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Westlake Legal Group > Bright Blue

Ryan Shorthouse: How to add contributions and incentives to benefit payments

Ryan Shorthouse is the founder and Director of Bright Blue

Back in the nineties, Kevin the Teenager was first introduced on TV, screaming “its so unfair”. He’s stayed in popular consciousness ever since, particularly for long-suffering parents. And that adolescence angst about fairness, in truth, never really leaves us.

Throughout our lives, even in infancy, we intensely monitor – are deeply affected by – whether we and others are treated fairly. And this is associated with proportional, rather than equal, outcomes. Most of us think that rewards in life should derive from – and differ according to – efforts. A recent study by Yale University scientists, based on experiments with babies and children, show that fair inequality is favoured over unfair equality.

Attitudes towards the welfare system, which we all pay for as taxpayers, are especially vociferous. The public, sadly, are largely suspicious and condemnatory of the current benefits system.

Perhaps this is partly because benefit entitlement is – even under the new Universal Credit that is gradually being introduced – determined almost entirely on the basis of need. Those who have worked for longer, paid more in tax, will receive the same amount from the state in straitened times as someone who has hardly worked at all.

A strong safety net is not something those on the centre-right should sniff at: it is essential for the popularity and functioning of our market economy and liberal society. This is because people inevitably fall into poverty. Businesses fail. Jobs are lost. Relationships break down. Trouble happens, basically – and it can happen to almost all of us. Indeed, it’s been estimated that a third of us will live in poverty at least once in an eight-year period.

Over the past decade, working-aged benefits have been deeply and disproportionately cut. But if the welfare system is to be suitably resourced in the future, the public need to believe it is fair. Three reforms, which Bright Blue advocated in our report Helping hand?, could help.

First, people who have worked for longer should be entitled to more financial support when they come to rely on the welfare system, through a contribution supplement that is added to their Universal Credit payments.

This supplement should also be added to statutory maternity and paternity pay. The current support new parents receive from the state is a measly £145.18 per week, resulting in low-income women returning to work sooner than they’d like and many men put off from taking time off all together.

Second, claimants should be financially compensated for any late payments of Universal Credit by the Department for Work and Pensions. Most claimants have to meet certain conditions on job preparation and seeking to be entitled to benefits. If they don’t, their benefits are sanctioned. Fair enough. As Bright Blue’s recent research showed, benefit claimants themselves tend to support this.

But this rule ought to be reciprocated. There should be obligation on the Department for Work and Pensions to pay claimants their regular Universal Credit payments on time, especially as claimants now receive their benefit payments monthly, less frequently than before. If government doesn’t do this, as evidence shows is the case with a significant minority of claims, it should face consequences too. Claimants should be granted financial compensation, if an independent investigation finds the Department for Work and Pensions at fault, which to some degree should mirror the amount that claimants lose if they are sanctioned.

Finally, there should be more carrots, not just sticks, for claimants meeting the conditions of receiving benefits. If jobseekers are going that extra mile to get a job, the government should recognise and reward them. For those who put in the hard yards but keep hitting a brick wall, Work Coaches in jobcentres should be able to grant them a little more cash.

Even more radically, those who show extraordinary effort should be entered into a nation-wide lottery, with a handful of claimants having the chance to win a £1,000 prize.

Sometimes, no matter how much they try, some people face bouts of bad luck. They need and deserve extra support through our welfare system.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Suella Braverman: We need a Next Generation Manifesto to promote Conservative values to young voters

Suella Braverman is MP for Fareham

When I joined the Conservative Party as a teenager, some 20 years ago, it wasn’t very cool in Wembley, where I lived. When I was involved in my University Conservative branch at Cambridge in the early 2000s, Blair-supporting friends were constantly baffled by my political allegiance. Starting my career as a young barrister in London, I was the shy Tory in my Chambers of ‘right-on’ human rights lawyers. Despite the social stigma, I was inspired by Conservative values of freedom from an interventionist state, personal responsibility and choice, and aspiration for all regardless of background. I wonder whether today, under a Conservative government, things have changed?

The evidence suggests not.

This month’s excellent report produced by Onward is essential reading for any Conservative thinking about the future of our party. The diagnosis was clear: younger voters are generally not voting Conservative. The trend was reflected at the 2017 General Election, when 62 per cent of 18-24 year olds supported Labour whilst only 27 per cent supported the Conservatives. Yet even in 2018, when the Labour Party’s support fell by 12 percentage points, 18-24 year olds didn’t then choose the Conservative Party, but rather fell into the categories of ‘don’t know’ or ‘will not vote’.

The prognosis set out by Onward is compelling: it is getting worse. The age at which people start to vote Conservative has risen from 47 to 51 years old since the last election.

We can claim that the shallow and unrealistic promises made by Labour lured younger, naive voters. We can sit back and just wait, on the assumption that nature will take its course and inexperienced voters will eventually outgrow their innate left-leaning tendencies.

Or we can face up to the reality of steady decline in youth support for our party. A party cannot succeed when the average of its members is claimed to be 72 years old. We can urgently take action to win the next election and save our country from Corbyn by revitalising the case for centre-right, small-state, social justice conservatism to inspire a new generation in Britain.

The Party has made some progress. There are new Young Conservative branches springing up all over the country, recently for instance in Fareham, where energetic young people are joining our party. And many of our leading politicians are persuasively making the case for free markets, liberty and enterprise despite a growing consensus from the left that the state knows best and that raising taxes will solve our challenges.

However, we need to go further – and faster – to actually produce and advocate policies that directly affect the under-35s. And explain afresh why lower taxes and fewer regulations empower communities and produce wealth. How aspirational young people can realise their dreams by taking responsibility over their own lives and that the government doesn’t always have the panacea. Why, for Conservatives, compassion and fairness are intrinsically linked to duty, endeavour and opportunity for all.

Not only should our Young Conservative branches become hotbeds for political discussion, as well as campaigning, but whoever leads us into the next General Election should produce a specific ‘Next Generation Manifesto’ written for younger voters and published alongside our broader and principal Party Manifesto.

The Next Generation Manifesto would cover the main issues that we know younger voters prioritise. According to Bright Blue these are health (primarily mental health), climate change and education. [5]Not only have we made headway in these areas, but we should be amplifying our commitment to them in a way that reflects the main concerns of this age group.

Onward set out a 10-point plan to rejuvenate the centre-right amongst younger voters. Their report concluded that a majority of 18-24 year olds strongly support lower taxes, a government that lives within its means, controlling migration, protecting the environment, enhancing community and prioritising apprenticeships and vocational training over university. Here, we have the skeleton for the Next Generation Manifesto laid out.

The process for the formulation of a Next Generation Manifesto could also include our Young Conservatives as well as the traditional routes for preparing our manifesto at the national level. Local, regional and national Young Conservative policy meetings could start this process now by identifying what younger people are looking for from their political leaders so that the Next Generation Manifesto has legitimacy of representing the ‘youth voice’ whilst also rendering the incentive for younger member participation in our party tangible.

Conservative values are not anathema to younger people. It is up to us to communicate why.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com