The welfare debate has regressed by generations

Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to restrict child benefit to the first two for new claimants is compared in the Independent to  China’s one child policy. My own comparison is much closer to home.

In my 1950s childhood it was commonplace to hear lots of Prod grumbling about  payments to  all those  big Catholic families – “breeding like rabbits, they won’t have the Crown but they want the half crown”  etc.

Even as child this  struck me as a futile argument. After all it wasn’t the babies’ fault that they were born. Why should they be penalised?  I never thought I’d hear this sort of thing again.

Procreative practice may have changed but welfare principles seem to be regressing to a point considered unfeasible even in bad old Unionist Northern Ireland all those years ago.  

Have I missed the local protests?

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  • Barnshee

    The number of children should be a matter of personal choice and agreement by parents – have as many you want by all means, but why should the taxpayer to pick up the tab? I

    This issue needs careful consideration / debate. There is a cycle of deprivation caused in part at least because society fails to educate people to make rational and moral decisions about creating and nurturing children.

    Having children is not just for Xmas. The proposals are bit drastic but full marks for instigating a debate on this issue.

  • With this blow back to the past even those who once had a good word for the odious Smith will surely question his bigotry. For that is what this is, if it were a leader of China or Iran demanding this, all hell would rightly have broken loose.

    Brian is right in what he writes, whether it is the cuts in housing benefits or this, woe betide a youngster who is born into a large family, if Smith has his way they will be jeered and sneered at at school, just as many suffered in the past, they will arrive at the school gate with empty tummies and holes in their shoes, shame on Smith, shame on us for putting up with such nasty crap.

    These neo liberals wish to turn the clock back to the 19th century, but how can you punish a child for being born into the world, well according to Smith, by cutting their families income, and he has the dam cheek to call himself a christian.

    It is the undeserving poor all over again, which epitomizes the Topsy turvey world we live in, because one only has to look around to know this is arse up, as it is the undeserving rich who need tackling. However we get not a word from Smith on this and it does not take a rocket scientist or a three year old, to know why.

  • BluesJazz

    Sensible decision. And responsible. It’s no different to getting a cat or dog neutered after (or even before) its first litter.

    Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab for what will be feral children. We’ll have to pay for their stay in luxurious prisons farther down the line.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: but how can you punish a child for being born into the world, well according to Smith, by cutting their families income, and he has the dam cheek to call himself a christian.
    The linked article makes it clear that the change will *not* be applied retrospectively, so no families will have their income cut.
    Also, I’m not clear why you are accusing IDS of bigotry.

  • DC

    So the government lets the Bank of England buy up bank assets and inflates them and calls it quantitative easing, but for the public, ordinary people’s benefits are deflated and cut back. Cool logic…

    Seems fair…

  • DC

    and yes there is an underclass, but it has developed because of the collapse of labour intensive industries and modernisation has brought about computers and machines that have done away with hands-on type jobs, the underclass in reality is a spin off from this, decades in the making.

  • Reader

    When ever a government cut benefits it almost always starts by ‘cutting’ them for new claiments, not long after it will also cut them for those already receiving them, Bloody hell mate your either being disingenuous or your not as bright as I thought you were.


    Whilst I agree with most of what you write I find the word underclass offensive and incorrect as there is no such thing as an ‘underclass,’ simple unemployed working class people. As a class the W/C are not a single homogeneous slab of humanity.

    The word underclass became popular when Conservative governments wanted something to split the W/C and put the fear of god into the middle class, as with most things over the last 30 years, they looked backwards and reached for the lumpen elements which Marx called the lumpen proletariat.

    Given half a chance most unemployed people would jump at the chance of a job as all the statistic prove. For example six out of ten of children whose parents claim benefits are living with a working parent.

  • DC

    Another thing too, the English people have been duped on affordable housing, it isn’t that there wasn’t enough built, it was more to do with the property that was built has been taken over by wealthy people from outside the UK who have moved in around London.

    So if very very wealthy people move in, buy up property, the knock on effect is that that those with less money are pushed out and out into the suburbs to the point that no one can afford to rent or buy a place anymore because the super rich have turbo inflated property prices and captured the land that was there and in use for the locals.

    I remember watching the World at War series and in that series a bunch of old boys and women were sitting in a bar in London telling the programme about the blitz and their own stories of it and that they lived near by etc, you wouldn’t get that nowadays, such people have been forced out and out. the ones that have moved in have no story to tell, other than having earned or come across a lot of wealth. You know the Russian nouveau riche types.

    The people have been rumbled as a result of market forces, look at the mess. Now people on benefits will likely be made to pay.

  • Reader

    Mickhall: When ever a government cut benefits it almost always starts by ‘cutting’ them for new claiments, not long after it will also cut them for those already receiving them, Bloody hell mate your either being disingenuous or your not as bright as I thought you were.
    When I’m being disingenuous I’ll give some sort of clue. And I don’t think I’m dim either: however cynical either of us might be about a Tory government, it seems clear to me that it is easy – even popular with taxpayers – to cap child benefit with advance warning. But it would be perceived as massively unfair to do so with retrospective effect. So you only need to accept that even the current cabinet isn’t quite so thick as that. They have already had a rough ride over taking child benefit from people who could comfortably afford the loss.

  • BluesJazz

    If you cannot afford more children, don’t have them.
    If you cannot sfford a horse, don’t have one.
    If you cannot afford a car, don’t have one.

    Can I make this any simpler?

    There is now an easy solution for those who don’t like the idea of getting out of bed before lunchtime. Sign on the benefits gravy train. Everything paid for, you just have to dander to the pub/bookies (pyjamas are optional) and Robert is your mothers brother. Female-Best to get 1 child (father “unknown”-he can move in later) and everything is ticketyboo.

    The idiots who work for a living are starting to feel a wee bit agrieved though, hence the government initiative.

  • Brian Walker

    Blue jazz
    Not everyone see their life as commendably clearly as no doubt you do. What happens if a child arrives nontheless? Should s/he suffer for the parents?

  • Reader

    Brian Walker: Not everyone see their life as commendably clearly as no doubt you do. What happens if a child arrives nontheless? Should s/he suffer for the parents?
    In the context of the current topic, the first two mistakes are subsidised, the third will be costly.
    But anyway, even the current rules don’t ensure that the children benefit from the family income. So maybe child benefit isn’t a recipe for setting the whole world to rights.

  • Coll Ciotach

    This is odious. It smacks of the manchestrian liberalism of the late 19th Century which was successfully ridiculed by Dickens. Perhaps if they starve and die it would get rid of the surplus population.

    Maybe someone could look at the economy and ask why is it that working people cannot afford to feed and care fr their children. Perhaps the problem is not children bit economic policy.

    Or yet again we could go down the Marie Stopes path, beloved by many here, and destroy all these poor children in the womb as she envisaged as she too wanted to She wanted to free the “better classes” from the burden of supporting hospitals filled by “inferior stock” by passing Bills to “ensure the sterility of the hopelessly rotten and racially diseased”

  • “Sign on the benefits gravy train”

    I sometimes wonder what planet some folk live on. By the way the odious Duncan Smith has four children. Some gravy train; as far as I’m aware, contribution-based JSA is paid at a rate of £51.85 per week for those aged 16-24, and £65.45 for those aged over 25.


    I do not think your dim either, far from it in fact, but down the years I have seen governments use this sleight of hand over and again. Indeed UK sickness benefit springs to mind, at first they said the changes would only impact on new claimants, now I understand everyone is being put through the ATOS ringer.

  • The claim is that this will save 200M pounds a year. Does anyone know offhand how much “welfare” has been given to the banksters who brought the whole country near to ruin?

  • BluesJazz

    IDS is proposing that the state should not subsidise beyond a sensible limit.
    The issue of bankers is a separate one. Plenty of one time ‘city slickers’ are losing their well paid jobs and the taxes to the treasury from those losses will mean less government revenue.
    There is a long period (decades) of spending cuts ahead for the UK and EU. people better get used to less.

  • “the state should not subsidise beyond a sensible limit.”

    We are talking about human beings not a bung to get a business off the ground, or yet another state bailout for the latest failed privatization. Subsidy does not come into this equation. We have a civilized societal agreement in which we pay tax so when we, or our fellow citizens are in need, it can be draw out. Or as with education and health care when it benefits both the nation and the citizen. Until your political heroes gain enough power to abolish them, Welfare Benefits are a right, not a subsidy.

    Please stop this silly language which reduces human beings to mere commodities, we are not, and since slavery was abolished never have been. Who filled you head with such neoliberal crap, in case you have not noticed the so called unregulated free market has failed dismally.

    Try thinking for your self instead of through the prism of a failed ideology. You remind me of those communists who were unable to think out side Uncle Joe’s ridged box.

    I’m presuming your in the USA, could be wrong but where ever you are read some Tom Paine, unshackle those chains.

    The market does not know best, everything does not have a price, indeed some things are priceless, for example the well being the nations children.

    What an arrogant person you are, who are you to say there are decades of public service cuts ahead, for that is what you mean when you say spending cuts. To hell with that, there are many other options including raising taxes if the worst comes to the worst.

    Before that ,we can start with ending tax dodging and closing tax havens, etc. We can bin renewing Trident, Tax adequately trans-national corporations, the list is endless.
    By they way instead of giving it to the banks there is absolutely no real reason why a central bank like the bank of England cannot use electronic money (Quantative easing) to buy up debt and bin it. Or indeed print money, create a period of inflation to make the national debt small beer, risky admittedly. What I am saying austerity is not the only option and given that it is not working thank god for that.

    You wish to live in a dog eat dog society, in which you bow to the big house and kick the economically disadvantage as you pass them by. You wish to live in a country of terrified individuals in fear of their own shadows, with the rich living in gated communities guarded by the likes of G4S, and with a massive private prison population which allows the corporations who run them to encourage government to pass ever more laws, so they can make ever more profits from incarcerating people, remind you of anywhere?

  • Neil


    hard question to answer, but the headline figure seems to be 120 bn or so. Though a lot of that should eventually come back when the government starts getting rid of shares. 5bn a year in interest payments as well.

  • BluesJazz


    What is the child benefit allowance in Russia, China, Brazil, India? You know, our competitors?

    The utopian ideal is fantasy. I’m guessing you know that the ‘socialism in one country’ approach was ditched by Marx and Trotsky.

    yes it really is dog eat dog.

    At base Economics is Darwinian. A race to the bottom may not be dinner party etiquette, but that’s the reality.

    There are 6/7?billion people in the world. And increasing. Technology destroys jobs, not create them.

    Globalisation will mean a huge downward push on wages. That’s the reality. I suggest a quick read of Rev. Thomas Malthus, a hard rain’s gonna fall.

  • DC

    BluesJazz, in such a situation then the pyramid is turned upside down and the capitalist system collapses down onto itself.

    The wealthy have amounted too much wealth and the Roman Abramoviches of this world, rather than open factories and create jobs, have gone out of their way to buy football teams, luxury mega yachts ($800 million to build) and a lot of property and land, displacing those with less cash in hand in the process.

    I never understood how it is that the majority rolls over in front of the minority – the 1 % – why shouldn’t the people demand that the wealthy pay more and shouldn’t workers in and around London kick up a stink for instance about the lack of affordable houses or rentals close to their work.

    Even take Admiralty Arch, after years and years of taxpayer upkeep, paid for by the british public, it is about to be sold off and turned into a luxury hotel, the likes of which those that have propped it up over the years will rarely, if ever, get the chance to sleep in.

  • Blues Jazz

    The flaw in your argument is that the peoples of Russia China Brazil and India will put up with this rush to the bottom and will be satisfied forever with low wages and dare I say, no family allowance. Why would they be any different to us, we organised, campaigned, fought, and won such things. Already the South American nations are crying enough, there is another way.

    Technology may destroy jobs but it also can create them, the problem we have in the west is we have allowed a tiny elite to harvest all the profits by moving manufacturing out east. If companies like apple refuse to manufacture in the west we could slap on import taxes until the pips squeak. Profit margins for the big players are to high. The more so when they are like apple and either give them out in bonuses to the few and leave the rest of the cash stagnating in off shore accounts. Do you really believe the Chinese are going to allow them for ever to surf on their backs?

    We know planed economies work, China proves that, and in a different way the USSR, although I am not suggesting we copy either. What we need to do is harness industry and its profits to our democratic needs. It may be a bumpy ride for sure, there may be trade wars and god knows what, but we will succeed in creating a better life for all, why, because we have no alternative. It is that, blood, or barbarism. It is not as if it has not happened before, the WW2 generation built a land fit for heroes which included in western Europe decent health care, education and welfare benefits and a governmental aim, not always achieved, of full employment. They understood to defend the quality of life, in tough economic times you raised taxes in good times you cut them.

    How any one with a handle like yours, BluesJazz, the most inventive and innovative music ever created by human kind, can have such a defeatist and conservative view of the future is beyond me. Stick Charley Parker, Miles or Monk on, or Muddy, Billy, and Big Bill, and you get an idea of just how high we humans can fly, the future is still to play for.

    all the best