David Cameron: What you receive should depend on how you behave

Share
Related Topics

There is an important by-product of the debate about spending cuts: a national conversation about what fairness means in terms of benefit-sharing and burden-sharing.

I think this is badly needed. For a long time in the UK, there have been two misconceptions about fairness that have had the effect of holding the poorest down, entrenching inequality and creating resentment.

Taking on these misconceptions and setting out what fairness really means is crucial to this coalition's plans to build a stronger and fairer society.

The first misconception is the idea that you can measure fairness by how much money you spend on welfare. Of course fairness means giving money to the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. That's why we have boosted child tax credits for the poorest. But if we want to make long-term progress on poverty, we have to recognise that a strategy overly centred on redistribution is doomed to fail.

That was the last government's mistake. They treated the fight against poverty as a numbers game – boosting the welfare bill to push people just above the poverty line.

But the whole picture of poverty is not contained in a snapshot income-distribution decile graph. It says nothing about the vital concept of mobility: the potential for people to get out of a lower decile – and the speed at which they can do so.

Neither does such an approach say anything about dependency: the extent to which people can get stuck in persistent, and frequently quite deep, poverty.

Fairness means helping people out of poverty, thinking not just about the cheque you give them, but the chance you offer them.

A strong family, a decent education, a good job – these are the real escape routes from poverty, so this government is doing all it can to support them, whether that's through early-years intervention or bringing in a pupil premium so children from the poor- est homes go to the best schools.

Most importantly, our welfare reforms are going to make sure work really pays for everyone.

The second misconception is the idea that measuring fairness is all about who receives state help. But this takes no account of where the money comes from.

But taking money from the man who trudges out to work long hours each day so the family next door can live a life on benefits without even thinking about work is not fair.

We need to think carefully about what we are asking people to pay – and we need to recognise that there are ways in which what you receive should depend on how you behave.

That is my obligation to all those who work so hard to pay their taxes. So if someone genuinely can't work, they must be supported – but if they can work but refuse to, we won't let them live off the hard work of others.

A crisis in our public finances and a coalition in our politics have given us our moment. We must use it to start a revolution in fairness; to get as close as we can to a country where everyone can get on and up in life.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

General election 2015: Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
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