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Welfare based on need should be scrapped - Frank Field
A FUTURE Labour government should scrap the idea of a welfare system based on need and move instead to one which rewards those who have contributed to it.
The controversial call comes from Birkenhead MP Frank Field, who says Labour should commit itself to a new “welfare reform contract” with national insurance as its cornerstone.
Last week the Conservative chancellor, George Osborne, committed the government to reducing the cost of welfare by a further £10bn as it pursues more “austerity” measures designed to reduce the UK’s debt.
But Mr Field believes the current system is broken-backed, cannot be fixed and governments should not waste political capital in trying to prove otherwise.
He said: “Since 1948 there has been 15-fold increase in real terms in welfare spending. The welfare bills escalate, the number of claimants increase, but independence is not encouraged.
“As we now have a welfare state based on meeting need, this encourages individuals, not unreasonably, to try to ensure they qualify under this guise.
"It therefore pays to lie about ones earnings, to cheat, or to be inactive. The worst side of human nature is encouraged, the best is penalised.
He continued: “The next Labour government must commit itself to turning a welfare state which now largely meets needs to one where help is based primarily on contributions.
“No one should be under any illusion as to what a fundamental change this is. There could be no more fundamental commitment to welfare reform than making this declaration and acting on it.”
Mr Field stressed there are no easy fixes in carrying through a reform of this magnitude.
But he said he believes it's crucial for Labour to declare its intent to make fundamental changes, sketch out immediate policies to begin that process and register the idea with voters that even more radical reforms will be required.
“In moving away from our current welfare state it is crucial to make a new contract with taxpayers so they know that, over time, their contributions will be better rewarded than those who qualify only on the basis of need," said Mr Field.
“This cannot be achieved immediately, but this should be one of the Labour Party’s longer-term aims.”
In May of this year, Mr Field produced a report for Prime Minister David Cameron on how to break the cycle of state dependence and poverty.
But he claimed Number 10 has ignored his findings and doubted whether Mr Cameron had even read it.