By local MP John Hayes
In his landmark 1942 report on welfare, William Beveridge wrote that social insurance was an attack upon want.
But, he added that ‘want’ was only one of ‘the five giants’ we faced, and ‘in some ways the easiest to attack.’
The other wicked giants were Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness.
Since Beveridge, social insurance, the creation of the NHS and the expansion of state education have all proved to be powerful weapons in the battle against these menaces.
However, it has also become clear that some people have been left behind as we’ve seen that welfare can exacerbate rather than solve the challenges the five giants represent.
At its inception the welfare state was based on the principle of individual contributions to a system of social insurance, with benefits providing a safety net in times of need.
Beveridge, who certainly never intended welfare to become a permanent refuge from work, would be shocked and dismayed by the life now of some who subsist on benefits – the sad world exposed in the TV programme ‘Benefits Street’, a place where welfare has allowed people to abdicate responsibility for their own lives.
In a civilised society the vulnerable should be protected, as the fortunate face up to their responsibilities to those less so.
But we must recognise that a healthy life lived in idleness is a life wasted. Everyone should be encouraged to make the most of their talents, to contribute to their community, to be the best they can be.
That’s why helping people out of welfare into work is so critical and so virtuous Welfare reform is an economic necessity, but – most of all – it’s a moral imperative.
We are making good progress; there are now 1.3million more people in work than in 2010, youth unemployment has fallen for 17 consecutive months and many of the long-term unemployed are getting back into work.
In 2009 there were 275,000 more workless households in Britain than there are now and, shockingly, there were 40,000 households in which no one had ever worked!
But moving from welfare to work isn’t just about arid statistics; it’s about the pride in taking home a pay packet, the certainty of being able to provide security for one’s family, and the consequent warmth of wellbeing.
It was Beveridge, after all, who once declared the purpose of Government to be “the happiness of the common man”.
The pursuit of the common good inspires all I do.