British PM signals cut in benefits for welfare dependents


BRITISH WELFARE rules have sent out “incredibly damaging signals for years” that it pays people not to work, that they are owed “something for nothing”, British prime minister David Cameron will say today.

In a toughly worded speech, Mr Cameron is to make clear that under-25s will be forced to stay living with their parents if they cannot afford to live on their own, while those claiming benefits should ask if they can afford to have more children.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is already making some of the most significant changes to welfare regulations in a generation, but Mr Cameron is to make clear his determination to go further.

Presently, 210,000 under-25s receive £2 billion (€2.48 billion) a year in housing benefits. “Some of these young people will genuinely have nowhere else to live – but many will,” Mr Cameron is to say in the speech, extracts of which were released last night by 10 Downing Street.

Some young people are forced to live with their parents until they can afford to live on their own “while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19 – even if they’re not actively seeking work. We need to think harder about who receives working-age welfare. If it is a real safety net, then clearly it’s principally for people who have no other means of support, or who have fallen on hard times,” the prime minister will say.

So far, cuts to housing benefit – now limited to £500 per week – and other changes pushed by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith have been among the most popular of all of the coalition’s policies, even with non-Conservative voters.

The United Kingdom suffers from “a welfare gap”, where some grow up with “a series of expectations: you can have a home of your own, the state will support you whatever decisions you make, you will always be able to take out no matter what you put in. This has sent out some incredibly damaging signals. That it pays not to work. That you are owed something for nothing. It gave us millions of working-age people sitting at home on benefits even before the recession hit,” Mr Cameron will say.

“It created a culture of entitlement. And it has led to huge resentment amongst those who pay into the system, because they feel that what they’re having to work hard for, others are getting without having to put in the effort.

“The system is saying to these people: ‘Can’t afford to have another child? Tough, save up. Can’t afford a home of your own? Tough, live with your parents. Don’t like the hours you’re working? Tough, that’s just life,’ ” he will say.

Local authority tenants living outside London can claim nearly £25,000 a year in housing benefits, while 150,000 people claiming long-term income supports have three children, with 57,000 having four.

“Quite simply, we have been encouraging working-age people to have children and not work, when we should be enabling working-age people to work and have children. So it’s time we asked some serious questions about the signals we send out through the benefits system. Yes, this is difficult . . . so many people are struggling, isn’t it right that we ask whether those in the welfare system are faced with the same kinds of decisions that working people have to wrestle with when they have a child?” he will say.