Welfare changes are about changing our culture, says Cameron

 

David Cameron today unveiled details of the Government’s long-awaited and controversial plan to reform Britain’s £200 billion benefits system.

At an event in London the Prime Minister and the architect behind the reforms Iain Duncan Smith described how individual benefits will be replaced with a single Universal Credit. The Government claims this will make more than two-and-a-half million of the poorest people in Britain better off and ensure that people are always get more money from work than on benefits.

But at the same time it plans to toughen up the rules on long term sickness and disability benefits payments.

A proposal to cut housing benefit for long-term unemployment benefit claimants has been dropped after complaints from the Liberal Democrats.

Ministers had planned to impose a 10 per cent cut in the housing benefit of those on jobseekers allowance for more than a year. Lib Dem ministers feared the policy would appear callous in a difficult jobs market.

Mr Cameron said the changes would reduce the welfare bill by £5.5 billion in real terms over the next four years by limiting housing benefit, reforming tax credits and taking child benefit away from higher-rate taxpayers.

But he insisted that the Bill was "not an exercise in accounting - it's about changing our culture".

Under the plans a new Personal Independence Payment will replace Disability Living Allowance, supported by a new assessment of individuals that is likely to reduce those eligible to claim the benefit.

There will also be new powers and rules to tackle fraud which costs the taxpayer around £5.2 billion a year.

There will be a new "one-strike, two-strike and three-strike" rule, with a benefit ban of three years for people who offend repeatedly.

Speaking in east London the Prime Minister said: "Never again will work be the wrong financial choice. We're finally going to make work pay - especially for the poorest people in society.

Mr Cameron said the present system needed to be reformed because of a growing benefits culture.

“When the welfare system was born more than today people’s self-image was not just about their personal status or success it was measured out by what sort of citizen they were; whether they did the decent thing.

“That meant that a standardised system of sickness and out-of-work benefits – with limited conditions – was effective. Fiddling the system would have brought not just public outcry but private shame.

“(But) that collective culture of responsibility – taken for granted sixty years ago – has in many ways been lost.

“You see it in the people who go off sick when they could work or the people who refuse job off after job offer.”

Mr Cameron added that the new reforms had been designed to ensure that work always paid and also announced moves to tackle the UK's "sick note culture", pointing out that 300,000 people leave work and claim sickness benefits every year.

The Government's national director for health and work, Dame Carol Black, and David Frost of the British Chambers of Commerce are to lead a review of the problem.

The reforms came under attack from unions, who accused the coalition Government of punishing the unemployed and impoverished for their own misfortunes.

"Long-term unemployment has doubled not because of a sudden increase in work-shy scroungers, but as an inevitable result of economic policies based on cuts that destroy growth," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

"Making low-income working families thousands of pounds worse off through welfare cuts over the next two years to claim that they will be slightly better off in 2013 is an absurd argument that will ring hollow as families suffer the toughest income squeeze for nearly a century."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence