The Labour government is making another attempt at welfare reforms. This week, a white paper is being published by James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, for discussion proposing a new approach. If effective, this should result in people living on benefits starting to look for work – or risk benefits being slashed, and should be implemented around 2010/ 2011.

I’ve long since felt a sense of bitter outrage that so many people in the UK get a free ride as “tax consumers” living – and some quite comfortably – at the expense of the rest of us. The system is notoriously inefficient and open to abuse. The case of a man who claimed benefits several times over, clocked up a “salary” in excess of £40K per year and only got caught because he carelessly drove to collect his “dues” in a brand new BMW springs to mind – and there are many other cases of blatant fraud.

In total, UK’s welfare bill tops £20bn. That’s pretty shocking in itself.  

What’s much worse is that many of these people bring up their children to believe that it is absolutely OK not to work as the state will provide. And these families can tend to have many kids (which in itself, I feel, is socially irresponsible) – often many more than the national average. That’s a new fast growing brood of brats, many intending to live off us in future. Great – we’ve created a system in the UK that actually encourages people and their offspring to become long-term and life-long shirkers. That surely was not the original intention of creating a welfare state in this country.

And then we wonder why UK has stopped being a competitive country and is lagging behind other European nations. Look no further than our own labour force; the range of attitudes we’ll see is incredible. Some, mainly in the service industries, are working the longest hours in Europe – but way, way too many are not wanting to work. For them, there is not really an incentive to achieve. In this, UK has moved scarily close to the former socialist states of Eastern Europe and Russia, where in the past citizens were also not incentivised to try their hardest. And we know how awfully uncompetitive their economies were – and how badly those regimes ended!

Personally, I salute the intention to get people off their couches and get them into employment. Part-time, full-time, training to acquire new skills and increase people’s confidence – it’s all good stuff. Don’t get me wrong – there will be people who are truly unwell and won’t be able to work – and the proposal caters for this. But the vast majority can, and should, work and contribute to this society that has taken care of them for so long – to the best of their abilities. Now that will be much fairer to everyone else in this country.

It’s just a crying shame that it’s taking the Labour government such a long time to follow through a long-promised change such as this one.

More details on the proposals can be found here.


Copyright 2008 by CuriouslyInspired