Welfare, at Last, for the Better-Off? ANALYSIS ON THE SOCIAL SECURITY CRISIS

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy

FOR decades, Middle Britain has been treated as the milch cow of the Welfare State.

Middle-class taxpayers write ever larger cheques - for a burgeoning underclass to spend.

And as means-testing increases, those regarded as better off lose their entitlement to a share of the benefits.

But this week, Tony Blair's new Government will promise a fundamental break from traditional thinking which has underpinned the relentless explosion of social security spending since 1945.

At the heart is, for the first time, a declaration that the so-called `haves' can no longer be expected to fund a bottomless pit of need unless their own worries are also met.

And that in the modern world of downsizing and executive insecurity, the payers-in are entitled to feel resentful about constantly being asked for more to finance the takers-out. The new approach, a radical move for a Labour administration, will be spelled out in a sweeping announcement while MPs are away for the Whitsun recess.

Ministers say they will finally explain how to turn Tony Blair's ambitious soundbites about revolutionising the Welfare State into reality.

For most taxpayers, change - any change - will come not a moment too soon. This year the benefits system will confiscate [pounds sterling]96 billion from their salaries, or [pounds sterling]15 a week for every working person.

That colossal sum - more than is spent on law and order, education and the NHS combined - pours into a system which has drifted far from its original purpose as a safety net for those in need.

Today, more than half the nation lives in dependency in one form or another upon DSS hand-outs.

Averaged out, each family in the land receives [pounds sterling]1 in every [pounds sterling]7 of their weekly income by way of the State.

And those figures conceal growing millions who have either no hope or no intention of ever standing on their own feet.

Today, 1.2 million people who have never worked since leaving school exist on benefits.

There are around 1.7 million single parents, up from the 570,000 of 25 years ago, claiming around [pounds sterling]10 billion a year. …