The UK Welfare State
This week on Facebook: The UK 2010 State of the nation¹ reported on poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK that: “Over the past 13 years we have seen more and more money spent on the benefits system in an attempt to move people from below the 60% poverty threshold to above it. Expenditure on child-related benefits alone has almost doubled. Yet despite this expenditure, the figures in this document show that this approach is failing.
Income inequality is at its highest since records began; millions of people are simply parked on benefits with little hope of ever progressing into work; there are 800,000 more working age adults in poverty than in 1998/99; and high levels of family breakdown, educational failure, addiction and health inequality are having a severe impact on outcomes for both adults and children.” [sic]
A nation’s social welfare programme is a complex issue, made a cause célèbre↔ by politicians seeking to raise votes and with political parties using the nation’s social welfare programme to blame others for its inadequate funding and the consequential↔¹ effects. What every political party lacks — and will always lack — is any solution to the funding required for a social welfare programme that meets every societal↔ demand.
Social welfare program: any of a variety of governmental programs designed to protect citizens from the economic risks and insecurities of life. The most common types of programs provide benefits to the elderly or retired, the sick or invalid, dependent survivors, mothers, the unemployed, the work-injured, and families. Methods of financing and administration and the scope of coverage and benefits vary widely among countries. Britannica — Social welfare program
A social welfare programme is now an integral fiscal policy of most developed countries, with the ever increasing fiscal↔¹ demands made by it consuming a greater percentage of economic growth. This is particularly true in the EU and while there is no such thing as the European welfare state a social welfare programme is European in origin.
The EU accounts for just 7% of the world’s population and a quarter of its gross domestic product (GDP) but as much as half of its welfare spending. Can EU countries still afford their welfare states?
The above remarks, attributed to Angela Merkel, are that Europe spends too much on social policies and imply that increases in the welfare spending in similar developed countries also impacts on their economic growth. Indirectly it is predicated↔¹ on any State supporting a social welfare programme has its ratio of welfare to GDP as an indication of trends in its economic growth. The UK cut the amount it spends on what Eurostat calls social protection (as a proportion of GDP) between 2011 and 2014 from 29.1% to 27.4%.
The welfare state concept of government in which the state or a well-established network of social institutions plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organisation. Britannica — Welfare State
The UK 2010 State of the nation report is unlikely to have been widely read and hardly an influence on public opinion, which is more likely to support the view that welfare in UK offers a free ride, as reported in the article Living On Welfare In The U.K. or draw their conclusions from the YouTube video Why Work. Public support for welfare spending has been in long-term decline² and yet many politicians (particularly to left of the political spectrum) argue that the UK economy is far more affected by the scale of tax avoidance and evasion. It is suggested that the Panama Papers revelations indicate that wealthy people are using the complexity of the global tax system to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
The expenditure on welfare in the UK shows how politicians constantly misuse, mislead and quite deliberately misinform public opinion over their actual intentions regarding any social welfare programme³.
Millions of pensioners, workers and their employers have no idea that National Insurance Contributions are not being used to pay higher pensions and benefits, instead they are being used to balance the government’s books. The National Insurance Fund now has a surplus, which successive governments have borrowed in order to spend on other items of public expenditure. Employers and employees still — largely — believe that NICs co-fund a state social services revenue programme designed to serve its contributors. The National Insurance Fund — Posted by Peter on Jan 17, 2014
1. Four reasons why welfare reform is a delusion: When thinking about what an appropriate welfare state looks like in this parliament we would also do well to consider the findings of Professor John Hills’s latest book, which emphasises that we all rely on ‘welfare’ at some point in our lives. A sensible debate about the affordability of welfare benefits should be framed with reference to accurate statistics about the recipients of welfare spending. The government’s aim of producing a fairer and more affordable system is hamstrung by ignoring fiscal facts on one hand while perpetuating inaccuracies about the profile of benefit claimants on the other.
2. Refresh Britain’s threadbare postwar welfare state for today: Pouring money into moribund systems will not bring about the necessary change. Equally, starving the welfare state of cash without making alternative provision results in greater costs — both human and financial. Problems are displaced on to our streets in the form of crime, homelessness and alienation.
3. If we are serious about eliminating poverty, we need to re-humanise social security: But the crisis of claimants was compounded by 2012’s Welfare Reform Act, with which the government redoubled its efforts to end just and humane welfare provision in the UK. The Act sought to end a mythical culture of “welfare dependency” – in fact, studies suggest that less than 1% of workless households have two generations who have never worked. To put this in context, almost all of us claim the state pension – does this make us all welfare dependent? The Act struck a series of blows to the welfare system.
4. Why welfare is a common good: The welfare state reforms of 1945-51 still provide the backbone of our social services today, most notably the National Health Service (NHS). They were based on universal principles (all should benefit) and collective investment (all should contribute, for instance through National Insurance). However, since then, they have been much challenged and much changed. These collective principles have been undermined by the weakening of universalism through the growing impact of means-testing and the individualisation and privatisation of services such as housing, pensions and social care.
5. Benefits in Britain — separating the facts from the fiction: The welfare state is a big part of British family life, with 20.3 million families receiving some kind of benefit (64% of all families), about 8.7 million of them pensioners. For 9.6 million families, benefits make up more than half of their income (30% of all families), around 5.3 million of them pensioners. The number of families receiving benefits will be between 1 and 2 million fewer now because of changes to child tax credits that mean some working families who previously got a small amount now get nothing.
Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:
- A bold text subscript¹ above and preceding the title here, is to a link (url) that is usually free.
- Non-bold superscripts are links (urls) to the intended context of definitions↔¹·¹.
- Brackets containing a number e.g. (1) reference a particular article (1-5).
- A long read url* (especially below) is followed by an asterisk.
- Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
- JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹State of the nation report — poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK (pdf): This report sets out a comprehensive assessment of poverty in the UK at the start of the new Government, establishing a clear ‘state of the nation’ overview that will be used to inform policy decisions in the months and years ahead as the Government advances its aims of tackling poverty and improving life chances.
²Benefits and Welfare (pdf): The last five years have seen, at most, a very small reversal of the long-term decline in support for welfare spending. When it comes to extra spending on benefits, the public is far more likely to prioritise pensions and benefits for disabled people, and far less likely to prioritise spending on bene ts for single parents or unemployed people. Since 2010, those who identify with the Labour Party have become more supportive of spending more on welfare and more sympathetic to the unemployed, while the views of Conservatives have changed less or not at all.
³Poverty and Social Exclusion (url/pdf/book): In Poverty in the United Kingdom (1979) Peter Townsend examined relative deprivation covering a wide range of aspects of living standards, both material and social. He found that there were levels of income below which consumption and participation fell well below what might be seen as normal or acceptable in an increasingly affluent society and argued that this group should be seen to be in poverty.
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