational companies who assume liverpool is like london. when anyone living there finds its completely different. Yes let the local charities have some extra funding to help people in the local area. that way you can personally see the effect in the local economic area.

  4. " ...but the Tories have won the argument over welfare reform..."

    As claims the leader in the Telegraph. No. What they have done (with Labour's help) is shape the argument in their favour. With the aiding and abetting of national titles such as the Telegraph, Sun, Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday, Daily Express and Daily Star using a liberal dollop of choice words such as scrounger, workshy, feckless, underclass and so on.

    This language permeates into many peoples subconscious. And before long, they're spouting the same tabloidesque language. Not surprisingly, many like Oborne in the Telegraph simply see what is 'popular' as being automatically right. Little wonder then we have the worst political class in a generation, a parliament dictated to by 'public opinion'. A public opinion in part manufactured by the sections of the media and politicians themselves! A very convenient, populist merry-go-round!

  5. As for job creation, perhaps there is no EASY solution as such. However, the £billions wasted on the WP could be better spent in this regard. A couple of points I'd like to raise.

    Firstly, Cameron, Osborne, and Cable state how pro-business they are. Well, they should ave a look at the help they give to jobseekers wishing to go it alone. he help is risible quite frankly. The NEA (New Enterprise Allowance) is hardly worth the paper it's written on. £65 a week for just 13 weeks and half this (£33) for the remaining 13. Oh, and the possibility of a £1k loan. That's it! Surely businesses at the start-up phase need a lot more financial support than this? The only good someone may gain from it may be the aid of a good business adviser. the sad thing is that most JC advisers I asked about the NEA had had no clue about it despite the info supposedly being at their finger tips!!!

    Secondly, several years ago, I had a business idea for a local advertising paper. Nothing but flyer style ads and discount coupons from local firms. I like many budding entrepreneurs looked at business grants available in my local area.

    Apart from being told that Leeds was not as good a prospect for grants as other regions such as S. Yorkshire, I was also informed that the best way of securing such funding was to secure premises and employ someone! I had to take on the burden of renting premises (and pay business rates) as well as the headache of paying someone when I may not be able to pay myself a great deal. The very fact that I was seeking to employ MYSELF was not good enough.

    Business Link no longer exists, instead replaced by a dull static website. Other than the ineffectual NEA, and possibly their bank, the only other option for those jobseekers looking to start their own enterprises may be to get in touch with their local chambers of commerce or see if their is an Enterprise Club in their area.

    Here in Leeds, there is an Enterprise Club in the city centre offering business advice workshops every fortnight. I have attended a few. However, despite photocopied flyers on their desks, no adviser saw fit to mention this to me or ask if I'd made use of this service.

    It just leaves me to finish by saying a Happy New 2014 to this blog and to all who contribute to it!

  6. A microchopped population of slaves... Endgame of the elites.

  7. The Tories and their powerful friends can put all the spin they like on the economy and apparant success of their 'great reforms' but ultimately the May '15 General Election will be decided on one issue - the declining standard of living in Britain.

    We could have zero unemployment in Britian but if most people are either unemployed or underemployed the economy will NEVER fully recover.

    Obourne's article does not appreciate this. I expected the article to be biased and I was not disappointed but the Tories failure to tackle the cost of living crisis, as shown by the ease in which the energy companies were able to outmanouvre them, will guarantee they will lose the next election.

    Obourne's is most definitely wrong when he suggests that the legacy of the coalition govt' will be everlasting, unless they win the next election. Nick Clegg is on record as saying that they (the Liberals) have prevented the Tories from introducing far more damaging 'reforms'. I believe him. Had the Tories won a majority at the last election they would have privatised the NI scheme.

    This would have marked a fundemental change in social policy but in practise all they have 'achieved' is to reintroduce the New Deal (as the Work Programme) and a new IT system to process benefits. Hardly awe-inspiring stuff and in no way compares to the fundemental reforms of the Labout govt' 1945 - 1951.

    Meanwhile the economy is STILL depressed, real wages continue to fall and the cost of living continues to rise.

    The Tories have in fact FAILED to tackle any of the underlying problems of the UK economy. Here are a few:

    1. Inbalanced workforce - i.e. to great an emphasis on acadamic qualifications at the expense of vocational training.
    2. Lack of full-time jobs and increase in unpaid work e.g. workfare and zero-hour contracts.
    3. Decline in rate of minimum wage (relative to cost of living).
    4. Decline in average wage (relative to cost of living).
    5. Rise in energy costs.
    6. Rise in houses prices (indeed they have deliberately made this worse in attempt to bribe the electorate).
    7. Rise in personal debt.
    8. Rise in the public sector debt.
    9. Inbalanced economy i.e. continuing emphasis on the City and banking at the expense of industry, maufacturering, small business and the rest of Britian.
    10. Failure to properly tackle tax evasion by those people living and working in the City.

    I could go on. Let me ask you this. Can you think of one policy, just one, that the Tories have introduced to create jobs?

    No. Neither can I.

    This gov't has explicitly failed to tackle the very real problems of the UK economy but has instead chosen to blame the unemployed, immigrants, migrants, the sick, disabled, single-parents, etc for its continuing realtime decline. At one point it even blamed people IN WORK for not working hard enough!

    Obourne and the biased Telegraph can say what it likes. History will show this gov't to be the most incapable, irresponsible, negligent and damaging this country has ever had.

    I am currently unemployed despite having a 2:1 degree in English and worked in adminstration for 10 years. What does that tell you about the UK economy?

  8. Read this blog for a year now Historian and this is the 1st time i've been compelled to comment-i totally agree with the sentiments expressed by you and the majority of people rearding IDS. Whilst i agree that the so called welfare system is in dire need of reform, this is not the way to go! IDS? what can i say? A man who has been so corrupted by Tory ideology that it has turned him to the anti-thesis of his war hero father-a man who daily risked his life to preserve this great country against the facism that the son seems to hold so dear.

  9. It appears that IDS remains popular with grassroots Tories. Whilst this isn't altogether shocking, I have to say I'm slightly surprised as whilst there's clearly a lot of support for his policies, this hasn't been a vintage year for IDS.

    Reprimanded for his misuse of evidence, new levels of evasiveness, the unseemly (alleged) attempts to shift blame to civil servants and influence the Work & Pensions Committee, the slow-motion car crash that is Universal Credit, the stagnation of Work Programme performance, the increase in the use of food banks and his (and his fellow ministers') evident indifference to it, and an almost daily trickle of bad news stories from DWP seeing them blamed for everything from destitution to suicide to homelessness. He was even humiliated at the Conservative Party Conference by having Osborne announce initiatives that were clearly within IDS's purview.

    Now, I can well believe that many grassroots Tories would be quite relaxed about (from my perspective) the cruelty and unfairness of IDS's policies and in all likelihood actively support them, but what about the sense that IDS isn't the man to get things done? He's shed any last vestige of competence this year, and I'm surprised that's been accepted to the extent it seems to have been.

    Having said that, maybe I shouldn't be. All of the top 4 have had pretty bad years one way or another, so maybe competence and effectiveness is weighted rather less than ideological purity and strong support in the right-wing media.

    The full list from Conservative Home is here: http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/12/the-year-of-osborne-may-and-hunt.html

    1. @ Badger
      I foolishly followed your link and now feel like I need a bath in disinfectant.
      Glad to see that you seem to have escaped the cull.

  10. Does anybody follow the DWP Press Office on twitter?


    Three words come to mind: Ministry of Truth, The most recent posts are very Orwellian, 'We are watching benefit cheat' messages.

  11. Following on from recent announcements (19 Dec 2013 McVey) and the governments own twitter feed mentioned above, they say they have found 208k lasting work through the WP! Have they? Thats less than 1% of the total workforce, one has to ask the statistical significance of this figure. What was the standard devaition on this figure etc. Were these posts permanent full-time work with a living-wage, were they self-employed, were they just people disappearing from JSA what! According to the DWP figures fraud on benefits was 0.7% or £1.2b (2012/13) less than 1% total budget- again with no measure of the error in the estimate given!
    So the government jump on a 1% change as being statistical proof of something about their policies- its nothing its statistical noise - meaningless - much like McVey, Freud and IDS themselves- meaningless nonsense.

    1. Dont forget there are seasonal adjustments, temporary jobs over summer in resorts, temporary over winter..Out of 2.5 million officially unemployed, dont forget there are people who work looking for other jobs and all those people who are not counted one way or the other, And there is also How the DWP count it they dont say lies, damn lies and statistics for nothing.

  12. "We need an agreed set of principles on which to base a system which doesn't divide people into skivers and strivers. Any thoughts?"

    Simple - replace benefits with a citizens payment. Control housing benefit with social housebuilding and rent caps.


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