The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

We Should Listen to Iain Duncan Smith

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 17, 2009 @ 06:33

It's hard to imagine him with hair, but there you go...

It's hard to imagine him with hair, but there you go...

I would never have believed that those six (seven?) words would ever pass my lips/fingers… but they have done.

A couple of months ago I wrote this post in which I laid out my case that the system in this country was severely failing the working class.

Yesterday Iain Duncan Smith’s work for the Centre for Social Justice unveiled a blueprint of exactly what’s wrong with the benefits system. And, in most places, it was an excellent piece of work.

Yes, the system does penalise work. It is madness that you can go out and get a job and end up worse off than you would be without it. OK, maybe we need to draw a line somewhere – as anyone can get a couple of hours a week cleaning job, and it might be wrong to subsidise that – but we should be looking to reward aspiration and positive behaviour where possible.

And yes, even if it means subsidising them. That was originally the whole point of the working tax credit, but it has a number of limitations that mean not everyone can claim it – e.g. why should it be that people under 25 cannot claim it?

We do need some extremely radical thinking on the benefits system. This doesn’t mean arbitrary slashing and burning to try to save money. Indeed, there is a case that in the short term the reforms proposed by IDS would cost more.

What we need is a wholesale rethink of what welfare is for and what ends we are trying to encourage with it. It needs to do more to reach those parts of the country where people are allowed to get away with never working, never contributing to society, and setting appalling examples to their children regarding work ethics. That seems to be one of IDS’ goals – and we should not dismiss his ideas so lightly.

One other idea he floats is the withdrawal of benefits to those earning over £30,000. This, to me, is also a desirable goal. In these hard times we cannot afford it, but on principle too – if you’re earning over the average wage of the country (and even more than the median) – it doesn’t seem right that the state should continue to finance you. We don’t want a client state where everyone has a dependency on their income from welfare, even those who never needed it in the first place but now get it via the Child Tax Credit system – which continues paying benefits up to £50,000!

IDS is on to a winner with his suggestion that 51 benefits can be reduced into two. Reducing complexity will save bureaucracy… and it will make it easier to claim. One of my worries over means-tested benefit is that the ones that really need most are often the ones who don’t claim. Maybe having a very small number of them will make things easier.

We don’t know for sure. But the price of continued failure in our benefits system is high and mounting.

IDS may just have given us a neat, bipartisan, way forward.

Shame the Tories are probably going to ignore it.

But we should never underestimate the determination of a Quiet Man.

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3 Responses to “We Should Listen to Iain Duncan Smith”

  1. I bet those earning £30,000 (thats everyone) who is an MP… will still get allowances.

    Even though isn’t defined as a “benefit” as only MP’s can claim and it would be too much for them to go claim at the Jobcentre… MP expenses allowances are technically a form of benefit.

    No chances of that being dropped though.

  2. […] Frank Field is going to open the books on everything, along with the very commendable work that Iain Duncan Smith has done in this area, and they are given free reign to re-examine what the […]

  3. […] Then there was the remarkable performance of Iain Duncan Smith. Not wanting to show off, and all that, but for the people who’ve been following IDS’s work for a while, it didn’t really come as a surprise. […]

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