When the welfare state was set up in Britain back in the 1940s, it had the laudable aim of supporting those in time of need and the expectation that those in need would want to get out of a dependence on benefits as soon as they could.
The effect of that was that, over time, the amount paid out to people on benefits gradually increased. Initially the level of benefit was set very much at the subsistance level but the amounts involved have increased over the years with the aim being to have the payments at slightly less than the average wage. However, simultaneously with those increases has come a restructuring of the benefit system ostensibly to target those most in need and that’s where the problems are becoming apparent.
For example, take a typical family of two adults and two children which is what the original welfare state calculations would have been based on. Should the man become unemployed (another welfare state assumption was that the man was the wage earner) then they would be entitled to payments of approximately £60 for the adults and £55 each for the children (including the child benefit). That’s a total of £170/week, £740/month or £9000 per year. Since the benefits are tax-free, that’s the equivalent to a salary of around £14,000. Not great, though there would be additional help in the form of housing benefit, free school meals and a few other things.
However, let’s take an example of two adults plus ten children. Too many children? Well, no, because families of that size are increasingly common in some areas for reasons which will become apparent shortly. Each child adds £55/week so the totals now come to £600/week, £2600/month or £32000 per year. Bearing in mind that the benefits are tax-free this equates to a salary of around £50,000 and, of course, there’s the housing benefit, free school meals, etc. Even though I’m quite highly qualified, I would find it difficult to get that level of salary.
Now, I accept that people with large families don’t necessarily have them to pick up massive benefit payments but even if they don’t, surely there should be some kind of limit in terms of a maximum benefit payment regardless of other circumstances? If not, it would appear that the best plan would be to pop out kids on a regular basis: it can’t be right that the benefit system seems to be actively encouraging that.Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.