Sunday, December 23, 2012

Is cutting Welfare State to 'help' or 'punish'

Another thoughtful article from Peter Oborne in today's Telegraph - about the appropriate approach to 'welfare' that should be adopted by the Coalition Gov't. Now I don't know how much truth there is in the suggestion that Ian Duncan Smith and George Osborne are at loggerheads over this, or that the Treasury is determined to take over 'welfare' policy - but there is certainly an issue about attitude and language, if not about policy.

The current working/early retirement age generation are probably the most selfish in our history. And Britain is not alone in this. We are living way beyond our means and leaving a terrible legacy for future generations to repair. At the same time, the way we look after those who are approaching the end of their lives is a national scandal. The very young and the very old do not have a loud enough voice. All fair people will surely agree. There is no alternative to the direction of the Chancellor's fiscal policy, even if there is argument about detail. The only doubt I, personally have is that he is not being ruthless or radical enough. Because I believe Gov't should be spending significantly more on various forms of elderly care, there is no choice but to implement major cuts in most other budgets, including the welfare state. So far; I suspect there will be quite a lot of agreement - which may be about to change!

Peter Oborne's article is about 'language'. Now I do not doubt that there are some scroungers and benefit cheats in the land, but I believe most people on benefit would much rather be in work, or would have preferred  to be in work, if they had not become 'programmed' to life on benefit. The IDS approach is one of 'tough love'. We must do everything we can to give people a purpose in life, based on meaningful activity and commitment to others, weaning them off benefit where we can. Which is why work, volunteerism, family etc is so important. Its also why I so much prefer the language (which Chris Grayling used so well before being promoted to Lord Chancellor) about "helping people escape cruel dependency on welfare wherever possible". I really do not care for these disparaging attacks on 'shirkers' and ugly focus on ending the "something for nothing" culture. It might appeal to base instincts but will only breed resentment and won't make a difference. Gov'ts purpose should be to help people, not vilify them. This supposed difference of opinion could be entirely a figment of Peter Oborne's imagination, but if its for real, I'm on IDS's side.

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