‘It’s time to end this addiction to benefits’, Iain Duncan Smith in ‘The Daily Telegraph’

February 17, 2011

Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith writes in The Daily Telegraph. 16 February 2011

Today, the Government will publish a Bill which will set a new course for the welfare state. The foundations for the welfare system we have today were laid more than 60 years ago on the back of overwhelming public demand for a fairer society. But in the intervening years, those ideals have failed to translate into reality.

We have a system where people too often are rewarded for doing the wrong thing, and those who strive to do the best by their families are penalised. It is a system so out of control that it houses unemployed people in some of the most expensive accommodation in the land, while those who work hard on low incomes are forced to commute long distances because they can't afford properties near work.

Too many people have been parked on out-of-work benefits for years without being offered support to find a job. Under the last government, 1.4 million people spent almost a decade on such benefits and at least 600,000 young people who left school over the same period have never worked since. One of my predecessors even claimed that those who spend two years or more on incapacity benefit are more likely to die than to work again.

Welfare budgets have rocketed and almost two million children are growing up in a household where no one works. Incredibly, the proportion of working-age adults living in poverty is the highest since records began. While living standards for most of society have improved, social mobility has stalled and our welfare system has created an underclass where generation after generation have no work and no prospects.

Successive governments have reacted to these challenges by adding layers of complexity to the welfare system. Tax credits were introduced with the aim of increasing work incentives, but arguably served to confuse as many as they helped. The proliferation of benefits made it impossible for people to understand if they would be better off if they moved into work – and too often the answer was “no”.

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