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Policy Exchange has plans to get tough on benefit claimants

by Paul Goodman

According to research from the Department for Work and Pensions:

  • The average jobseeker currently spends just one hour a day looking for work.
  • Over a third of benefit claimants felt that there was nothing wrong with choosing to stay on benefits rather than looking for work and that claiming benefits should be an option over having to work.

Policy Exchange believes that all this must change.  And its proposals are set out in a new report called No rights without responsibility: rebalancing the welfare state.

  • Its key idea is that work search requirements should be expanded to make sure that claimants can stay in - or get into - the habits of a normal working lifestyle.
  • Its main recommendation is to start reintroducing the contributory principle into the benefit system.
  • This would mean those who have paid in National Insurance Contributions for longer would get treated more generously than those who have not.
  • At present, all claimants are able to turn down any job they do not want to do for at least the first three months of making a claim. As a first step towards making national insurance contributions count again, the report suggests that only those who have paid into the system should enjoy this right.
  • To back these measures up, the report says there should be harsher sanctions – including the loss of cash benefits – for those who decide they would rather take benefits than take available work.

Matt Oakley, head of economics and social policy at Policy Exchange, said:

“The welfare state was set up to help those in genuine need. Over the past 65 years that founding principle has been diminished and welfare dependency has grown.

“We now find ourselves in a situation where large numbers of those claiming benefit are doing so not out of necessity but because they believe it’s a fundamental right to take from the state. Spending just seven hours a week looking for work - less time than the average person spends at work each day - is not enough. There are limits on Government’s ability to coax people into work with higher tax credits or welfare payments. With nearly 5.5 million adults now living in households where no-one is in work, the government needs to put in place much stricter conditions so that life on benefits is not an option.”


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