Blair vows to end culture of dependency

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair will today dedicate his government to helping the "forgotten people"; the millions trapped on benefit with no help and no hope of getting into training or work.

In his first non-parliamentary statement of government philosophy, he will this afternoon go to a rundown south London housing estate to say: "The poorest people in our country have been the forgotten people.

"They have been left out of growing prosperity, told they were not needed, ignored by the Government except for the purpose of blaming them.

"There will be no forgotten people in the Britain I want to build. When I talk about One Nation, I mean everyone enjoying the chance to get on."

Mr Blair's speech will focus on his determination to help the "workless class"; the 4.5 million people of working age who live in homes without work; the million or more who have not worked since they left school.

But the Prime Minister's office said there was no question, in helping the 90 per cent of single mothers who wanted to get into work, of compulsion or a "tough line" as reported in one newspaper yesterday. One source said the idea that a gun was to be put to the heads of single mothers was nonsense.

Since 1979, when Margaret Thatcher took office, social security spending has increased fivefold, and while there are 150,000 homeless people, housing expenditure has shifted from a housing investment programme of pounds 7bn in 1979, to a housing benefit bill of pounds 11bn today.

"Governments lock people into dependence rather than give them the means to be independent," Mr Blair will say. "They can give out money, not because it's the right thing to do but the easy thing to do ...

"A large minority of the population now forms a workless class, cut off from jobs and careers and fatalistic about the future.

"It is economically and morally unsustainable: economically, because it loads huge costs on to the taxpayer; morally, because we should always judge the state of any country by the condition of the weak as well as the strong."

Mr Blair will argue that the system works all too often against the people it is meant to be helping. The test should be: does the system give back to people the chance to win - or does it trap them on benefit for the most productive years of their lives?

But Mr Blair's appeal also carries an explicit warning for the strong; that the policies required to heal society and create one nation - and remember the "forgotten people" - will not be without cost or sacrifice.

The Prime Minister says: "The 1960s were about the state, the 1980s were about the individual, the late 1990s and the early part of the next century will be about community."

That meant that while the Sixties had been a decade of "Anything goes", and the Eighties had been a decade of "Who cares?" the Blair years would be about urging people to play an active part in society and accepting their responsibilities in full.

Mr Blair will say that he will pursue Labour policies on raising school standards; cutting NHS red tape to spend more on frontline health care; enacting pledges on crime; releasing housing receipts to build homes; and spending lottery money on health and education - including a programme to open up schools for after-hours programmes, so that children could be usefully engaged while their parents were at work

Single mothers speak, page 3

Polly Toynbee, page 15