Panorama tonight featured the story of the Government’s aspiration to take one million people off long term sickness benefits by the year 2015.
Number of workers "on the sick" has trebled over the last thirty years – leaving a benefits bill today of over £16,000,000,000 – the amount it will cost to stage the Olympics – each and every year.
Nearly half a million Incapacity Benefit claimants are under thirty five, and figures show that if a person is on benefits for longer than a year, they are most likely to stay on that benefit for eight years. Nationally, 60% of those on Incapacity Benefit have no skills whatsoever.
When the pits at Merthyr Tydfil closed, the programme explained that hundreds of men with bad backs and breathing trouble signed on for Incapacity Benefit. Not only did this pay more than normal dole – it had the added advantage that you didn’t have to look for work to qualify for payment.
And so it goes on. The Government might want to take hundreds off benefits and put them back into work, but it will need to radically reform its taxation policies so as not to penalise workers rather than claimants.
I suspect this problem won’t change until we can tap into people’s behaviours – to instill confidence, aspiration and ambition.