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The government has recently announced a new benefit package that would drastically reduce eligibility for benefits throughout the UK, and will only increase the amount paid in benefits by 1% per year between now and 2015. The argument has been portrayed as a fight between ‘strivers and skivers’, although this analogy does not do the complex situation justice. However, I feel that, despite the damage that this bill may do, it is needed right now in this complex economic climate.
In an ideal world, this benefit package would not be necessary. There would be sufficient money in the budget to cover all manner of benefits in order to improve the situation of the British citizen. However, we do not live in an ideal world, and are currently in the middle of a financial crisis. These austerity measures are needed in order to bring our budget back in line. In a sense, we need to make these cuts to benefits in order to restabilize our economy – once that is done, it will be possible to reinstate the benefit system as it is.
It is a time of great economic uncertainty right now, and, unfortunately, desperate times call for desperate measures. While it brings me no happiness to cut benefits in a time when so many people are relying on the state in order to survive, this contribution needs to be made in order to reduce our deficit and help to breathe new life into our struggling economy.
In a time in which savings must be made, welfare will inevitably be targeted – it makes up 30% of government spending, an incredibly large proportion, and therefore should not be singled out as a single part of government spending that must be kept. One cannot simply expect the burden to rest on other branches of government, and eventually welfare has to be examined in order to find possible savings. Every branch of government must bear the weight of financial reform in order to combat the deficit equally.
About 9.5 million households will be affected by these new welfare measures – about half of the working age households in Britain. Working households will likely lose roughly £75 per year, as a result of the cut in child benefit. On the other hand, the 2.5 million non-working households will be worse affected, losing around £215 per year instead. This is the area in which the government’s framing of the argument in the terms of ‘strivers vs skivers’ is visible – why should working households have to pay benefits for those who do not work? Although the situation is more complex than this, at its core one needs to consider the extent to which these different people are contributing to the state and society in general.
Therefore, I do believe that these cuts are a necessary evil in todays situation. We cannot afford to call anything sacred in deciding where benefit cuts must be made. The great amount that the UK pays towards benefits do need to be considered, and savings need to be made across the board. In this way, much as the idea of cutting benefits is not one that I would like to agree with, I feel that this is something that is now required as austerity measures are introduced in all other sectors of society. Every area of government needs to do its bit in order to save money and bring the UK’s deficit under control. However, once the current financial state is addressed, the financial crisis passes and the deficit is under control, there is nothing to stop the reintroduction of this welfare system, which is the ideal situation.