David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has today (Wednesday the 4th of February), called for a more rational debate in Britain on the future of welfare support and the measures to ensure self-reliance and self-help.
Speaking at the launch of the Welfare Manifesto of the think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Blunkett said the debate on welfare needs “not only to take into account necessary incentives for self-help and personal responsibility but also the kind of nation we want to be, the morality we want to promote, and the choices and priorities that we should pursue.”
Mr Blunkett put forward a number of proposals in his speech, including:
- Introducing clear conditionality for key areas of investment.
“Instead of taking away Housing Benefit from all 18-21 year olds as David Cameron has proposed, and making children suffer by taking away Child Benefit, make the right to help conditional. This could be for example, taking up agreed training opportunities or volunteering and for those in receipt of Child Benefit after the birth of a second child, classes in parenting and budgeting, and where applicable a requirement to improve school attendance.”
- Instead of complex changes, introduce a simple formula which allow the better off in retirement to make their contribution to the challenge of maintaining the welfare state.
“The Winter Fuel Allowance, the Christmas Bonus (and in benefit in kind, the free Television License) are an enhancement to income and therefore they should become taxable. This cuts out administrative complexity whilst introducing fairness and retaining universality.”
- In addition it is genuinely worth removing automatic age related relief.
“Automatic because once you reach a specific age you no longer pay National Insurance even if you are earning well and remain in work – why should you not continuing paying into the system? Also at a particular age you are entitled to free prescriptions to everything prescribed, not just the long term requirement for medication which of course should continue– but those who can afford to pay for one off prescriptions should do so whatever age they are attained.”
- By 2018 introducing the living wage across the whole economy
“For if work is the best form of welfare (and I believe it is) then paying people better and relying less on cash transfer through the Exchequer, has to be the way forward”
Mr Blunkett concluded in his speech that “The British people have so far been remarkably tolerant in the face of the austerity programme which, without Quantative Easing would have plunged us into deep recession but their patience is now running out. With 60% of cutbacks still to come, public services beginning to deteriorate rapidly and food banks springing up throughout our country, the general election really is the moment to say ‘enough is enough’.”
Speech in full see below