Click through to any of the following for our latest unthought thoughts on social issues
- Backwards Britain – a comparative study with Morocco
- Helping the elderly – a call for empowerment of the over 65s
- Kill the poor – the simple solution
- NHS Customers – privatisation with a difference
- Pay everyone the dole – a new welfare state for the new age
- Send young offenders to Eton – a comparative study between Eton and young offenders’ institutions
- Why the private sector succeeds where the state fails
Or scroll down for further ways to fix the country…
**Everybody benefits; or, how to save the Welfare State from itself**
So we at the Baby Creative Policy Unit decided see if we could make the Welfare State work. And guess what, we managed it.
First things first, let’s look at some figures. There are roughly 61m people in the UK. A fifth of these are children, which leaves 48.8m adults. Social security benefits currently come in at £147.317bn. Without wanting to be too slapdash, we’re going to add £16bn or so for tax credits. So we’ve got £163.5bn to apportion to those near 50m Britons.
Right that’s all the numbers out of the way, many apologies. How best to apportion that loot? Well, if we divide that into weeks, then we get a budget of £3.144bn a week.
The current system slices this up and hands it out in a quite inequitable fashion. People who manage to tick more than one box on the benefit form are picking up more than their fair share. However, those who put in more are getting no recompense for their efforts.
What we are proposing here is a rethink of the entire welfare state, in a way that will bring everyone inside the system and thus give them responsibility for what is done with their tax pounds.
So, here’s what we’ll do. To achieve maximum justice, and a sense of fair play, every British adult will receive £65 a week. No more multiple applications for housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit, and the like. The bureaucracy will shrink at a stroke, saving billions straight off the bat. However, there will still be a role for the thousands of civil servants to even out anomalies thrown up by the new system, so we’re not consigning anyone to the (newly non-existent) dole queue.
We’re also looking at billions saved on policing benefit fraud and an end to campaigns urging people to dob their neighbours in. There’d be no need for medical check-ups of the work-shy on incapacity benefit, or insanely complicated 20-page application forms that you have to fill to get tax credits. You register at the next census and the money comes to you by cheque, every Monday. (We’re essentially keeping the Post Office solvent with the cheque option, solving another big problem). Moreover, the estimated £30bn of unclaimed welfare money wasted each year could go into other departments, funding education, health provision and countless other schemes for those in poorer areas.
The biggest losers from this system would be those who are content to loaf on benefits, who can currently gain upwards of £300 a week. The genuine flaneurs can now prove their commitment by managing their lives of leisure on the utter breadline.
As ever, your thanks, praise, abuse and what have you are all gladly received.
**Helping the elderly to help themselves**
Welfare provision has always been needs-based, and perhaps understandably so. However, perhaps it is time to also focus on what people can bring to a welfare system, as well as take from it.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the area of care for the old. As the excellent Camilla Cavendish remarked in a recent article for the Times, “any way you slice the official figures, it is clear that the elderly are a huge cost to the public purse”.
Cavendish discusses an organisation called Participle, which could potentially revolutionise welfare provision. One of their projects, Southwark Circle, links up the over-50s in Southwark so that they can help each other.
The project hooks up elderly people who have a service to offer with those who have a need, for a small fee. For example, “Fe teaches Bill Spanish and how to save money on his utility bills… she loves helping Bill, who is lonely and 80, and is transformed by the friendship”.
When Fe subsequently needs help with, say, learning to use a computer, the money she earned from helping Bill passes on to another member of the scheme. The cyclical flow of money means that central or local government is not pumping in state aid distributed with a scattergun approach.
Most importantly, the scheme is replacing the usual one-way nature of social care with a creative and co-operative network. This encourages self-sufficiency and self-respect from a sector of society which is frequently treated with little through government agencies.
There are many other uses for thinking like this, which we shall explore.
In the meantime, your thoughts are welcomed…
**Help us write the new Beveridge Report**
The social problems facing the country are well documented. In the face of an ageing population, overstretched National insurance and overused public services, social funds are beginning to dry up and state structures are failing badly.
This is only going to get worse. The birth rate is holding up – just – but the population, unsurprisingly, shows no signs of getting any younger. It is quite possibly now or never that we have to do something about all this. Unfortunately, politicians know full well that any suggestions for change are likely to be unpopular. Consequently, the idea that they might actually make such suggestions is unlikely. Therefore, it’s down to us, and that’s where we at Baby Creative hope to make a contribution, and we’re starting from the beginning.
In 1942, Sir William Beveridge put together the report which was to form the basis of the welfare state, combating the five great evils of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. This sounds pretty sensible, you might say. True, but the methods of 1942 must be different to the methods of 2009.
Beveridge’s recommendations applied to a state faced with revolution from the millions of soldiers returning from WWII, dissatisfied enough when they left, and now imbued with an even stronger sense of injustice. Britain today would be unrecognisable to Beveridge, so we ask leading intellectuals, economists and anyone else who has a good idea to be the new Beveridge, and dream up a new basis for the modern state.
Beveridge was very clear that the state “should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family.” We couldn’t agree more but this is something that the Leviathan that is the welfare state has too little recognition of today. Maybe a return to this old principle could be the basis of a new era.
Watch this space for the first of our posts on the defeat of Want in modern society. And as ever, if you have any contribution to make to the debate, please comment on this post.
**Jobs for the Homeless**
Our Rick endured a gruelling coach ride to see the Banksy exhibition in Bristol at the weekend, only to find a FIVE HOUR QUEUE at the other end. Jeez, bejeez, begorah, bejeez! That’s no good, but what could be done? Get someone else to queue for you that’s what, and who better than the homeless? They may not be happy to be on the street but seeing as they’re there anyway… And it’ll bring them some good income for beer and tabs if they fancy some, while you go off to do your own bit of lounging.