Thursday, 27 May 2010

Welfare Reform

She laughed, assuming it was a joke. Then, reality dawned. A normal employer looking for someone 'reliable and hard working', Nicole Mamo was barred from advertising in the local job center in Norfolk last January. Staff said it would discriminate, against those who are unreliable. Nothing more neatly captures the something for nothing culture built by the last Labour government - 'hard work' had become dirty words.

The welfare system drove a tidal shift in attitudes. With five million claiming out of work benefits - and 1 in 5 young people unable to find a job - the welfare bill is economically unaffordable. But, it is also morally and socially wrong. For some people, moving from welfare to work means they would lose 95p for every £1 they might earn. Under the old system, it scarcely paid to work. Not only did that penalise graft, it left generations trapped in a debilitating cycle of welfare dependency. When I sat on the Conservative Party's Social Mobility task force, expert after expert highlighted the ceiling this created on aspiration for children growing up in such an environment.

Today, Iain Duncan Smith (the new Work and Pensions Secretary) set out a concerted plan for welfare reform. It provides personalised support and training to help those who want to help themselves into a job. But, if someone is able - and plain unwilling to work - their benefits will be cut. The government will open up the system to providers from the voluntary and private sectors - introducing payment by results - to encourage innovation. Taken together, the proposals form a bold and far-reaching plan. It will help cut the deficit over the mid-term, and reduce wasteful state spending over the long-term. But it also sends an important social message - encouraging a stronger ethos of personal responsibility. Delivering it will not be easy in the aftermath of recession. The only other successful welfare reform was introduced by President Clinton in 1996 when the US economy was strong. But it is one of the genuinely ground-breaking reform agendas of the Con-Lib coalition - and I will be supporting it all the way.


Steve said...

Hopefully the jobsworth who claimed the advert was discriminating will also be looking for a new job soon.
Good points, but surely the work shy are only part of the problem. There are many women of working age who cannot work due to the prohibitive cost of childcare.
My partner was offered a £17k job as a nursery nurse but had to decline because the cost of putting our two toddlers in day nursery was £25k. The money offered by the Govt to offset this cost barely touched the surface.
If a formula can be found to make day nursery affordable I think many more women would return to work.

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