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‘Put Something In to Get Something Out: Cutting housing benefit for the under 25s’, by Sheila Lawlor

Put Something In to Get Something Out: Cutting housing benefit for the under 25s

Sheila Lawlor

Friday 30th June 2012: Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that he is considering cutting housing benefits to under-25s, Politeia Director Dr Sheila Lawlor discusses the need to restore contribution as the basis for the benefit system.

The Welfare State depends on a contract – between the individual and the state. No, that’s not the Prime Minister talking, though he has raised the prospect of cutting housing benefit for the under 25s, but what William Beveridge, the founder of the Welfare State, intended. People had to contribute during working life to be entitled to benefit when they stopped earning. And for those who did not earn or contribute? They would be paid subsistence from public funds, a lower sum than was set for contributory benefit. The State, said Beveridge, had a moral duty to see that those who worked and earned were better off than those who did not work -whatever the reason. Now ministers at the Department of Work and Pensions have set out plans to make work pay by allowing people to keep more of what they earn as they move off benefit and into work.

But many 16-25 year olds are not in work; and nor are they in training or education. The Coalition is considering cuts to housing benefits for unemployed under-25s, many of whom will be expected to live at home while they train and find a job. That’s already the rule for those in full time education. Quite rightly, it would not apply to vulnerable young people without a home to live in.

However, there’s still some way to go in restoring contribution as the basis for benefit, the only way to preserve western welfare state for the future.

*Dr Sheila Lawlor is the Director of Politeia.

Listen to Sheila Lawlor discussing these issues on BBC Radio 4’s Today (starts at 2:55:00).

Read more in Beveridge or Brown? The Real Social Security Debate published by Politeia