Welfare state ‘becoming unsustainable’

The welfare state in its existing form will become unsustainable over the next few decades, according to a report by a Conservative MP. Writing for the right-of-centre Free Enterprise Group, Chris Skidmore calls for fundamental reform of the benefits system.

Key points

  • The universal welfare state is over, and a 'radical refounding' of the relationship between the individual and the state is needed.
  • Only by returning to Beveridge’s original principles – with individuals taking greater responsibility, alongside the state establishing a ‘national minimum’ – will we be able to ensure the most vulnerable in society are looked after while keeping the nation financially solvent.
  • A ‘new Beveridge’ means restoring the contributory principle in the benefits system, and ensuring it remains a safety net as intended – not 'a way of life'.
  • Out-of-work benefits for people under 25 should be replaced with a repayable allowance, which they would be required to pay back once in work and earning above a certain amount.
  • The welfare system needs greater transparency. Everyone should know exactly how much they have contributed, and how much they have benefited. A long record of contribution should offer individuals more advantageous terms if they are required to claim unemployment benefit.
  • The ageing population means we can no longer sustain a universal approach to pensioner benefits. Money should be targeted at those in need, with universal pensioner benefits (such as winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free TV licences) curbed.

Source: Chris Skidmore MP, New Beveridge: 70 Years on – Refounding the 21st Century Welfare State, Free Enterprise Group

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