Letter: A something-for-everyone society

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The Independent Online
AT THE launch of the Labour Party's Social Justice Commission, John Smith declared his preference for universal benefits such as Child Benefit. In our view, this is the correct approach because universal benefits never create the kind of poverty or unemployment traps which result from means-tested benefits being withdrawn as earning rise.

Universal benefits such as Child Benefit are the most effective way of targeting scarce resources because they are cheap to administer, encourage people to earn their way out of their poverty, and are taken back from those who don't need them through the tax system, which is a far more efficient means-test than Income Support earnings rules.

If the Social Justice Commission decides in favour of universal benefits, then it might go on to ask itself whether what is good for children might also be good for everybody. To replace tax allowances and means-tested benefits with a Citizens Income (an unconditional, non-withdrawable and automatic income for every citizen) would encourage enterprise, promote individual liberty and improve social cohesion. It is precisely the kind of social policy Labour is looking for.

Malcolm Torry

Director, Citizens Income

London WC2