Welfare to work plans `will hurt'

WELFARE to work programmes have been able to reduce welfare cases by nearly three quarters in some American states, according to new research published today.

But another study, also published today, warns that welfare reform will inevitably end up hurting some benefit claimants. "If you are going to change the world so that people change their behaviour, you cannot do it simply through carrots. You have to do it predominantly through sticks," warns the controversial American sociologist Charles Murray, writing for the Social Market Foundation.

The Right-wing Adam Smith Institute looks at the results of welfare to work in America between January 1993 and July 1997. While most of the reform efforts came from a handful of state initiatives, the US Government also played a major role by passing an act which ended cash help for families with dependant children. This forced even the most reluctant states to submit plans for welfare reform and in the 11 months since the Bill became law total welfare case loads went down by almost a sixth.

The most successful states include Wyoming, which saw a drop of 73 per cent in its welfare caseload, Wisconsin (58 per cent), Oregon (52 per cent) and Alabama (48 per cent).

The institute concluded that the successful ingredients for welfare reform must include willingness to extend benefits for a period after someone on welfare takes a job, an emphasis on personal individual responsibility, a reliance on private sector services whenever possible and an attempt to integrate social reform with welfare reform. In this way, welfare to work could become "the most successful public policy initiative of this century".

However, welfare to work was not an unqualified, with states such as Washington only registering a 2 per cent decline in case loads and Hawaii seeing a 36 per cent increase.