Wat Tyler is revisiting the benefits figures.
We've just taken a look through last week's Public Accounts Committee report on welfare to work and the shortcomings of the New Deal programme. It received extensive press coverage although in truth, it doesn't actually add much to the original NAO report and that PAC encounter with the Honey Monster last October (blogged here).
Key points as follows:
- Over 4.3 million people of working-age and 1.79 million children are living in workless households—ie 6m people (10% of Britain's entire population) are living in 3m households where one or more adults is of working age but nobody works, and the household is entirely dependent on state welfare
- 16% of working age households are workless
- These households cost us at least £12.7bn pa in welfare payments (nearly 4 pence on the standard rate of income tax for the rest of us)
- In 80% of the households, nobody is even seeking work
- The government reckons 2m of these people can be put to work, including 1m currently drawing incapacity benefit and 0.3m lone parents, but...
- The New Deal welfare to work programmes have no coherent strategy for reaching those not seeking work (ie those not in receipt of Job Seekers allowance)
- Most of the programmes are inefficient, costing taxpayers more than they save in terms of reduced welfare costs etc
- Management information is shockingly poor, with for example no record of how many people going onto New Deal programmes never actually graduate into jobs
As we all understand, welfare dependency is one of the most corrosive forces going. But the New Deal programme has run into the sand. It may initially have helped easy to place job seekers into work, but it's having virtually no success with this hardcore 4.3m, 2m of whom even the government admits are capable of working.
Indeed. Perhaps we should ask Europe Minister, Jim Murphy, what to do about it?
[Murphy] is no longer welfare reform minister (his last job under Blair), but is almost evangelistic about settling my doubts about Labour’s record on poverty. 'The Labour party was founded on the right to work, the creation of the welfare state and all the great reforms of the past were about the right to work, full employment and the right to work.' I ask if he would say (as James Purnell, the new Work & Pensions Secretary, did) that Britain has 'full employment' now. 'Statistically,' he says. 'But the problem is they are economically inactive.'
An honest answer. In 1944, when William Beveridge defined 'full employment' as unemployment of less than 3%, he would hardly have imagined that three times this figure would be on other out-of-work benefits. But Murphy does not belong to the type of Labour politician who claims to have conquered it by dint of reclassification and statistical fiddle. Indeed, he sees this as a betrayal of his party’s values. 'The Labour Party and the trade union movement was never based on the right not to work for those who are able and capable of doing so,' he says.
He points to a new, attitudinal problem. 'There was a period where it was a matter of working class pride that you didn’t rely on benefits,' he says. The period that his father grew up in, I ask? 'That’s right. There was a pride and dignity in work. Deindustrialisation where whole streets have no one in work, I think, changed the culture in some communities about attitudes to work.' This is the crux of the issue: joblessness has lost its stigma. I say that ten years of Labour is long enough for him to stop blaming 'deindustrialisation' – ie, Thatcher. He says no matter what you blame it on, the corner has been turned.
Why the hell is he surprised? Time wreaks certain changes: it is, for instance, now socially unacceptable to drink and drive, but perfectly acceptable to have a child out of wedlock.
After 60 years of the Welfare State, it is now entirely acceptable to live off benefits; after all, it's your rights, innit?
Abolish the Welfare State and then we will no longer be in hock to the state and forced to dance to its tune.
Join the Libertarian Party: the party that believes in people, not systems.