The Coalition’s welfare reforms continue, with the implementation from last month of a cap on benefit payments, initially in four London boroughs. In these areas, no family will receive more than £500 a week, which equates to a salary of about £35,000 before tax. If the pilot is successful, the cap will be introduced across the country from July.
It is almost three years since George Osborne, the Chancellor, first announced this policy, so it has not exactly been rushed.
Indeed, it was important that time was taken to craft it properly, and to ensure that it is seen to be carried out in a measured and well thought out manner by local authorities and other agencies. The same tough choices about affordability and where to live are already faced by people who are in work and do not claim any benefits beyond tax credits.
This I believe is a principle that the hard working individuals and families in Bailiff Bridge, Hipperholme, Hove Edge, Lightcliffe and Norwood Green would basically agree with as would those who are local pensioners who have worked hard all their lives.
Indeed, fairness was one of the basic principles underpinning the cap, and its level: it is designed so that a family on benefits cannot receive more than the average household earns through work. This surely has to be right and fair. Why should someone pay taxes to enable others, many of whom who can work, but who choose not to work and get more in benefits per week than they do working for a living.
There is, then, an important moral imperative behind this policy.#
As with other recent welfare changes, the central aim is to encourage people back into work rather than letting them live on benefits.
To that end, those with a job who receive Working Tax Credit will not be affected. I do however, support the principle that genuine people in need and unable to work do receive an appropriate level of support from the state.
Help must be available for local people who find themselves in difficulty – but not so much that they can opt to live off the state forever. That is not fair on other taxpayers, and fosters a sense of dependency that does significant harm to recipients and their families.
In the short term, this new approach will save just a fraction of Britain’s vast welfare bill. But that is not the point: the principal goal is to challenge an attitude that has taken root over the past decade or more, encouraged by the Labour Party that singularly failed to reform welfare when in power and who now openly campaign against many of the changes being implemented.
We must remember that a proper benefits system should be designed to encourage people to be in active work or actively seeking work, unless they are physically or mentally prevented from doing so.