The Liberal Democrats

The original aim of the post war social security system was to be able to wipe out poverty, ensure employment is maintained and available for all, the elderly have a decent pension package and consistent help is provided for those who are severely disabled. The objective aim was to ensure all have at least a minimum standard of living. The question however has arisen of how far has Labour since 1997 have introduced policies to reduce the disincentive to work. How far have they aimed to minimise the dependency culture? The dependency culture is a way of life characterised by state benefits.

This originates from the New Right at the time of the Thatcher government. In this essay I will be discussing how far have Labour aimed to condense the dependency culture since forming the government from 1997. When children grow up in poverty they fall below the minimum standard of living. This can lead to having a devastating impact on their life chances. This is why the government has committed itself to enshrining in law the goal of eradicating child poverty by 2020. Gordon Brown in March 2008 said 'Child poverty is the scar that demeans Britain.

' The government has aimed to reduce child poverty and the dependency culture for this by introducing a scheme called 'work for your benefits'. The aim of this scheme is that lone parents are required to undergo unpaid work to ensure their financial support is maintained. This has been seen as reducing the dependency culture in which parents and families are not spoon fed money from the state. This too applies with single parents with children aged 3-7. These parents will be asked to take part in work related activity, within this training will be provided.

By October 2010, single parents whose youngest child is aged over 7; it is only then when they can claim Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), this will have decreased from the age of 12 to 7. This is to again stop the heavy reliance on benefits and ensure parents who have the ability to work can. In September 2009 it was announced that if both parents are in employment then there stands a good chance to end child poverty. It was stated that around half of the 3 million children who are forced to endure a minimum standard of living have only one parent working.

With two unemployed parents there stands a 68% chance of remaining in poverty. With one parent in employment there stands a 20% chance and with both there is only a 3% chance of remaining in poverty. However this view has been criticised by pressure group Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). They are stating that by encouraging both parents to contribute financially, emotionally their child's wellbeing and quality of family life can get damaged. In support of the CPAG The Single Parent Action Network (SPAN) is another pressure group aimed to help lone parent families.

SPAN stated they are very concerned with the proposal of moving all single parents onto Job Seekers Allowance, and that mandatory work-related activities and sanctions will be applied to parents of children as young as 3. This is because they believe that harder to reach single parents, who are experiencing barriers to work, will be far more at risk of sanctions and of enduring those sanctions with disastrous effects on their children's financial and social and well-being. However many measures have been placed by the government out of social compassion to help reduce child poverty.

Some of these are childcare provided by the government so there is not a family barrier stopping them from working. By Labour government trust funds have been set up to ensure children get a good start in life. There are also sure start centres which aim to help both parents and children. There has also been the introduction of New Deal in October 2008. This aims to help overcome barriers to work. To eradicate child poverty is a broad consensus within the main political parties are David Cameron said 'We can end poverty – I mean it…

it is something no child should endure' Unemployment too has been a prior issue for the dependency culture to stop being self reliant. September 2009 saw the worst figures of unemployment in 14 years where 2. 47 million are unemployed. August 2009 saw that about a million of these are young people who are not in education or training, otherwise known as NEETs. In order to deal with this problem the government is taking both a 'carrot' and 'stick' approach with hope that the dependency culture is limited.

The carrot and stick approach is a strategy in which negotiation is involved. It combines a promised reward (carrot) and a threatening penalty (stick). To reduce the amounts of NEETs, Labour are hoping to guarantee a sixth form, college or apprenticeships places. As stated in Building Britain's Future that as of next year any person under 25 who have been out of work for a year will have to undergo training, a job or work experience. Within all the major parties there is a consensus for welfare to work.

What has been seen as a stick approach in attempting to reduce the dependency culture is that those who are claiming JSA, if work is refused once then the individual will lose out on benefits for 2 weeks, if this happens twice they will lose out on benefits for four weeks and finally if this is done a third time then 24 weeks of benefits will be lost. Labour government have also invested in programmes such as Train to gain – this works by paying people to get back at work. There is also the New Deal Programme.

This is designed to give people on benefits the help and support they need to look for work, including training and preparing for work. Conservatives and Labour policies for employment are similar in the view that Labour states 'work for those who can, security for those who cannot' Conservatives state 'Respect for those who cannot work and Employment for those who can'. However those who are capable of work will be expected to do work or to prepare for work. They will provide a comprehensive programme of support for jobseekers. There will be ongoing and rapid assessments for new and existing claimants for out of work benefits.

A similar stance which recent polls showed that 76. 7% of the public agreed with was that those who refuse to join a return to work programme will lose the right to claim unemployment benefits. Those who refuse to accept reasonable job offers could lose the right to claim unemployment benefits for three years. They also propose time limits for out of work benefits. This is that people who claim benefits for more than two out of three years will be required to join community work programmes. The strength of this approach is that many believe that this can end the culture of long term welfare dependency due to the tough sanction etc.

Alternatively however, the Liberal Democrats place major emphasis on building skills as do the government. During 2006, 2. 64 million were on disability benefits. In 1997 1/4 of the social welfare budget was going to disabled people, it was partly because of this that many were persistent on a reform. Statistics from the department of works and pension show that at least 51% of disability benefits that were being claimed were not genuine and severe cases. All main political parties agree in consensus that the disability benefits system needs to be reformed. Medical checks too have been implemented in which now well notes are being provided.

For example if someone has a leg injury they may still receive a well note stating they are able to work at a job that does not require such leg work. These work notes have been placed to reduce the reliance on the dependency culture in which it shows people that they have the ability to work and should be able to fend for themselves and be able to work for themselves. The benefits available out of social compassion for disabled people are The Disability Living Allowance. This is for children and adults who need help with personal care or have walking difficulties because they are physically or mentally disabled.

You can get the benefit whether or not you work, and it is not usually affected by any savings or income. The Conservatives too are in consensus with the Labour party in wanting to break down the barriers that prevent disabled people from working. They want to encourage and incentify employers to take on disabled workers in creating a more ethical environment. The pressure group Disability believe that help should be provided for those who are severely disabled and those who have disability conditions they should be provided with a good standard of living in which stops them from being so self reliant on benefits.

In 1994 The Disability Discriminations Act came into place. In 2006, the system was to undergo a reform to try to get at least 1 million people of benefits. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 aims to end the discrimination that many disabled people face. This Act has been significantly extended, including by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. It now gives disabled people rights in the areas of employment. The Act requires public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people. It also allows the government to set minimum standards so that disabled people can use public transport easily.

This act has been seen as a method of social compassion to reduce the dependency culture. The Turner Report found many problems with pensions, in that many were not saving enough hence leading to the pension time bomb, people were not saving enough and there was an aging population and the life expectancy was increasing. Many solutions proposed which aim to reduce the dependency culture are having been to increase the qualifying age for the state pension. This will gradually increase to 2048 by 2044. For people to have a better pension provision and not be reliant on state benefits, the 2012 Savings Gateway has been proposed by New Labour.

For employers, there will be an opt-out option for those who offer their own auto enrolment scheme with higher contributions for employees. There too has been emphasis on individual saving which government believe in the long run will be worthwhile for people as they will not be living spoon fed with benefits. However policies such as the Winter's Fuel Allowance, state pension and the private pension scheme (which the Conservatives place high emphasis on) are of social compassion. The Budget 2009 states that it will increase up to i?? 400.

Pressure Groups such as Age Concern and Help the Elderly are in agreement with this. There was also the mention of the basic state pension increasing by 2. 5% at least. This supports the views of The Liberal Democrats, as they believe that the state pension is too low and the current system discriminates against women. They however propose instead of having NI Contributions, there should be a Citizens Pension. To conclude, it can be said that government since 1997 have aimed to reduce their dependency culture, but consideration must be taken at the current economic climate, in which jobs are lost.

This can lead to poverty and unemployment hence overall leading to self-reliance on the state. The government have provided incentives to work to help reduce the dependency culture. They also selectively supported those who can't and genuinely need help. So all in all it can be said that they have tried to reduce this culture of dependency but however current benefit system have loopholes in which make it easy for people to live of the state for example JSA but in theory to a high extent the government have tried to reduce the culture, in practise however, this extent is not quite so visible.