Welfare Green Paper: The view from the north

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The Independent Online
"WE have been nannied for a long time" said insurance salesman Gareth Murchie 28 - arguably a grandchild of the Welfare State. The Murchies, both young professionals working in the growing financial sector in Leeds, were typical.

"It would never occur to me to fall back on to the welfare state if I know I'm able to work somehow, '' said Mr Murchie. "But there are people who are doomed from conception. They grow up believing at 16 they will sign on or go on to claim housing benefits. It gets my goat, they should be out there looking for work instead of expecting the state to take care of them. The first thing I did when Matthew, our son, was born was set up a savings plan. We always intend to provide for ourselves."

They were concerned that a reduction in benefits might lead to increased crime and begging: "If the money isn't there they will have to find another way and it may not necessarily be work .... it could be crime," he said. "We don't want aggressive begging on the streets either" said his wife Helen, 28, "But people should never be that desperate."

She believes state help should not disappear completely. "I feel a sense of insecurity ... the welfare state seems to have always been there if you were ever really desperate. I think we are a wealthy enough country to provide for people who just cannot work because they may be disabled but we cannot afford either to allow the system to be abused."

Winebar owner Tony Gedge, 28, welcomed the ideas behind the Green paper, but said a cultural change would take time. "It can't be done overnight. Attitudes will have to change and it could take a generation or two. The government must start in the schools showing young people how to look out for themselves. They aren't taught the social skills, the money sense or the commonsense to get them through life. And if you are a child of a family where there is long-term unemployment and you know nothing different, it is going to be much harder.

"These people should be targeted with special help ...But I'd like to know what the government intends to do with the money they will save from reduced benefits.

"An increase in crime has also got to be a consideration, because if people won't work they will get their money somewhere else and that may be an easy answer for some. If it is going to work at all it will have to be phased in over I would think a very long time.:"

Richard Watson, 31, who promotes nightclubs in Leeds, said there was nothing better than achieving something under your own steam. "I like the idea very much but a lot rides on how the government sets about it. The dole has been a safety net for so many, giving a breathing space to help you get back on your feet. You just can't suddenly take it away and expect people to cope. There are people who get used to it I know and won't get out bed for anything less but there is nothing better for your self-esteem and well-being than doing something for yourself, knowing your own work has won you something that you need or want. But the government has to have in place the kind of help people such as single parents need to get out there working such as child care the opportunities for work before they do anything else."