Opinion: Welfare cuts – a necessary step?
During his Tory Party Conference speech on the 8th October, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne proclaimed that the Government would press ahead with plans to cut £10 billion from the welfare budget by 2016-2017 on top of the £18 billion cuts already under way. Osborne has secured the agreement of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, something he said would be necessary in order to avoid additional cuts in other Whitehall departments. The announcement, made in Osborne’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, will set the Tories on a collision course with their Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Nick Clegg told his party’s conference last month that he would not allow “wild suggestions” of a £10 billion cut in welfare, while Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: “We simply will not allow the books to be balanced in a way that hits the poorest hardest.”
The rhetoric by Osborne will undoubtedly create new tensions between the political right and left, between the supporters of cuts versus the supporters of spending to kick-start the economy. It is perhaps too easy to claim that Osborne is taking a typical Conservative means to end the deficit – cut the funding to the poorest while the rich are left unscathed. However, the Shadow Chancellor and his team could be onto something with their idea of cutting the welfare budget. Let me explain why.
As someone who immigrated to Britain some years ago, I was surprised to learn that thousands of people in this country are able to be unemployed yet still live fairly comfortably. The country of my birth, Russia, is not as caring towards the unemployed. If a citizen in Russia does not have a job, chances are he may end up on the streets, as illustrated by the startling figures that there are between three and four million homeless people in Russia. For this reason, even as a young child I was proud that a country like Britain looks after their citizens who were unlucky enough to be jobless.
However, as I grew older, I realised an uncomfortable truth – that some of these jobless citizens chose to be unemployed and made the jobseekers benefits their life choice. As I studied the whole purpose of the welfare system, I learned that benefits were meant to be a safety net for the society rather than something people jump on in order to escape employment. Undoubtedly there are genuine people out there who cannot find work, but having watched Dispatches on Channel 4 (which illustrated the life on a council estate in Blackburn) and some young people on the program claiming that they are on benefits “because it’s just easier than getting up early every morning”, I thought it was time for the government to take some measures. For this reason, I believe that there should be cuts to the welfare budget.
In addition, Osborne put forward an idea that families who have children for the sake of receiving child benefits will also feel the full wrath of the welfare cuts. Once again, I have to agree that this is a necessary action to take. In my short lifetime, I have lived in some poor areas and I was saddened to see poor families having children for the sake of having more cash rather than because they genuinely wanted to create a family. Not only am I a believer that it is wrong to bring children into this world if you are not able to financially support them, but I am also believe that bringing up children without fully understanding the responsibilities will mean that bringing these children up properly will create a nasty vicious circle.
Ultimately it is important to change the culture of Britain. Even as a near socialist, I am happy to exclaim that some citizens of this country must stop relying on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Child Benefit to get through life. There are plenty of opportunities out there to get some form of qualifications and work your way up towards an average salary, which would allow you to support your family. Not only is having a job beneficial to the economy, but it also creates a positive atmosphere in a particular community and in the nation as a whole.
Having said all of that, I undoubtedly understand that the current economic situation in Britain is dire and the rate of unemployment is high. Of course citizens who genuinely cannot find a job must receive benefits in order to support themselves while they search for employment. The government must focus more on job creation rather than tackling the benefit problem. Nevertheless, there are currently around 1.5 million people on Jobseeker’s Allowance and while it is impossible to know who has made benefits their life choice, it is perhaps certain that at least some see benefits as “free money” rather than a safety net. Against all odds, I am therefore supporting the policies by George Osborne to cut the welfare budget.