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Iain Duncan Smith’s speech on welfare reform – full text

23 January 2014

The Work and Pensions Secretary was speaking to the Centre for Social Justice this morning.


It is a pleasure to be hosted today by the Centre for Social Justice – setting out a vision for Britain’s welfare state alongside the organisation where, in a sense, it all started.

Within their critique, the CSJ set out a plan for reform for Government, and today I want to look at that.

But in 2010, we inherited an economy which had entered the worst recession in living memory, with the deficit rising, costs spiralling, and GDP shrinking. People were losing their jobs and feared for the future.

It was vital that we immediately set out a long-term economic plan to put this right and secure Britain’s future – at the heart of which was the need to cut the deficit.

The Left would frame this as a rigid dichotomy:

On one side, those opposing cuts, decrying all savings as an assault on the poor and vulnerable.

On the other, those urging that the whip be cracked harder, clamping down on spending and making deeper cuts.

Yet the reality is rather more complex.

After all, if we didn’t reduce the deficit, the biggest losers in the end would be those who depend most on public services and the welfare safety net.

So today, I want to show that we would have wanted to reform the welfare state, even if we had no deficit.

As Conservatives, we should hate the idea of people with unfulfilled potential languishing on welfare.

Welfare reform is fundamentally about opportunity and life change…

… cutting the cost of social failure by transforming the life chances and outcomes of those on benefits…

… restoring fiscal stability, and restoring lives at the same time.

Hidden reality

10 years ago at the CSJ, our aim was to gain a better understanding of why people found themselves trapped in disadvantage, and to develop solutions for helping them break free and secure their futures.

In visit after visit to some of Britain’s most deprived areas, I came to see how urgently that life change was needed.

In neighbourhoods blighted by worklessness… where gangs were prevalent, debt and drugs the norm… families broken down… those living there had one thing in common; they were for the most part dependent on the state for their daily needs.

With income inequality under Labour the worst for a generation, whilst the middle class majority were aware of the problems in poor communities, they remained largely unaware of the true nature of life on some of our estates.

For too long we let these problems be ghettoised as though they were a different country.

Even now, for the most part they remain out of sight – meaning people are shocked when they are confronted with a TV programme such as Benefits Street.

Failed system

The reality is that our welfare system has become distorted, no longer the safety net it was intended to be.

Too often it is an entrapment – as it has been for a million people left on incapacity benefits for a decade or more, or the more than 4 million abandoned on out-of-work benefits even before the recession.

At its very worst, the present system makes criminals out of those trapped in its clutches. Faced with losing up to 94 pence of every pound they earn because of how benefits are withdrawn, too many end up in the shadow economy or working cash in hand.

Such behaviour can never be condoned, but it is a tragic state of affairs – and a mark of how far the current system has failed – that people should feel pushed into crime by having their aspirations to make a living penalised. Surely the system should deliver for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.

Positive choice

Met with the problem of social breakdown, the Left would have it that a sympathetic approach is to sustain these people on slightly better incomes – the accepted wisdom of the last Government being that poverty is about money, and more state money should solve it.

As a result, Labour ratcheted up welfare bills by an enormous 60%.

Yet rarely did they stop to ask what impact that money was having… no matter if it kept individuals from the labour market… if it labelled them ‘incapable’… if it placed them in housing that they could never have afforded if they took a job.

Where for most people, their life’s direction of travel is dictated by the informed decisions they make: can they afford a large family… should they move in order to take up a better-paid job… can they risk a mortgage to get a bigger home?

Yet, too often for those locked in the benefits system, that process of making responsible and positive choices has been skewed – money paid out to pacify them regardless, with no incentive to aspire for a better life.

From dependence to independence

I have long believed there is no kindness in a benefits system that traps people, leaving them in a twilight world where life is dependent on what is given to you, rather than what you are able to create.

Yet casual disapproval of those on benefits is also too easy – it does us as politicians well to remember that it was generations of politicians that created this welfare system that now traps them.

Our single-minded aim has been, and must continue to be, to change a system that has left too many only with short-term, narrow options within parameters set by the state.

Of course in the most severe cases of sickness and disability, it is right that welfare should support individuals, but even then, it must be about more than sustainment alone. It should be about helping people to take greater control over their lives.

For all those who are able, work should be seen as the route to doing so – for work is about more than just money. It is about what shapes us, lifts our families, delivers security, and helps rebuild our communities. Work has to be at the heart of our welfare reform plan, or all we will do is increase dependency not lessen it.

‘Reform’, often overused, is in reality about transformation and life change. Improving people’s lives through the choices they make. A journey from dependence to independence.

As Conservatives, that is part of our Party’s historic mission – just look at Wilberforce and Shaftesbury – to put hope back where it has gone, to give people from chaotic lives security through hard work… helping families to improve the quality of their own lives.

In Government, the challenge has been to act on this ambition and make changes to restore a creaking and chaotic welfare state into one which delivers on that vision for life change.

Welfare as a journey that people are on, rather than a destination where they stay.

Universal Credit

Let me explain:

This guiding principle underpins the welfare reforms we are driving through now: families should face similar choices, regardless of whether they are on benefits or in work… and the welfare system should both reward the right choices and remove the stumbling blocks in people’s way.

I am not going to list them all but I want to illustrate what I mean by way of some examples.

First and foremost in achieving change is Universal Credit… simplifying a mess of benefits and tax credits… but what’s more, resetting it so that time on benefits resembles life in work.

Take the fact that today, over three quarters of people in work are paid monthly – a big change from 20 years ago. Yet the benefit system remains unchanged. An archaic arrangement of fortnightly payments reflects a work environment very different to the experience of most, a big upheaval for those used to being in a job.

With the majority of those who fall unemployed back in work in months, why make life so difficult for them? Surely the journey between benefit and work should be simple.

That is why Universal Credit is paid monthly – it comes as no surprise that in the Pathfinder areas, over three quarters are now confident about managing their money each month.

In turn, this frees up our resources to target help at the vulnerable few who do need supporting.

For those out of work for longer, imagine how hard it is to move into employment and budget monthly, when all you have known is fortnightly money. Surely we should help this minority to develop their budgeting skills, easing that transition into work… instead of simply waiting for them to crash out of a job because they couldn’t cope managing their money over a longer period.

It is the same with getting people online and paying their own rent. With 92% of jobs requiring basic IT skills, there is a real opportunity to prepare people for the world of work.

Most of all, we achieve that by making work pay… allowing the person who has never had a job that moment of incredible realisation – that their first step into work is the first step in the rest of their lives.

Claim your gift

Claimant commitment

This, then, is the fundamental cultural change that Universal Credit delivers: welfare should be seen as no different from work itself. For those who are not employed but capable of doing so, whilst you may not have a job, the state supports you – you are ‘in work to find work’.

Through the ‘claimant commitment’, which deliberately mirrors a contract of employment, we are making this deal unequivocal. Those in work have obligations to their employer; so too claimants a responsibility to the taxpayer: in return for support, and where they are able, they must do their bit to find work.

As we roll out Universal Credit, the behavioural effect we are seeing has been remarkable.

Universal Credit claimants are now spending twice as long looking for work, understand their requirements better, and are more assiduous in meeting them.

This is welfare reform in action: changing the dynamics in the system, making things simpler, preparing people for work, ensuring work pays, and rewarding positive behaviour.

Ensuring security through work, just as our pensions reforms help ensure security in retirement.

Changing a culture and changing lives.

Benefit cap

But as well as smoothing people’s journey into work, it is vital that we also remove the obstacles blocking their path.

That is what the benefit cap is all about – another example of striking cultural change… ending the something for nothing entitlement and returning fairness to the system.

Before we implemented the cap, it was possible for people to receive, in some cases, almost twice as much in benefits as the average weekly wage.

This system wasn’t fair on hardworking taxpayers, paying out ever-increasing amounts to sustain others in lifestyles they could barely dream of affording themselves.

But importantly it has not been fair on benefit recipients themselves. How many of us here would want to live trapped in a system where it was more worthwhile sitting benefits than going to work.

Now, having capped the amount paid to some 30,000 households, these families face the same choices about where they live and what they can afford as everyone else.

What’s more, by exempting those on tax credits, we have ended the perverse incentive to remain on welfare as a way of life and left the door open for a return to work.

Since being notified that they potentially stood to be capped, more than 19,000 people have made that positive step into work.

Spare room subsidy

So it is with the removal of spare room subsidy.

For too long, we have been content to subsidise people on Housing Benefit living in homes in the UK which had a million spare bedrooms… taking money from taxpayers, many themselves making difficult decisions about where they can afford to live.

We became accustomed to paying out for this – even when, at the same time, 2 million families were being squeezed into miserably overcrowded accommodation and having to sit on housing waiting lists in the hope of obtaining a home.

Too many lives unnecessarily blighted and insecure.

Whilst we always knew that it would be difficult, we simply could not let it go on like that.

Interestingly, in general, Labour’s position in opposition to all of our reforms has been incredibly short-sighted and opportunistic. Not only have they opposed the vast majority of our changes, but they have pandered to their worst instincts through campaigns set to whip up unnecessary fear.

Nothing illustrates it more than this issue.

For when they were in Government, one of their most respected Work and Pensions Ministers, Malcolm Wicks, expressed Labour’s:

“hope to implement a flat rate housing benefit system in the social sector, similar to that anticipated in the private rented sector”.

Ending the subsidy has meant that everyone – be they in the social or private sector – faces choices about what they can afford, and others in overcrowded homes can be helped.

What’s more, it has also prompted councils and housing associations to understand their tenants’ needs and make better decisions about managing their resources, instead of building the wrong houses to meet demand – a situation which did too little to help those in need.

Pathways to poverty

It is not enough to manage the symptoms of disadvantage. To make a meaningful and lasting difference requires that we treat the cause.

Whether it be worklessness and welfare dependency… family breakdown… educational failure … debt … or addiction… these are the multiple and overlapping problems that cause people to find themselves in difficulty in the first place – as we defined it at the CSJ, the five pathways that lead people into poverty.

In office, I believe we have made real inroads to addressing these pathways, always with the aim of life change… establishing social justice as a priority for Government, and paving the way to go even further in future.

We have put families first – looking at the family as a whole and addressing their problems in the round. Now as we look to extend the Troubled Families Programme from 120,000 to another 400,000 families, those once at the hands of piecemeal and inefficient social services will receive the intensive, tailored support that can bring lasting change.

After the family, next comes children’s education. Here, where previously those from poorer backgrounds were allowed to trail behind their peers, now my colleague Michael Gove is ensuring that once again education is seen by struggling families as the route to a better life for their children. A good education policy is one that leaves no child left behind.

Through our welfare reforms, as I have explained, we are getting people into employment – and we have fought so hard for investment in childcare, in order that work pays when they get there.

Through ongoing investment in credit unions and finally clamping down on the predatory practices of payday lenders, we are helping individuals escape the spiral of problem debt.

And through pioneering new approaches across the prison, employment and rehabilitation services, we are pushing ahead with an approach to tackling addiction that delivers lasting life change – meaning individuals getting clean and back on track, free from drugs and alcohol.

It is interventions such as this, and many more, that will make a real difference…

… helping people who might once have been left on the sidelines to turn their own lives around.

Poverty plus a pound

The importance of this historic break from the old ways of approaching social problems cannot be underestimated.

We must learn the lessons of the previous decade, where despite Labour’s best intentions and despite an unprecedented level of spending, the Government failed to meet the poverty target they had set themselves.

I have long maintained that the first problem was the target itself – a fixation on relative income and a moving poverty line ever harder to reach.

But equally problematic was their mechanistic approach, as Labour chased that target by hiking income transfers to families and children… spending more on benefits overall, and creating a whole new system of credits which cost four and half times more than those it replaced.

Between 2003 and 2010, the last Government spent over £170 billion on tax credit. 70% of that spending – some £120 billion – was paid in child tax credits alone.

Yet I believe that spending failed to meet its objective, because it put process ahead of people… failing to ask what impact it was having on changing lives.

To put it another way, what more could have been achieved had that money been invested in a more focused way to create lasting improvements to people’s chances… be it higher attainment in schools, better budgeting skills, recovery from addiction, and so on.

That is why the Government’s child poverty strategy recognises that money matters – but, also, that other factors are fundamental to children’s current wellbeing and their future life chances.

In the past, whilst some families may have moved over an arbitrary poverty line as a result of more welfare spending, sadly, too often their lives remained unproductive and insecure.

Life change

This terrible waste of human potential showed itself not only in the child poverty figures, but also in the labour market.

Common sense should tell us that Britain cannot run a modern flexible economy, if at the same time, so many of the people who service that economy are trapped in dependency on the state, unwilling or unable to play a productive part.

Under Labour, millions were left on out of work benefits unchallenged.

This in turn, helped to create a demand for foreign workers, as business looked to fill the jobs that British people didn’t want or couldn’t get.

In just 5 years between 2005 and 2010, the number of British people in jobs fell by some 400,000, while the number of foreigners in British jobs soared by more than 700,000.

In other words, for every British person who fell out of work, almost two foreign nationals gained employment.

Short-term policy making created damaging long-term consequences…

… destroying the ethos of a whole section of our society, left behind in workless households and those deprived estates that I described at the start.

The simple truth is that we should never have been prepared to see a growing number of our fellow citizens fall into dependency, hopelessness and despair. For without their active contribution we will be unable to create that modern economy.

It is not only migration that rises as a result. Crime and health costs are high in such difficult communities.

The last Government’s economic policy seemed to be founded on bringing in cheap labour from abroad while British families sat on the sidelines. Apart from the bad economics, it was also damaging people’s lives.

Imagine the damage done to some two million children living in households where no one worked.


No – leaving people behind is not a long-term economic model.

Instead we have stuck to our economic plan, and now, the economy is growing.

This growth has produced a rise of more than one and a half million people in private sector jobs, and, this quarter, the largest increase in employment for 40 years.

Importantly, we are also seeing promising signs that the trend of bringing in migrant workers at the expense of British workers is being reversed.

As we reach record levels of people in work, the latest data that shows that of the rise in employment over the past year, over 90 per cent went to UK nationals.

What’s more, the number of people unavailable for work – having dropped out of the labour market altogether – is at its lowest level for two decades, driven by falling numbers claiming the main out-of-work benefits – down by over half a million since 2010.

Britain now has a lower proportion of workless households than at any time under the last Government…

… and 274,000 fewer children are living in workless households – meaning children who now have a role model to look up to, offering hope and self-worth, with aspirations for their own future transformed.

As the economy recovers, this is where the real effect of our reforms is felt: British people having a fair chance to access the jobs being created… taking up work that pays… ensuring everyone can begin to see the benefits of Britain’s growth.

This is not just about those who are on welfare it is also vital reform for those who are not.

They will benefit not just from reduced costs but perhaps more importantly, from a long-term social settlement… which, in turn, will lead to a settled society in which all are acknowledged to play a full part.

Economic plan

Nothing illustrates the Government’s commitment to this process of life change more than the Chancellor’s confidence that, because our economic plan is working, Britain can afford a rise in the National Minimum Wage.

He is absolutely right – for restoring the value of the Minimum Wage would send a powerful positive message.

His recommendation shows that we care that people on low incomes should see a better level of pay to give them greater security.

A stable economic settlement requires a strong social settlement.

You cannot reform one without the other, and thus welfare reform is one very important part of a larger, long-term economic plan.

With the public finances left in tatters by the last Government… and our rapidly growing benefits bill a significant reason why the deficit was so high… curbing welfare spending has been crucial.

Working closely with the Chancellor, as part of cutting the deficit – by a third already, by half next year – we have set the welfare state on a sustainable footing for the future.

That is achieved by helping people move towards self-sufficiency – in order that the demand on welfare itself lessens.

As a result, welfare spending is now falling as a percentage of GDP…

… and our reforms are forecast to save a total of around £50 billion by the end of this Parliament.

Yet, our real success, I believe, has been to reframe the argument – challenging a narrative beloved of the Left… which focuses so exclusively on how much is being spent on welfare that it risks overlooking the real question… that it is not about how much goes into the benefit system, but what difference it makes to people at the other end.

Further reform

We all accept the need to continue the process of welfare reform – and the next Government will have to make further changes.

But more than that, we are committed to making a lasting difference, preventing spending from simply popping back up further down the line – which is why we will remain focussed on life change.

A reformed welfare system that will catch you when you fall, but lift you, when you can rise.

Our vital reforms are a major undertaking that reaches beyond this Parliament.

Thus as we look towards establishing a manifesto for the next election, it is a case of looking at which parts of the system promote productive choices, and which are actually limiting people’s horizons…

… asking how best we can lift people up, urging them forwards on the journey to independence and security.


Britain will only be great again if all in our society are part of our economic recovery and growth.

Conservative philosophy has always been about people’s lives… about families… about Burke’s ‘little platoons’ that make up our communities.

So as we modernise our work practices and create a more flexible and responsive economy, it is important that this is underpinned by social change.

Everyone who can playing a productive role…

… individuals in control of their own lives…

… and the next generation of children aspiring to even more.

In other words, reform that is not just about state institutions, but about social renewal – part of a Conservative vision of strong families with hope for their children’s future, but who also care about their communities.

The task that we have set out to achieve is hardly a small undertaking.

And it is not easy, as those arrayed against us do all they can to misrepresent what we are doing…

…. angling for a return to the failed and expensive policies of the past, when success was measured by the amount of money you spent, not the lives you improved.

The purpose

So, the purpose for Government is not radical but balanced… not grand but simple.

It is that through our economic and welfare changes we will have helped people feel that bit more secure about their lives and their grandparent’s lives…

… feel more hopeful about their children’s futures…

… and rekindle their pride in their communities, as their neighbours also begin to thrive.

That is the human dimension of all that we do.

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Show comments
  • TheGreek000 .

    plasterer all my life .on sick with illness .put back to work begining of sept.fell again after 2 weeks. serious fracture of hip.16 weeks no putting leg down.pip assesment after 13 weeks.22points.result letter telling me to attend back to work interview.bad enough dealing with injury but nothing compared to dealing with capita and dwp.dont believe the tories

  • Michael Walsh

    Conservative Propaganda – that is all this is, nothing more, nothing less – A lack of reality

  • paul oxley

    Has IDS ever shown any leadership or ability in
    any of his positions as leader or secretary of state…NO

    Has IDS ever experienced poverty at first hand or
    even to anyone he knows? NO

    Did IDS change a single one of his hard right views on
    the Welfare State post his Easterhouse trip where
    he used his handkerchief to conceal his lack of tears? NO

    Has IDS disastrous Universal Credit plan shamefully
    supported by foolish Labour front benchers any
    realistic hope of succeeding..NO

    Does IDS use totally made up statistics and at times
    blatant lies to spread his poisonous message to
    anyone gullible and stupid enough to believe it..NO

    Does IDS pay any rent….Er NO he doesnt

    I give you the hypocrite of hypocrites, sponging, talentless,
    failed leader, failed minister, failed human being IDS

  • Mynydd

    “But in 2010, we inherited an economy which had entered the worst recession in living memory” What Mr Duncan Smith should have said. in 2010 we had inherited an economy that had just come out of the worst recession in living memory with a low growth rate of 1%.

  • Jane Young

    This would all be great if in-work poverty wasn’t becoming one of the biggest socio-economic problems, if employment was not inherently insecure with the growth of zero-hours contracts to enable employers to get away with providing no security, sick pay or holidays for their employees, if disabled people who are already the poorest were not being pushed to desperation by suddenly losing big lumps of their housing benefit because they have bedrooms they use and objectively need because their lives don’t fit into IDS’s neat little boxes, if sick and disabled people were not taking the flak for the failure of employers to actually want to employ people who aren’t fully fit, if people weren’t being left with no income at all because they’ve been sanctioned for attending a job interview, if people who are seriously ill in hospital weren’t being hounded by Atos and the Jobcentre for not replying to letters…. It’s easy to listen to a speech like this if you aren’t troubled by reality….

    I agree with IDS’s ideas, to a large extent, but he’s trying to apply them with little understanding of the complexity of the human condition and the reality of people’s lives. No-one who cares not if sick people have nothing to live on can seriously expect to implement reforms like this fairly or successfully. IDS needs to take a serious reality check rather than sticking his fingers in his ears and going la-la-la when ordinary people try to explain the real impact of his badly implemented policies. Anyone who thinks food banks don’t have a good understanding of the reasons people need them, and has so little respect for those who are helping the poorest that he refuses to listen to them, is fit to create policies that impact on the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged.

    • HJ777

      This is nonsense.

      Zero hours contracts are, according to surveys, popular with 86% of people who are on them. They are generally an alternative to pure casual labour and are superior because they contain an element of holiday pay, NI contributions, PAYE, etc.. Many of the people on them (and it is only a very small percentage of the workforce) are students, for example.

      As for housing benefit, the changes only affect social housing tenants who were previously receiving benefit based on the housing they are in, rather than the housing they need, unlike housing benefit recipients in private housing. This just puts housing benefit on the same basis for everyone (albeit social housing tenants still have an advantage because they are charged below-market rents in the first place).

      • Jane Young

        I never said zero hours contracts don’t suit some people – they’re just not a sufficiently secure form of work on which to support a family.

        As for social housing, why do you think two-thirds of those affected by the size criteria are disabled? One reason is that many disabled people need some kind of adaptation; few private landlords allow adaptations, for obvious reasons, and even if they did, there’s little point if they’ve only granted an assured shorthold tenanucy.

        Contrary to Government spin and Cameron’s erroneous comments at PMQ’s, disabled people aren’t exempt from these changes and local authorities aren’t necessarily providing discretionary housing payments to help. This means that disabled people and their families are having to find extra money they don’t have. This is a particular problem, for example, for partners who are unable to share a bedroom because one partner is severely disabled and needs specialist equipment. In those situations, the caring partner is often saving the state a small fortune, proving 24 hour care for the cost of carers’ allowance (which works out at under £2 per hour if they were only caring for 35 hours a week). Penalizing them for having the audacity to sleep in a bedroom seems churlish at best, cruel and short-sighted at worst. And would you prefer to see kidney dialysis patients being treated in hospital 3 times a week than in their own homes, where they’re penalized for the room containing the dialysis equipment? The problem for the Government is that social housing plays a very specific role these days (especially now there’s so little of it), so the problems inherent in the new size criteria are of a different order of magnitude than they are in the private sector, which is why there are so many stories coming out. For some reason, it appears that no-one actually informed Ministers of these issues, hence the unseemly scramble to try to justify the unjustifiable.

        Anyway, the indicator of the Government’s true motivation is the fact those who are the most likely to under-occupy, pensioners 8whose children have left home, are exempt. So no overcrowded family will benefit from their home becoming available since that’s not nearly as politically expedient as penalizing those who happen to be a few years younger.

        • HJ777

          The survey evidence is that zero-hours contracts suit the vast majority of the relatively small percentage of the working population who are on them. Of course, they don’t suit 100% of the people who are on them – what type of employment contract does? Where is your evidence that the alternatives, such as casual labour, are better?

          All the government is doing is making the benefit rules for social housing tenants the same as for those in private tenancies – no more, no less. These people still maintain the advantage that their rents are lower than market rents.

          You can claim this is unjust, but all you can try to do is to pick out what you claim are special cases – they will exist under any set of benefit rules that could be designed and that you could imagine. Of course, what you are ignoring is the much larger number of people on benefits (many of them disabled, too) who are stuck in homes that are far too small for their needs, while others are subsidised (at their expense) to remain in homes much larger than they need. These changes are not intended to save money – they are intended to use that money more efficiently to benefit more people, more equitably – but you seem to be opposed to that.

          • Jane Young

            Since, as you rightly say, it’s important to enable those who are overcrowded to get the size of housing they need, why are empty-nesters of pensionable ago exempt? Such people are more likely to have moved into social housing before it became the relatively rare resource it is today, now that it’s frequently used to house people whose particular needs are difficult to meet in the private sector.

            I don’t have a problem with the intent of the policy, what I have a problem with is that little account has been taken of people’s real needs. It is not equitable to penalise people for only using the space they need, or for living in the homes that were allocated and adapted for their needs. And it’s not about special cases, it’s about the fact that the size criteria has a disproportionate impact on disabled people BECAUSE they are more likely to live in social housing which is generally more suited to their specific needs. That’s the point.

            • HJ777

              I have explained, above why, for both humane and pragmatic reasons, those of pensionable age are exempt. Do you disagree with these reasons? if so, why?

              What you have acknowledged, but conveniently seem to forget in your argument, is the fact that discretionary funds have been provided to local authorities precisely to allow them to exempt special cases. If the local authorities are not using these funds for the purpose for which they were intended, why are you blaming the government (which has provided them) rather than the local authorities who have decided not to use them for the purpose for which they were intended? Am I being cynical in suspecting, in some cases at least, politically-motivated local authorities of caring less about helping these people than they do about wanting the government to get the blame?

              • Jane Young

                I apologise that I didn’t notice the latter part of your response; that was a genuine oversight as I’m doing this on a phone. I take your point, although there are many people who have mental health issues for whom the same argument could be made. It would make more sense, though, to apply a specific age limit, higher than pension age, since the issues you raise are generally applicable at a somewhat higher age than 65. However, I’m not advocating that older people be affected, just pointing out that they’re just as likely to have spare rooms.

                The use of discretionary housing payments to provide mitigation for disabled tenants is highly problematic. Their discretionary nature means that the Government cannot legally direct or fetter decisions on their use and those who desperately need them cannot readily appeal if their application is turned down. They could potentially apply for a judicial review of a decision to deny their application, but the Government’s legal aid reforms and the cumbersome nature of judicial review make this very difficult. To make vulnerable people dependent on the exercise of a discretionary power, with no right of appeal, is particularly problematic when it is their home that’s at risk.

                There are no easy answers to this issue, but there is little evidence in the paper trail that ministers took much account of the increasingly specialist nature of social housing now that there’s so little of it available due to the neglect of successive governments (both Labour and Tory). In addition, especially given the pressures on the social care budget, many disabled people are very reliant on local informal support networks, the benefit of which ceases if they’re forced to move elsewhere to a smaller property. This is what I mean by the difference between responsible and irresponsible reform; just as you don’t want older people to end up as “collateral damage”, so I don’t want disabled people to either.

                • HJ777

                  The pension age is gradually rising and the other thing about pensioners is that they are more likely to be on a fixed income, although I accept your point.

                  Personally, I think that the whole social security system would be better for it being more local and discretionary as it would help get away from the concept that anyone is entitled to anything from ‘the state’ (because, of course, the state has no money, it is just a construct between taxpayers and those who receive their money. However, this would also require local authorities to be more autonomous (including financially) and less politically motivated towards government policies as a result. Local people would have more interest in how best to help the needy and less tolerant towards giving to those who aren’t really needy. the whole system has just become too anonymous.

                  However, this is a longer term thing. In practice, the reforms have not resulted in people (especially disabled people) being thrown out of their homes as has been predicted by political opponents. Indeed, there is evidence that people who were ‘underhoused’ are benefitting rom a more efficient use of the housing stock. The reform merely aligned the housing benefit rules for those in the social sector with those already existing in the private sector (but those in the social sector retain the advantage of below-market rents).

                  I don’t accept your assertion that we now have very little social housing available in the UK. In fact, a high proportion of our housing stock is social housing compared to most European countries (it’s around 20% here, versus less than a third of that in Germany, for example). Do we have a problem of affordable housing? Yes – but that is a function of supply vs demand in general. We simply have not allowed enough housing to be built as demand has risen – but that is due to a dysfunctional market, planning restrictions, etc.. It s not specific to social housing.

                • Mynydd

                  The other thing about pensioners is that our life long savings and pensions under this government amount to nothing. I have just been informed that my company pension will increase this year by £5.10

                • HJ777

                  Was it not the last government that raided pension funds by over £5bn per year?

                  And if you have an index-linked pension, especially a public sector taxpayer-subsided one, consider yourself very lucky.

                  I am self-employed and this is the 7th year in a row where I have not been able to raise my daily rate, let alone increase it. I have no complaint about this – it reflects the underlying state of economy (which was pretty stagnant even before the credit boom turned to bust).

                • Mynydd

                  What about this governments change in which index is used. RPI/CPI It will cost me thousands

                • Jane Young

                  We don’t have evidence that disabled people are being thrown out of their homes, you’re right. However, we do have evidence of significant hardship – the “heat or eat” dilemma; there has been quite a bit of research done by housing associations. Also, as someone who is fortunate enough not to experience such stress, I hate to imagine the insecurity of not knowing whether I will get a DHP next time mine expires, given that it is necessary to get it to stay in my own home. That can hardly be good for mental health!

                  I can see the attraction of decisions made closer to reality, but there has to be consistency and justice demands there should be a right of appeal to an independent judge or adjudicator; there is no such right in relation to a decision not to grant a DHP. The use of discretion encourages the rise of “little hitlers” who, if not subject to the rule of law, can basically do exactly what they like. For the only remedy for an unreasonable decision to be judicial review is neither just nor efficient.

                  The other problem with locally-decided policy is that it hampers mobility; we currently have a situation where the fact that social care is decided locally prevents disabled people from moving to another area for work or family reasons (I have a friend who couldn’t take up an academic post in another part of the country because the local authority where she was going couldn’t guarantee she’d get the support she needed to live and work there); for this reason, the Government is finally adding reasonably adequate portability clauses into the Care Bill. But we don’t want a situation where we then decrease mobility by introducing localism to the extent that people who need other kinds of support daren’t move because there’s no guarantee they’ll get it at the other end. That could be a serious “unintended consequence” of localizing support.

                  Finally, housing associations are reporting that they’re unable to let larger homes and that the changes are having an impact on their ability to invest in both existing and new housing, mainly due to rent arrears. They are also spending a great deal of staff time supporting tenants, but I’ve not heard that they’ve received any help towards that. Tenants are being told they can’t even move if they want to if they don’t pay off their arrears – but they don’t have the resources to pay off their arrears, which is why they’re trying to downsize!! So even those trying to “do the right thing” are stopped from doing so. Crazy!!

                • HJ777

                  We are seeing claims of a “heat or eat” dilemma claimed to be caused by these changes, but no independent evidence as far as I am aware.

                  As for mobility, it is the existence of social housing let at below market rents that hinders mobility. Once you have such housing, you have an incentive not to move if you can’t get it elsewhere because you would go on the waiting list. This is one reason why social housing let at below market rents is a bad idea (another reason that it is a bad idea is that once you are in social housing at a discounted rent, then you get that subsidy indefinitely, regardless of income. Frank Dobson (ex cabinet minister) and Bob Crow (highly paid union leader) are two such examples – neither have any incentive to move out of social housing even though both could easily afford to do so).

                  As for the mismatch between home size and demand, then that is down to bad planning by social housing providers. The government isn’t responsible for that. Neither is the government responsible for the attitude of social housing providers towards those in rent arrears. You are blaming the wrong target.

                • Jane Young

                  I don’t agree with wealthy people living in social housing and paying low rents. But if all social housing rents were increased to market levels, many more people would be caught up in having to claim housing benefit, so it’s not a straightforward issue.

                  On the topic of independent research, if by independent you mean research by people who agree with this Government’s policies, then of course such research won’t be done – it’s not in the interests of such people to do it!! Your definition of independent is crucial here. If you don’t think Oxfam, the Red Cross, Joseph Rowntree etc and Universities are independent, you have a problem. People and organisations speak as they find but there are many who don’t like them to do that as they don’t want to hear the truth.

                  Must end my input to this debate as I need to get on. Genuinely useful discussion though, thank you

              • Mynydd

                Please explain, if you live in a house with a spare bedroom, but cannot move because no smaller house available, can you claim the bedroom tax from the discretionary fund. If the yes, what is the point of this policy, If no is it not wrong to charge someone when it’s not their fault and can not do anything about it.

                • HJ777

                  If you are renting in the private sector, you pay rent for the house you have. However, if you are in receipt of housing benefit, you receive benefit only for the housing you need.

                  All this change does is to move the social housing sector into line with this.

                  Social housing renters still have the advantage of being charged below-market rents.

                  Everybody else in the country has to pay for the housing they have and they have to do this regardless of their income – and it is sometimes very difficult and sometimes they have to try to find a cheaper alternative regardless of family circumstances or fault. Explain to me why just one sector of the population should be insulated, at taxpayers expense, from the reality that everyone else has to face.

                  Explain to me too, what incentives there would be for someone in social housing too large for their needs to downsize, so that the problem of people living in overcrowded social housing can be tackled, if this change were not made.

                • Jane Young

                  If people were penalized for failing to accept smaller accommodation that would meet their needs (their actual needs, if these are different to non-disabled people, taking into account the need for both space and adaptations), then this would be a sensible and equitable policy. But people are penalised for a situation that is outside their control. Disabled people have reported that they’d be happy to move into a smaller property but they can’t because, understandably, the council doesn’t want to pay for adaptations to be done over again. They are therefore trapped, in arrears, with no solution available. They don’t all get discretionary housing payments – although their disability living allowance is supposed to be used for extra costs arising from their impairment, they’re told they can’t have help because they get DLA!!

                  Allocations for social housing these days are prioritised, so disabled people are only allocated homes if they meet the criteria. Their needs wouldn’t or couldn’t be met in the private sector, so the situation facing those in the private sector, where tenures are shorter and less secure and landlords don’t generally undertake adaptations – and often don’t accept people with learning difficulties, whatever the law says – so social housing plays an important role in meeting the housing needs of those who are not ‘attractive’ to private landlords. So the comparison is a false one, especially since when Labour brought in similar regulations in the private sector they weren’t applied retrospectively to existing tenancies.

                • HJ777

                  This exact same policy was planned by Labour before the last GE for implementation in his parliament (they are just keeping very quiet about the fact now and falsely labelling it a “bedroom tax”.

                  The policy is an eminently sensible way of treating recipients of housing benefit equitably whether they rent in social or private housing sectors and of encouraging more efficient use of social housing stock for the maximum benefit to most people. You never address this efficiency issue or the fact that many people suffered under the old situation. Funding for discretionary payments for situations that cannot always be anticipated or accounted for in a central government policy (as will always be the case) is the right way to tackle anomalies and special cases. No policy can be devised that covers all circumstances.

                  You claim that the needs of disabled and other people cant be met in the private sector, so how do, for example, the Germans (who have a very much smaller social housing sector) manage it?

                • Jane Young

                  I should imagine their tenures etc are different, so there would be more point in landlords installing adaptations for, say, a five year let rather than a six-month shorthold tenancy.

                  Labour are still saying it would be a reasonable policy if tenants were only penalized for turning down a reasonable offer. I’ve heard Stephen Timms say exactly that, both in committee and in the House.

                  Ducking out now as I have things to do – thanks for the robust debate! We can all learn and develop our ideas through constructive debate…

                • Mynydd

                  You have not answered my question. What incentives, running cost specifically heating.

          • Mynydd

            Do tell me, how many people, to date, have moved from a house to small for them, into a larger house which as been vacated due to the bedroom tax.

            “I know that moving house is especially stressful for them (pensioners)” Do you not understand that moving house is especially stressful to the sick and disabled. Do you not understand that moving house and school is especially stressful for a family with a child with learning difficulties.

            • HJ777

              There is no “bedroom tax”. I assume you mean the abolition of the practice of paying people in social housing housing benefit based on the size of house they have, rather than the size of house they need?

              I cannot tell you that, but even if I could, it would be academic since the policy was not introduced very long ago so we haven’t seen the full effect yet. In August, Cornwall Council reported that the number so far in Cornwall was 72 out of 3300 affected occupants (i.e. around 2%) but that there had been hundreds more expressing an interest. The number of families in severely overcrowded social housing in Cornwall (who will obviously get priority for larger housing made available as a result of this change) was 435. That would represent a benefit for about 17% of such people (there were 3580 families living in overcrowded social housing but I am assuming that the 435 in severely overcrowded housing will the ones who will usually benefit first).

              Moving house is stressful for most people, many of them not living in the social sector and many of them with disabled family members – but they have to do it anyway when circumstances dictate (e.g. work, financial hardship, etc.). For special cases in social housing, local authorities have been given discretionary funds to help them.

              The problem is that you are looking only at problems and not at benefits of this policy. Overall, there is likely to be a benefit as more people have their housing needs met. Are you against that?

  • Iain Hill

    When I was at university, 50 years ago, we had the usual hot-blooded political divergences expected of young people, but virtually everyone shared a broad consensus that we were involved in building a society for the benefit of all.

    That has now ceased, with the blame to be laid at the feet of all the major political parties, the media and, if it exists, the Establishment. Policies like the bedroom tax, summarily evicting people from their homes in areas where no alternative accommodation exists, are supported by the public where earlier they would have caused only horror.

    We should all be deeply alarmed by the deliberate process of brainwashing that has brought about this change. Where is the new political movement needed to reverse it, and what media outlets will champion it?

    • Makroon

      What were you studying, Art History ?
      Have you ever wondered where the money to fund your unlimited largesse is to come from ? Or whether subsiding generations to live out their lives in state-funded idleness is really a “good thing” ?

    • Colonel Mustard

      What a complete load of tripe. You must be of that 1963 university generation that are pretty much to blame for where we are now. And the only way you could believe the twaddle of “everyone shared a broad consensus that we were involved in building a society for the benefit of all” is if you were involved in one of the many marxist love-ins where any dissenters had been shouted down or intimidated out.

      Brainwashing? Backlash against brainwashing more like. The left wing tripe is no longer going down so easily, even when force fed.

      And don’t try the weasel words that you don’t support any party. Look at your comment below about the word ‘spouse’ being ‘right wing’. That tells us everything we need to know about you and your vile propaganda.

      • Mynydd

        I would remind you in 1963 only 10% went to university and a large percentage of them were from public schools. Since 1963 we have had 18 years of Mrs Thatcher’s government, therefore it could also be said she pretty much to blame for where we are now

  • Rockin Ron

    Unfortunately, IDS is finished – too many enemies in high places in his own party.

    • Iain Hill

      Perhaps the internal contradictions of trying to cloak his vile, greedy 19th century instincts in a cloak of “compassion” have finally overwhelmed him?

      • Colonel Mustard

        Whereas you are trying to cloak his compassion in “vile, greedy 19th century instincts”.

        Not very clever at all.

  • Iodine

    The amount of bleating this has generated over at the Guardian is hilarious.

    • Jane Young

      Yeah, hilarious if you have no understanding or interest in the reality of real people’s lives… Just pass by on the other side, there’s a good chap. Don’t let reality interfere with your admiration for the increasingly Messianic IDS, that would never do!

      • Andy

        Don’t be so stupid. As you seem to be a buddy of Liam Byrne and can’t wait to get yourself to Demos events you are probably a member and/or supporter of the Fascist Party, so you obviously hate IDS and oppose any attempt at reform.

        • Jane Young

          I agree with reform, and many of IDS’s ideas. However, people’s lives are too important to risk reform that is neither competent nor responsible. Apart from pensions & pensioner benefits, some of the biggest areas of welfare spending are housing benefit & tax credits. Housing benefit is primarily driven by house prices, which are exceptionally high in the UK, partly because there is an overall shortage, especially of social housing, and huge amounts of housing benefit go to private landlords. Tax credits, which top up wages, are high because wages are low and people can’t live on what they earn. When it comes to sickness benefits, there are several demographic factors that have an influence, including a trend throughout the Western world of increasing prevalence of severe mental health conditions, plus people surviving illnesses that would at one time have killed them but nowadays are more likely to lead to long term sickness or disability. I see no honesty about that in the way reform has been rolled out. Just because you’re not a sick or disabled person living on next to nothing, that doesn’t mean this is not the reality of people’s lives under the so-called reforms.

          Oh, and Liam Byrne was replaced by Rachel Reeves some months ago now….

          • Andy

            Trouble with you is your are part of the ‘Welfare lobby’. You say ‘I agree with reform, and many of IDS’s ideas’ and then you can’t wait to slag him off. Reality is you don’t think welfare should or needs reform. You are yet another of these Lefties who believe in never ending welfare and spending taxpayers money without end. Well the State is bankrupt, the wheels are now off your gravy train, reform is coming.

            And I know Liam Byrne – ‘there is no money left’ – has been replaced by the odious Reeves.

            • Jane Young

              Oh, I certainly agree welfare needs reform. I just think that people’s lives are too important to be considered mere “collateral”, that’s all. But I’m not going to convince you, because whatever I say you’ll continue to see IDS as some kind of hero. I hoped, when he started the CSJ 10 years ago, that he would follow the evidence and approach reform with compassion; I’m horrified that he rejects all evidence of what’s going wrong and insists on blaming the poor for being poor.

              “Reform” that costs more than it saves and pushes people into further poverty and further from the workplace is not the kind of reform we need. We need reform that looks at the underlying reasons why the benefits bill is so high – and then addresses those, in a way that doesn’t leave people with no work and nothing to live on.

              With an ageing population, an increase in long term complex health conditions (which impact both NHS and DWP spending) and tax rates lower than they’ve ever been (with the exception of VAT, which is the most regressive tax), it’s a mystery to me why anyone would think the current fiscal policies are ever going to work. The reality is that if house prices are kept artificially high and the minimum wage low, and if we have more citizens of pension age in comparison to the size of the working population, something’s got to give. Why should those who have the least take the biggest hit? It’s not about left or right wing, it’s about fairness and humanity.

              • Colonel Mustard

                “I’m horrified that he rejects all evidence of what’s going wrong and insists on blaming the poor for being poor.”

                Does he? That sounds more like left wing propaganda than concern for the poor.

                “It’s not about left or right wing, it’s about fairness and humanity.”

                Actually it is. Because the modern British left wing, as we see from interminable posts here, thinks it has a monopoly on fairness and humanity and accuses anyone who dissents from its orthodoxy of having none. The left wing have conflated politics and morality to the point that they have become a quasi-religion and treat all dissidents as heretics to be vilified and scorned. Not good for democracy.

                • HJ777

                  Yes, if only there were more Frank Fields on the left. People who are willing to engage with political opponents on the basis that they are equally well-intentioned. Unfortunately, they seem to be a dying breed in the Labour Party.

                • Jane Young

                  I would be much more willing to engage with this current Government if it showed more signs of being well intentioned. I want to see justice and fairness regardless of political party

              • HJ777

                “I’m horrified that he rejects all evidence of what’s going wrong and insists on blaming the poor for being poor”.

                That’s an extraordinary and ridiculous accusation to level at IDS. The one thing he has never done is to blame the poor for being poor – quite the contrary, in fact.

                You may not agree with him, you may think that his policies are flawed, you may think that you have better ideas, you may even think that his understanding is poor, but you simply reveal your own prejudice by directing that sort of unsubstantiated jibe towards him. This is a man who cares about doing something about poverty.

  • Magnolia

    Iain’s got his hands full with all this and I applaud him.
    I agree with him that we should be putting families first and that labour’s approach was mechanistic.
    Here’s my rant for Iain.
    When the work above is done he might address himself to the next social injustice problem which is building steadily and surely and that is the trashing of traditional families (in all their forms) or to be more precise the single income families with stay at home parents. They are squeezed until the pips squeak in the tax and pension systems and the actions of this Conservative led coalition have only worsened things. Families should not be penalised by a large margin simply because they want to support their own members themselves.
    A stay at home parent is the lowest of the low and must be punished….
    Of course housework and child rearing, cooking, cleaning and shopping is not real work is it? All those old dears with knobbly hands have done naff all haven’t they?
    I have come to the sad conclusion that spouse and I may be better off financially if we divorce just before retirement. I have no pension to speak of and spouse has a super one. We would gain two personal allowances instead of only one, we would pay far less tax because we would have split our income into two lower amounts and what is more we could still carry on living together as we have done since we were teenagers except that it would be ‘in sin’.
    Most stay at home parents are women and most retirees who have no or small pensions of their own are women. Most survivors pensions are paid to women.
    Modern equality laws have resulted in tax and pension policy which actively discriminates against these classes of people who happen mostly to be women.
    The Left just want to pay more to poor women but it is the Right who are punishing the single income, aspirational families and keeping their womenfolk poorer.
    Spouse thinks I’m mad but am I?

    • Iain Hill

      Your use of the demoded right-wing term spouse betrays you!

      • Colonel Mustard

        Spouse? Demoded? Right-wing term? Check your prejudices!

        It strikes me that in the age of SSM this gender-neutral word is more useful than husband or wife. Others apparently agree:-

        “A spouse is a partner in a marriage, civil union, domestic partnership or common-law marriage (NB common-law marriage does not exist under English law). The term is gender neutral, whereas a male spouse is a husband and a female spouse is a wife. The term may be used to refer to both polygamous and monogamous opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships.”

        You will also finds that it figures in much government documentation.

  • Andy

    Rock on IDS. More power to his elbow.
    A very good speech. Keep up the good work.

  • McRobbie

    Thanks heavens the so called nasty party is prepared to live up to its reputation..being nasty honestly and openly and proud of it. Its time that the spin and lies of the left are put into the slot they belong to..lefties always push the con that the better off should give all their money to the “poor”, and as a result we all become equally poor..that’s what nice and fluffy socialism will always achieve..less for us all, except their own mates in the unions and the uncompetitive and unchallenged public sector, oh, and the welfare scroungers.

    • dalai guevara

      Address the oversized public sector then by cutting (private) uncompetitive and unchallenged quangos. Only Britain will beat the socialists at their own game by running *two* states – one that will take no decision on its own and the other to feed off the former. No wonder we’re broke.

    • The Coop

      Spoken like a true spiv.

      • HookesLaw

        Don’t you like having all the barren labour years exposed?
        Take this as an example
        ‘Britain now has a lower proportion of workless households than at any time under the last Government… and 274,000 fewer children are living in workless households’

        It disgusts me that the nutjobs of the loony right are actively pursuing the return of the very same labour govt that stuffed us all last time round.

    • Iain Hill

      Are you not appalled by your own mean-spiritedness?

      • Colonel Mustard

        I am appalled by yours.

      • johnslattery

        No reason to be. He’s pretty much right. In a rich and free society like ours, almost nobody has any excuse for being poor and dependent long-term. Unless you have serious health problems, poverty is a choice, and often a pretty lucrative one if it gets you on a good HB deal. Most lefties do not have the first idea of what hardship is. I’d like to ship every whining welfarist to Delhi for a week on the streets there. That would teach ’em what ‘poor’ means.

        • Michael Walsh

          You misunderstand what relativity is, Delhi Indeed! Pretty warm there I suspect, no gas / electric bills which in UK you need to keep warm.

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