Short-termism in the welfare debate is shortchanging our society

Making access to benefits tougher for young people could be counter-productive

Share
Related Topics

Claims and counter-claims about the impact of EU migrants on our welfare system are obscuring a proper debate about the role of Britain’s welfare state. Conflating these issues in public and political discourse jeopardises our ability to have an intelligent and much-needed discussion about them separately and on their own merits.

Predictions about the economic impact of migration vary wildly. Conversely, we can expect with some certainty further cuts to the welfare budget, with George Osborne suggesting a further £12bn of cuts will be needed after 2015.

An influential alliance of the Office for Budget Responsibility, the IFS and the Deputy Prime Minister seem to agree that these cuts would disproportionately affect the working poor and sick. There is a danger that removing state welfare support for millions of families becomes the answer to a very different debate about the Government’s approach to EU migration.

Failing to distinguish between a legitimate discussion regarding migration from the EU, and whether or not families can access vital support will only foster a shallow public debate which sidelines long-term stability in favour of short-term cash savings.

A hard-headed analysis of how we prioritise public spending is overdue, but to truly guarantee the wellbeing of individuals facing hard times, debate must do justice to the vast complexity of welfare policy-making. 

The longer we look at our safety net as a credit card statement of isolated, independent, burdensome cash transfers, which can simply be cut, frozen or increased, the harder it will be to solve the long-term challenges facing the welfare state in our country. 

The debate around welfare provision must include consideration of whether people can access the skills, housing, education and healthcare they need to live independently.  

Take two issues selected for scrutiny recently. First, limiting support given to parents to help them raise their children. Second, cutting housing support for young people. Taking these proposals forward may make the national balance sheets look better in the short-term, but cutting and capping without consideration of implications for how people affected can live their life is harmful and potentially costly in the long-run. 

Making it tougher for young people to afford to move out of their parents’ home, take a job somewhere else and contribute to the public purse could be counter-productive and damaging. Cutting Child Benefit may make it harder for parents to give children the strong start in life they need in order to be able to live independently and rely less on support in later life.

Short-termism in the debate obscures the importance of investing in the future of individuals. Tailored support is required to help young people live independently through stable employment, not a system which is all stick and precious little carrot.  Not only have young people borne the brunt of the recession but the same people and future generations of school-leavers will foot the bill for the effects of an ageing population. Full-blooded investment in the current generations of young adults must surely be a down-payment on the security of future generations of elderly people. 

Maximising the life-chances of people in the UK demands a debate about the validity of welfare spending on its own terms; not as an afterthought, or even worse, as a bit-part player, playing second-fiddle to the rights and wrongs of migration policy.

We cannot afford for this debate to be a mere subplot. As a society we face fundamental questions about how we support each other: how to tailor provision to provide value for money and empower people? How to balance the intergenerational demands on our state safety net? What support can be delivered locally and what needs to stay in Whitehall?

The answers to these questions involve tough choices about making the most of resources available. Without strong argument and deliberation, those tough choices are reduced simply to rash impulses.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower