Janice Atkinson for The Daily Express
8th March 2013
SIR WILLIAM BEVERIDGE, the founder of the modern welfare state, would turn in his grave if he knew how one of the greatest social reforms of the 20th century has ended up producing such families as that of Heather Frost.
What he intended the welfare state to be was captured by a newspaper headline of 1942: “Beveridge tells how to banish want. Cradle to grave plan. All pay – all benefit.” People were promised a revolution under which “every citizen willing to serve according to his powers has at all times an income sufficient to meet his responsibilities”.
But what started off as a safeguard to look after people who had fallen on hard times has grown beyond recognition. Under the last Labour administration a burgeoning new class emerged, the feckless underclass. But now they have been re-categorised for fear of stigmatising them, as “troubled” families rather than problem ones.
Mothers like Heather Frost have been given a lifestyle choice rather than a safety net. Labour’s support of the system and the “poverty industry” which leads the debate on welfare reform in this country encouraged people such as her to live off benefits paid for by the taxpayers of Britain.
I was chilled to the bone yesterday when I read this newspaper’s account of how Frost’s family had terrorised grandmother Doreen Freeman. Frost appeared to have no control over her brood of 11 children. The story of the cruel taunting and tormenting that led Mrs Freeman to be trapped in her home, turning her life into a living hell, is in large part the fault of a state that has aided and abetted people like Frost.
Yet she will be rewarded by the taxpayers and be given a six-bedroom house and an income of £45,000 a year. Most people have to earn £70,000 to take home £45,000 and even on that income they would not be able to afford a six-bedroom house.
An even more extreme example is that of Karen Matthews who kidnapped her own daughter in West Yorkshire. She had seven children by five different fathers and had barely done a day’s work in her life.
For decades, the highly political anti-poverty industry has led the debate on the definition of poverty and has allowed such families as this to proliferate. These campaigners are narrowly focused on eradicating poverty by increasing benefits and expanding social services. They elevate the protection of benefits and the recipients’ right not to work above the common sense argument that work equals empowerment. They think that something needs to be done for the poor, not with the poor.
That’s the old argument: it doesn’t work. Labour led us into and entrenched this situation. It created a “something for nothing” culture that penalised people who wanted to work by making it economically not worth their while to do so. A whole generation has grown up believing that to claim from the welfare state is their right, not a safety harness for those who fall on hard times. We have to get to grips with these families but how do we do it?
First, we must ignore the pleas and cries of those in the poverty industry – all those politicised lobbyists who make most politicians quake in their boots. We then need to introduce a new welfare state that helps people for a limited period when they are in need, instead of introducing them to a permanent lifestyle on benefits. I am a fan of benefit vouchers to fund essentials such as food and fuel – not for those who have paid into the system all their lives and need help when they lose their jobs but for those who are drug users or alcoholics, those who have mental illness and those who have previously committed benefit fraud.
The electronic cards would be used in the same way to shop but could not be used for spending on alcohol, cigarettes, TV subscriptions, lottery tickets and other non-essentials. Neither should the state fund uncontrolled childbirth. Most people cannot afford more than two children and choose to limit their families. When the state funds feckless families there is no limit to the children they can have as they are guaranteed funding. Child benefit should be restricted to three children.
A larger family is a lifestyle choice.
Those like Heather Frost should not be paid to have children and the taxpayers should not be funding the houses they then go on to “need”. If you start to withdraw benefits and instead channel the money into schemes that directly benefit the children then that is a first step to weaning them off the taxpayer. That’s why the “pupil premium” that pays schools more for every student they have from a deprived background is an excellent idea. You cannot imagine many deadbeat parents using benefits to buy a book to help their children read before they start school.
The welfare system is deeply rotten and has to be changed. We need to move back to Beveridge’s original intention – all pay and all benefit in their hour of need. Those who have never contributed cannot begin to understand that welfare is there as a safety net to help those who cannot, for a short while, help themselves and get them back on their feet again.
Until it is made worthwhile for everyone to work, to contribute and to be decent neighbours there will be more parasites and persecutors and, alas, more victims too.