Today’s Guardian is reporting a new conservative policy on welfare, which will target young people on housing benefit particularly. David Cameron wants us to think that this is a big and necessary change, but in making his case he is giving an implicit nod to what really needs to happen in the UK:
If you are a single parent living outside London, if you have four children and you’re renting a house on housing benefit, then you can claim almost £25,000 a year. That is more than the average take-home pay of a farm worker and nursery nurse put together. That is a fundamental difference. And it’s not a marginal point.
I agree, David, though perhaps you missed the key point in your speech: if a farm worker and a nursery nurse can’t between them earn more than 25,000 pounds a year, there is something seriously wrong with your economic system. Do you expect these people to build a life together on that income in modern Britain? And do you wonder why people might prefer not to bother looking for work? You claim that 1 in 6 British children lives in a workless household, but your alternative to their lack of work is to cast them into a labour market where two grown adults between them have to work in hard jobs to make 25k?
What David Cameron needs to do is buried in that speech. He needs to find a way to make work more rewarding, to lift people out of the state of working poverty. He either can’t, or doesn’t want, to do either. Why bother, when your rich mates are demanding that you flood the labour market with cheap and vulnerable workers?