Saturday 31 October, 2.30pm until 4.00pm, Café
The welfare state was once celebrated as a keystone of post-war Britain, but while the NHS and state education are still widely valued, state benefits are now accused of fostering a dependency culture that traps millions. With cuts in public spending looming as the recession bites, and yet more people likely to need state support, change seems inevitable. The government describes its Welfare Reform Bill as ‘the most radical reform of the welfare state for generations’, aimed at increasing personal responsibility and moving people off benefits and into work.
But is it only the long-term unemployed (and the so-called underclass) who are dependent on the state? Some argue the ideology of welfarism has taken a therapeutic turn, fostering a climate of government intervention into people’s private lives, especially around child-rearing, diet and so on. Others argue the state should attend much more to our psychological and emotional needs, particularly when times are hard. Should reform mean moving from the ‘safety net’ model to an more interventionist one, equipping people with the skills they need for work and life in the 21st century?
What is the role of the welfare state today, and can it (or indeed should it) meet our needs? Is an expansion of its role inevitable in a recession, or is it creeping into areas of our lives we would rather it left alone? Are we becoming more vulnerable and in need of support, or is expanding welfare incompatible with personal freedom and independence, and with the imperative to tighten our belts? No doubt some people are genuinely dependent, and through no fault of their own, with more unemployed likely in the near future. Does welfare reform necessarily mean less compassion? Should the focus be on cash for those who need it, or more intensive intervention to get people working?
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co-editor The Future of Community; contributor to SocietyGuardian and Huffington Post; public and community sector consultant; convenor, IoI Social Policy Forum
freelance journalist; political and social affairs commentator; Labour councillor, Southwark; author, Tangled Up in Blue
director, Reform; former head, political section, Conservative Research Department
|Dr Marcus Roberts|
director, policy and membership, DrugScope
head of external relations, Institute of Ideas; chair, IoI Economy Forum; convenor, The Academy
If national spending is to go down, the middle classes must stop accepting benefits they don’t need.Andrew Haldenby, The Times, 22 October 2009
Spending pledges have been scaled down, but the Conservatives will have to find bigger savings.Andrew Haldenby, Policy Review, 5 October 2009
Poor people need access to wealth, not welfare. Bring in investment vouchers, worker buy-outs and support for couples.Phillip Blond, The Times, 5 October 2009
Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas and regular contributor to The MJ, succeeded in fulfilling the brief to do her usual thing and ‘stir it up’ when she spoke at APSE’s recent annual conference in Cardiff.Paul O'Brien, LocalGov, October 2009
Do we really expect customers to defend local government against cuts when so many council initiatives are aimed at policing the public?Claire Fox, LocalGov, 1 October 2009
Prime minister attempts to woo Middle Britain with tough line on anti-social behaviour.Patrick Wintour, Guardian, 29 September 2009
It is only by investing for the long-term in infrastructure that we can create a strong economy.Boris Johnson, Telegraph, 22 September 2009
Almost a million young Britons are now called 'neets' – not in education, employment, or training.Mark Rice-Oxley, Christian Science Monitor, 20 September 2009
There are now 3.3m households — one in six — with no one over the age of 16 in employment and 1.9m children living in families without a parent in work.Michael Portillo, The Sunday Times, 30 August 2009
The unemployed are being forced to take huge risks with their security when they move into the world of low-paid labour.Jenni Russell, Guardian Comment is free, 19 August 2009
Why the middle classes should prepare for their welfare entitlement to wither on the vineGaby Hinsliff, Guardian Politics Blog, 15 July 2009
Recognition across the political spectrum that public spending is out of control has yet to be matched by actionAndrew Haldenby, Guardian, 20 April 2009
The case of Karen Matthews, convicted of kidnapping her own daughter in order to claim a reward, has again pulled back the curtain to allow us a glimpse of this netherworld of taxpayer-funded fecklessness.Telegraph View, Telegraph, 7 December 2008
I suspect the New Right was on to something in the 80s when they complained that Britain was creating a ‘dependency culture’. They only got it half right, and for all the wrong reasons.Dave Clements, University of Wales, Newport, 2008
The government is trying to do too much. We need to reframe the constitutional settlement that defines the relationship between the state and the individual in civil society. The state should be confined to the legitimate tasks that are within its competence, thus allowing greater scope for private enterprise and social entrepreneurs to supply public services more effectively.
David Green, Civitas, 2 January 2008
"It was like having sex with Richard Dawkins and the Pope at the same time. Incredibly stimulating arguments. "
Julian Gough, novelist