Monday, 9 July 2012
An End to Victorian Era Welfare Reform – Citizen’s Income a Progressive Alternative
As their economic policies continue to fail, the ConDem coalition governments demonising rhetoric against welfare claimants grows ever louder. Sanctions (removing Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)) are up sharply (almost doubled) when measured against the last Labour administration. Under Labour, it was far from the free for all as painted by the current government, with sanctions regularly applied to Jobseeker’s, and the harassment and transferral of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants to JSA commonplace.
I worked as a Jobcentre adviser over the period covering the end of the Labour administration and beginning of the ConDem one, and I can tell you that all the tools we had to help people back into work were systematically removed (not that they were that great anyway), and replaced with only a negative approach of applying sanctions.
The ConDem’s though have taken this to new level now, presumably encouraged by focus group feedback about ‘the something for nothing society’, it is probably the only popular policy they have introduced. The fact it is inhumane, unfair and doesn’t really save much money is no deterrent to this most odious of governments.
The Green party takes a very different view of welfare matters, which is embodied in our policy of a Citizen’s Income (CI). It is a progressive policy whereby all adults in the UK would receive a non-means tested payment set at no less than the current JSA, although I would argue that it needs to set at a considerably higher level, because JSA currently at £71.00 per week is not enough to live on, and needs to be over £100.00 per week, at least.
This would allow people to work part-time if they so wish, to supplement their income, with no reduction in CI, or do voluntary work with no hassle from the Jobcentre, have confidence to start up as self- employed or take up family caring responsibilities. At least in the 1980’s recession (mainly in the north of the country), the Thatcher government just left you alone on the dole, with no requirement to be ‘searching for work’. This led to an upsurge in creative musical talent, such as The Smiths, above in the video.
Citizens’ would need to attend fairly regular interviews to prove that they are still alive and resident in the UK, where they could get information on paid and unpaid work. Other ‘benefits’ such as Housing Benefit (HB), Child Benefit (CB), Council Tax Benefit (CTB) and old age pensions would also be available.
So, how would this be paid for? Well, there would huge savings in admin costs over current JSA arrangements and income tax personal allowances (tax free earnings) could be reduced or withdrawn, but ultimately CI payments would be covered by increases in income tax, meaning that the wealthiest would pay more, whilst lower income people would be better or no worse off. Allowing for CI, the total income tax take would not increase overall.
The present system of benefits, apart from being expensive to administer, often encourages people not to work, especially part-time work, for fear of losing benefits and the system often claws back most or all benefits from those who do find paid work. This is equivalent to a 100% tax rate for those people moving from benefits to work, and is hardly a fair state of affairs.
CI has the potential to revolutionise the benefit system in the UK, whilst costing no more overall than the current tax and benefit system, and crucially, put an end to the demeaning benefits routine and complicated form filling, that now prevails.