Thursday, 3 October 2013

Where to go next with welfare reform?

Over 18 months ago I wrote a post about 'welfare reform 2.0'.  It argued that the Coalition would not stop with present reforms, driven by the belief that social security must be radically changed and (most importantly) that the public want to see this.

Then, I made five predictions about where the Coalition would go next.  These were:

  • Intensified workfare
  • Time-limited benefits
  • Abolishing contributions-based benefits
  • Regionalised benefits
  • Limiting Child Benefit
Since I published that piece, only 1.5 of my predictions have come true.  The Government will intensify workfare (announced this week but piloted for the past year) and they have limited Child Benefit, but only to richer families.  They haven't, yet, limited the amount of children that Child Benefit is payable to.

There are numerous reasons why new reforms have been relatively scarce during the past year and a half.  One reason is that the Government has been preoccupied by the introduction of Universal Credit and its other reforms, such as the benefit cap.  There simply hasn't been the time to focus on new reforms.

Secondly, the politics of the Coalition prevents the introduction of even more punitive welfare reforms.  The Lib Dems like to boast that they have tamed the Tories from their wilder instincts.  As the Coalition has already gone pretty far, new reforms will be within an exclusively Conservative sphere.

The third is more strategic.  The Conservatives are already way ahead on welfare; there isn't, as yet, the political incentive for them to go too much further.  This means that as the election in 2015 approaches, we'll probably see more and more policy proposals on welfare.

Finanlly, I could just be bad at making predictions.  We'll see.  But the big announcement yesterday - that benefits may be stopped for young people - suggests that, far from it, the Tories aren't finished yet.

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