End of the welfare state?

England’s coalition government is getting tough on welfare.  As are other European nations:

Britain announced the most radical overhaul in decades Thursday to its once-generous welfare system, pledging harsh penalties for those who refuse jobs and community work service for the unemployed in return for benefit checks.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith unveiled sharp changes to the country’s cradle-to-grave social safety net, which was first introduced after World War II to better protect newborns, families, the jobless and the sick.

Critics have long said the British system offered hefty benefits unavailable to other citizens across Europe, the U.S. and other major economies — encouraging some people to snub modest jobs in favor of an easy life on handouts.

“The message is clear. If you can work, then a life of benefits will no longer be an option,” said Prime Minister David Cameron, whose government last month announced it would slash benefits payments by 18 billion pounds ($29 billion) under a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 pounds ($128 billion).

Under the new plan, many of the 5 million people who claim jobless benefits in Britain will be ordered to regularly do four weeks of unpaid community work to remain eligible for their 65 pounds ($105) weekly welfare payment. The stints could include manual labor tasks like removing graffiti or gardening in public parks.

Unemployment claimants routinely also receive other welfare payments to help with housing costs and raising children.

The plan is the centerpiece of Cameron’s legislative program, and one of the key elements of his strategy to fix so-called “Broken Britain,” his election slogan for the social problems that he says have blighted the nation’s prospects.

Duncan Smith said under his reforms, those who turn down job offers, fail to show up for job interviews or decline to take part in community projects face tough punishments. Benefits will stop for three months on a first offense, for six months for the second time and for three years after a third breach.

The system is still much more lenient than that in Spain, where a third offense means a person loses their welfare payments for good.

Duncan Smith insists the changes are not just to reduce the country’s budget deficit but are meant to jolt a group of around 1.4 million Britons who have been without a job for about a decade.

“For too long, the success of our welfare system has been judged by the number of people who are on benefits,” said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. “Our welfare system should be judged by the number of people who are off benefits and into work.”

Britain’s reforms echo a program by Sweden’s center-right government to get more people into the work force and reduce the number of benefit-takers.

Sweden’s motto — “it should pay off to work” — was echoed by Duncan Smith.

via Off the sofa! UK gets tough on welfare.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kirk

    I don’t see why anyone would be concerned about this in light of the announcement that William and Kate are engaged!!! Finally!!!

  • Kirk

    I don’t see why anyone would be concerned about this in light of the announcement that William and Kate are engaged!!! Finally!!!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Will she wear white? Boy, that’s an important question…..

    What a concept; people should be discouraged from sitting on their rears collecting a check….

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Will she wear white? Boy, that’s an important question…..

    What a concept; people should be discouraged from sitting on their rears collecting a check….

  • Louis

    I like it. It is not the libertarian “everyone for himself and the devil takes the hindmost” approach, neither is it the avuncular sky-uncle approach.
    IOW:
    We will help you but only if you get off your backside. I wouldn’t call it the end of welfare, but rather the Reformation of welfare.

  • Louis

    I like it. It is not the libertarian “everyone for himself and the devil takes the hindmost” approach, neither is it the avuncular sky-uncle approach.
    IOW:
    We will help you but only if you get off your backside. I wouldn’t call it the end of welfare, but rather the Reformation of welfare.

  • DonS

    Yes, of course, William and Kate! Jolly good show.

    The details are less impressive than the headlines, but it appears to be a reform somewhat like that the U.S. undertook in 1996. A good start, to be sure. We’ll see how it goes. Unfortunately, the U.S. reform appears to have petered out to a large extent, as we have merely moved on to other programs, such as free annual “stimulus” checks and 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

  • DonS

    Yes, of course, William and Kate! Jolly good show.

    The details are less impressive than the headlines, but it appears to be a reform somewhat like that the U.S. undertook in 1996. A good start, to be sure. We’ll see how it goes. Unfortunately, the U.S. reform appears to have petered out to a large extent, as we have merely moved on to other programs, such as free annual “stimulus” checks and 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.

  • Louis

    As to William & Kate, this Monarchist is delighted.

  • Louis

    As to William & Kate, this Monarchist is delighted.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kirk (@1)!! Kiiiiiiirk! Now I know how Khan felt. You didn’t even give the conversation a chance to start before you derailed it with your anglophilic trivia. And I thought it sounded like a good approach, too (I am talking here about Britain’s welfare, not of royal romantic matters).

    Also, Louis (@3), “avuncular sky-uncle”? Tsk tsk. I daresay such repetition is repetitive.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kirk (@1)!! Kiiiiiiirk! Now I know how Khan felt. You didn’t even give the conversation a chance to start before you derailed it with your anglophilic trivia. And I thought it sounded like a good approach, too (I am talking here about Britain’s welfare, not of royal romantic matters).

    Also, Louis (@3), “avuncular sky-uncle”? Tsk tsk. I daresay such repetition is repetitive.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A definite step in the right direction. Charity can be handled privately just fine.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    A definite step in the right direction. Charity can be handled privately just fine.

  • Louis

    J Dean – you did notice that the question wasn’t private charity? It was endless charity without strings. IE, they are not ending government charity, they just eliminating the misuse thereof. An entirely different thing.

  • Louis

    J Dean – you did notice that the question wasn’t private charity? It was endless charity without strings. IE, they are not ending government charity, they just eliminating the misuse thereof. An entirely different thing.

  • Porcell

    Cameron is a grown up Brit who understands that able bodied people need to take responsibility for their welfare and not rely on nanny state welfare that at base benefits the political class and its bureaucrats.
    Could it be that the Britain is waking from its socialist illusions? I doubt it.

    As to Prince William, in addition to finding a most attractive babe, he is a well trained British air force helicopter rescue pilot. I find him a much more manly fellow than his father, Charles, a product of the sixties with a tendency to mouth vacuous, politically correct platitudes.

  • Porcell

    Cameron is a grown up Brit who understands that able bodied people need to take responsibility for their welfare and not rely on nanny state welfare that at base benefits the political class and its bureaucrats.
    Could it be that the Britain is waking from its socialist illusions? I doubt it.

    As to Prince William, in addition to finding a most attractive babe, he is a well trained British air force helicopter rescue pilot. I find him a much more manly fellow than his father, Charles, a product of the sixties with a tendency to mouth vacuous, politically correct platitudes.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Come to think of it, given that the royals live off a public rent, they’re welfare queens, aren’t they? We’ll know England is REALLY cutting welfare if William wears a polyester suit for his wedding, and the reception is cake and punch. :^)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Come to think of it, given that the royals live off a public rent, they’re welfare queens, aren’t they? We’ll know England is REALLY cutting welfare if William wears a polyester suit for his wedding, and the reception is cake and punch. :^)


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