It feels distinctly odd to me to start this blog by writing about how the Conservatives are right on welfare but the cold hard truth is not only are they right but they’re in touch with the public on this issue too.
I am well aware of the importance of State Benefits, my own family have relied on them one way or another over the years, but, as one Tory MP put it in the Commons yesterday, Welfare has become an alternative lifestyle choice and not the safety net it was originally designed to be.
I agree with both the principle of the cap and the level at which it is to be set. £26k is equivalent to a yearly pre-tax salary of £35k which for many families, including my own, would be a dream level of income. It is frankly appalling that the state can hand out more than many families earn to people who have never worked and often whose parents and even grandparents have never worked either. Who can blame them, really, when Welfare pays better than work. Due to the failure of successive governments, this is the culture we now face in Britain and, as much as the Left may not like it, it is a ‘something for nothing’ culture.
I have heard it argued that a cap is unfair because most of it goes to private landlords, whose prices we cannot regulate. The majority of a low-income but working family’s money goes to private landlords too, or on now unaffordable mortgages sold during the boom years. It’s a non-argument. We hear how people may have to move because of the cap. This may well be the case, although you do wonder quite how exaggerated some of the more out of touch old-school Labour members’ figures might be, but why is this a bad thing? People who work have to move all the time for various reasons so why not people on benefit? If they are long-term unemployed, living in an unaffordable area and unable to find a job or pay the rent then surely it is in the best interests of themselves and their families to move, to settle somewhere else, to find employment and to set a working example for their children.
Whilst Government must intervene where there is child poverty or children are in distress or danger, it is up to parents to take responsibility. Having a child should be a decision taken with financial and employment factors taken into account. There should not be an attitude that the State will take care where parents fail. If the benefits cap hits a family three generations unemployed and used to being sustained by the State and forces them to move, perhaps a short distance perhaps a long one, to find work and make a new start then it is a necessary decision. It may hurt in the short term but could bring about a distinct change in culture than will benefit this country in the long run. Provided no-one is going hungry in their beds or being made homeless due to the actions of the State then it is up to the individual to take responsibility.
A Labour MP attacked the Government in the Welfare debate yesterday and quite frankly I was appalled that my Party is associating itself with her arguments. She says the Government’s plans may move people from social housing in to different accommodation if they have spare rooms. Well good! Quite why she sees this as a bad thing when there are so many families in work but struggling to pay private landlords due to a lack of available social housing is beyond me. If there is one couple living in a three bedroom house when a one bedroom property is available and a family qualify for social housing then surely it is the State’s duty to move them around. The State should provide for people’s needs, not their luxuries.
Yes there should be exceptions but these should be based on an appeals system on a case-by-case basis. Cancer patients, indeed anyone with a long-term illness, should not be forced to work or forced out of their home due to a cut in benefits and the Commons should ensure that this Bill does not do that.
But these are not the people that will be the most affected. The people most affected will be the workshy, the parents who show little to no interest in their children’s education or behaviour and continue to have children they cannot afford who will grow up seeing the life they can lead on State handouts compared to the effort of working. These are the people we should be targeting. If we are to return to a State that gives people a hand-up and not a handout, that encourages work over Welfare and ensures people do not get sucked in to a cycle of disillusionment and dependency then measures like this need to be taken. In the long run, it not only helps the nation’s finances but its prospects.
Labour should cotton on to this, to realise that if Miliband’s ‘Promise of Britain’ is not to be an empty one then they need to argue on the Living Wage, against cuts such as those to EMA which really do cause harm, on creating a new economy which inspires new growth, new jobs and new ideas. At the moment the Tories have the upper hand and I for one would have voted with the Government yesterday.