I had no idea that this was he case in the U.K. Can anyone here offer any insight into how this has developed?
I really don’t want this to turn into a U.K. vs USA, or anywhere else for that matter, p*ssing contest. I was really surprised to read this.
[quote]One third of homes dependent on benefits
By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 10:42am GMT 12/02/2007
One in three households across Britain is now dependent on the state for at least half its income, it emerged today.
Official government figures showed that more than seven million households are getting most of their income from government handouts.
The figures also reveal the huge gulf in welfare dependency between single parent and two-parent households.
The report is scathing about how New Labour welfare policy has been designed to “create beholden voters rather than independent people”.
In many single-parent homes with two children, the proportion of families that would be financially crippled without state support is now as high as 61 per cent. That compares with just nine per cent in a two-parent home.
The figures, prepared by the Department for Work and Pensions but cited today in a new report from the Civitas think-tank, paint a stark picture of how Britain’s dependency culture has grown over the last few decades.
Gordon Brown has been repeatedly attacked for building up a society heavily reliant on tax credits and other state aid. The Chancellor’s tax credits scheme was “only the most prominent example of welfare policies intended to create a grateful electorate rather than free-thinking citizens”, the report says.
But it suggests that David Cameron’s Conservatives are worried about seeming uncaring, and therefore not ready to take drastic action and copy American-style policies that have produced huge drops in benefit claims in the United States. The claim was denied by a spokesman for the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, who said the Tories were developing policies to reduce the size of Mr Brown’s state.
According to David Green from Civitas, the author of the report, data on the real scale of state dependency have only been collected for the last five years or so. But he estimated that the proportion of households dependent on the state for at least 50 per cent of income had been probably as low as five per cent in the 1960s.
It rose during the 1970s and 1980s, especially because of soaring unemployment under the Thatcher government.
His report in the current issue of Civitas Review makes the wider point that conventional politics is no longer providing the answers to Britain’s problems. The Blair years had “tested to destruction” the notion that big spending on health, education and welfare was the answer.
There was a widespread perception that high crime, failing schools, unsustainable immigration and the low quality of the NHS were “not being properly confronted by our political leaders”.
Labour might embrace the “terminology of markets”, such as choice competition, but “political discussion of public services like health and education still seems stranded halfway between the age of collectivism and a more consumer-friendly alternative”.
But Mr Green went on: “Even Conservatives who are concerned about the failure of public sector monopolies in health and education are slow to criticise the Blair Government’s approach”.
That was because “they know that calling for a reduced role for the state in health and education is to invite being caricatured as uncaring”. Mr Green urged the Tories not to accept the modern view that individual action and liberty were the same as “selfish individualism”.
A government spokesman last night defended the scale of state help, saying: “It is thanks to our system of tax credits and the New Deal that we have two million more people in work than in 1997. We have also raised hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.”
The analysis of benefit dependency, based on the latest DWP statistics, will strike a chord with a report from the Reform think-tank.
Last year it warned that the Government had created a benefits regime that “actively dissuades millions from bettering their position”.
Frank Field, the Labour former welfare minister, has also called for the system to be reformed “in a way which turned the world upside down”.
Welfare should be “a floor on which people built and not a ceiling which made it impossible for them to pass through”, Mr Field said. Last night David Laws, the Liberal Democrat’s welfare spokesman, also accused the Chancellor of helping to bolster the dependency culture.
The shadow chancellor Mr Osborne said: "Under Gordon Brown the role of the state has multiplied and government has got bigger and bigger.
"This is exactly the opposite of what a competitive enterprise economy needs.
“As taxes rise to pay for this I think it is legitimate to ask should people earning over £50,000 be able to claim means tested benefits like tax credits?”
Some interesting comments on the article.