Continuing on from yesterday’s interview with Jon Leighton, in today’s second part we talk about what we can do to better knowledge ourselves, and what the future of welfare is looking like…
How can people access better information?
Find a reputable advice agency or a support provider. Avoid commercial, profit making enterprises at all costs. The number of times I’ve seen our vulnerable clients seek solace from a payday lender and become further impoverished as a result, is too numerous.
“Rising need and diminishing services is now a common topic of discussion in most services supporting the vulnerable.”
This is tricky though. Given the withdrawal of legal aid for benefits casework, access to justice is being diminished in this area. Go to any local CAB [Citizens Advice Bureau] and they’ll tell you the same story. Rising caseloads and falling revenue. The advice sector is struggling and supported housing is not faring much better. Recently Derby City Council agreed an 83% cut to their ‘supporting people’ budget. This has effectively signed the death warrants of the majority of hostel accommodation and floating support provision. Leicester City Council are following suit this week with a 50% cut. Rising need and diminishing services is now a common topic of discussion in most services supporting the vulnerable.
What other subjects do you feel need a better light shown on them?
Without question this would be Housing Policy. Housing Benefit is out of control because we subsidise the private sector landlords to the tune of billions each year. We need a social housing revolution in the UK.
BUILD. MORE. HOUSES.
Photo: This Is Money Figures: National Housing Federation
What do you think is the future of the welfare state in the next few years? What will change?
In terms of overall spending, I doubt little will change whichever colour party gets elected. The truth is, you can only cut Welfare so far. Go too far and other areas of government inevitably pick up the tab. The idea you can strip out billions from say, the Housing Benefit budget is ridiculous if you are not prepared to attack the supply side of the problem and build a million new houses. Take the benefits cap being trialled in London right now; some of the families displaced by this policy will cost the exchequer in another way, whether it be bed and breakfast accommodation, referrals to social services, expensive temporary accommodation or claiming other benefits. The government are selling the idea you can arbitrarily cut costs without there being consequences. You can’t.
What should change?
The government should expend their energy negotiating some common taxation policies with their European / G8 partners. At least then tax avoidance could be tackled domestically. A common taxation system would stop private sector hawks upping sticks and moving to a more favourable tax haven. Ergo, welfare cannot be tackled in isolation, we need a meritocratic society where talent is nurtured and effort is rewarded. Our welfare system should be firm but fair, effectively supporting all people into work, whatever their circumstances. The ones who are unable to work should also be supported to find their own vocation, a client centred pathway for them to contribute positively to society.
“Welfare cannot be tackled in isolation, we need a meritocratic society where talent is nurtured and effort is rewarded.”
As it stands, we have a government hell bent on dividing people into shirkers and strivers for political gain. And I for one do not recognise that in the overwhelming numbers of people I meet. Folk want a fair crack of the whip and an equal stack of chips but at the moment all they have is an increasingly unequal society, where the gap between rich and poor grows ever wider.
Follow Jon on Twitter via @Welfare__Reform
And his blog here http://pokerfiend71.wordpress.com/