Conservatives target 2.6 million on ‘Incapacity Benefit’
But the reality is that we have developed a cultural aversion to earning a living. Statistics indicate that five million people have never had a job under Labour as the dependency culture has gripped poorer neighbourhoods. No adult works in 3.3 million households and 800,000 have been claiming incapacity benefit for more than a decade. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is the wasted potential of the one-in-five young people who have never had a job.
Tony Blair appointed Frank Field, an independent-minded MP, to be his welfare reform minister with a brief to ‘think the unthinkable’. Unfortunately for him, he did – and Gordon Brown thereafter ensured that Mr Field’s political career was ended.
New Labour have micro-managed and centralised welfare and spawned a myriad of benefits – Job Seekers’ Allowance, tax credits and the New Deal for the unemployed to name but a few. And what have these yielded? Despite a lengthy period of low unemployment, welfare spending has continued to increase. This is the defining characteristic of our welfare state: it is expensive, inefficient, bureaucratic and fails to deliver what it is supposed to.
It is crying out for reform.
The Bible has quite a lot to say about not working. It talks of the inevitable fate of the sluggard lying in bed; the sloth too lazy to find employment: it tells us that if a man will not work, he shall not eat.
It is ‘nasty’ stuff – uncaring, uncompassionate, harsh and ‘right wing’.
Nasty or not, today in Manchester the Conservative Party will declare war on the sick-note culture, unveiling plans to slash £25 a week from the benefits of the work-shy.
Of course, the Party will not use the words ‘war’, ‘slash’ or ‘work-shy’, for they are seeking to sound reasonable, huggable, fluffy and pink.
But in the UK, it pays not to work. Indeed, it frequently pays more than work. And it must be a wholly justifiable welfare reform to redress the absurd situation in which a man can ‘earn’ more by lying in bed all day than he can by getting on his bike and finding a job. If he is incapacitated, he receives £89.90 a week: the unemployed receive only £64.30. In addition, of course, to having one’s rent and council tax paid, children supported, and a host of other benefits to keep one from the ever-rising threshold of poverty.
The Conservative welfare reforms have been drawn up by David, Lord Freud, who defected from Labour to become a shadow minister in the Lords earlier this year. If only Tony Blair had trusted Frank Field, we would not now be a nation of supplicants, with one in three households dependent on the state for at least half its income.
But Cranmer has a question (or three):
In order to be declared incapacitated, one must obtain a ‘sick note’ from one’s doctor. One would think, being professional and qualified, that doctors only issue such a note to those they judge to be incapable of work – the severely disabled, the mentally ill, those who have had heart attacks or been afflicted with a debilitating illness. By talking of compulsory health assessments by ‘super doctors’ from ‘private firms’ who will test how genuine a claimant’s incapacity may be, are not the Conservatives effectively accusing the nation’s GPs of not doing their jobs properly? Are they not interfering in a delegated, professional judgement? Are they not creating a further centralised bureaucracy instead of insisting on localised efficiency?