David Cameron announced plans to cut benefits for under-25s and unemployed parents. The Prime Minister pledged to tackle the “culture of entitlement” in the welfare system, which he said was creating a divide in society.
Under the proposals, housing benefit would no longer be available for claimants under 25, and long-term unemployed parents of multiple children would lose child benefit.
“We have been encouraging working-age people to have children and not work, when we should be enabling working-age people to work and have children,” said Cameron, reported The Guardian.
Many commentators characterised the announcement as the end of “compassionate Conservatism”. The prime minister’s proposals are unlikely to sit well with his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners, and are widely seen as part of the Tory manifesto for the 2015 general election.
Cuts are fiscally and morally necessary
A Telegraph editorial described Cameron’s plans as “both a fiscal necessity and a moral imperative”, arguing that the current system is riven with unfairness and cannot be sustained in the current economic climate. “The way the benefits system has been set up has facilitated – indeed, connived in – behavior that is damaging both for those involved, and for the country,” said the editorial.
Welfare abuse must end but Cameron is out of touch
“The Sun is totally behind sensible steps to cut the welfare bill and end abuses. Welfare should be a safety net, not a way of life,” said a Sun editorial. But Cameron comes from a privileged background and must remember that most people do not live like him. “Wouldn’t it do more for young people if the Government concentrated its energies as much on boosting employment as curbing benefits?” asked The Sun.
Premise is sound, but not in this economy
“Taken in isolation, Mr Cameron’s basic premise is a sound one. The benefits system should indeed encourage work, rather than stack the incentives against it,” said an Independent editorial. But given that more than a million young people are currently unemployed, the plans are simply not realistic: “Mr Cameron’s proposals would only be viable at a time of sufficient economic growth to offer realistic opportunities of employment. That time is not now, nor is it fast approaching.”
Proposals are all about playing politics
Cameron’s proposal to ban housing benefits for under-25s is “mainly designed to shore up his rightwing credentials”, suggested Jackie Ashley at The Guardian’s Comment is Free. “Cameron, thus far, has stuck with Nick Clegg rather than the Tory critics, but it’s causing him real trouble on the backbenches. A bit of right-revolutionary rhetoric on welfare helps,” Ashley wrote.
Cameron’s housing benefit plans based on false premise
“Cameron is perpetuating the biggest myth about housing benefit: that it is a benefit for the unemployed,” wrote George Eaton at The New Statesman’s Staggers blog. “The truth is that just one in eight claimants is out of work (not a statistic that you’ll find reported in most papers). The majority of those who claim housing benefit, including the under-25s, do so to compensate for substandard wages and extortionate rents.”