Offering a Hand Not Pointing a Finger

With George Osborne MP attempting – and fortunately failing – to further weaken the UK welfare system, this talk seemed appropriate:

Based on the time I spent working in a housing benefit office, her experiences match mine. A significant minority of my time was spent matching up duplicate information and letters chasing up progress on applications. So the admin was getting in the way of the process, leading to more duplicate submissions and chasers.

The other thing that was clear was that most of the applicants and recipients were making entirely reasonable requests rather than attempting to game the system.

So, I go further than Hilary Cottam in suggesting not just putting the focus back on people and communities, but also in shifting the assumption from applicants being on the make to applicants needing help. Obviously, in the ideal world no benefits would go to people who don’t need them, but if the cost of policing the system is greater than the amount of benefits that would otherwise be overpaid, then policing is driving up the cost.

In addition, treating people like they are probably going to commit benefit fraud turns helping (the purpose of the system) into an antagonistic relationship, so isn’t clearly the right thing on moral grounds either.

What do you think welfare should focus on? Do you think all welfare does more harm than good?


One thought on “Offering a Hand Not Pointing a Finger

  1. There was a similar case in Ireland over a decade ago. They wanted to stop people having “anchor babies”, so they outlawed people staying because of family ties. However, in their haste, they’d included all of the nurses in the Irish hospitals, who were mostly from Asia. So they have to pass an amendment at once to allow the nurses to stay.

    The whole thing cost many times the amount the families with “anchor babies” were getting.


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