Welfare as temporary
The perspective that is explored in this chapter starts from the premise that poverty can never be alleviated by the payment of cash benefits alone. 'Humane welfare', writes David Ellwood (1988: 237), 'will never be realized; too many suspicions and conflicts are built into the system.' The only way to avoid such conflicts, he argues, is to redefine welfare as temporary or transitional assistance. Cash benefits should be provided for a limited period, during which time the recipients will receive education and training. At the end of the period they would be expected to have found work, or, if not, then to take a job in the public sector. Once in work they would become eligible for a range of supplementary benefits and services that would guarantee that their income was higher than they had previously received on welfare and above the poverty line.
According to this perspective, then, a viable system of welfare has three essential features. The first is that cash assistance is temporary. In Ellwood's phrase, 'the long-term support system is jobs' (1988: 181). The second is that work pays, and this in turn requires both new measures to supplement low wages and a radical reform of the system for collecting child support payments from absent fathers. The third is that welfare be understood as a contract between government and claimants. Governments can only require claimants to work if they have first provided adequate training, education and job placement programmes. Claimants can only demand cash assistance if they are prepared to make the most of the opportunities created by these programmes.
By far the clearest and most powerful argument for such a restructuring of welfare was provided by David Ellwood's Poor Support, which was published in 1988. Ellwood's book had less to say about the form that such a restructuring should take than it did about the values and 'expectations of our society and its citizens' that should underpin it (p. 9). Even so, Poor Support did not