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The unfairness of the UK Welfare system.

As the welfare system has expanded in the UK in recent decades it has in some respects also got out of kilter with people’s moral intuitions. 

The average taxpayer thinks that too many people are getting something for nothing. 

But then if they need the system, they find they get almost nothing for their something. 

You may have paid national insurance for 25 years but if you lose your job you qualify for jobseekers’ allowance for just six months at £71.70 a week (the same level as someone who has paid national insurance for just a few weeks), then after six months the means testing rules require that if you have £16,000 or more of savings or your partner works you get nothing. 

Similarly if you have worked for 40 years and have a stroke you will only get the ESA (sickness benefit) for one year if you have a working partner, whereas a single person who has never worked will get it indefinitely. People can also be dismayed to discover that working more than 40 hours a week they are worse off than a mother with two children who works 16 hours a week

Moreover, changes in society and in welfare have created a greater social distance between middle Britain and the typical social security recipient.

As in the US many recipients of welfare are regarded as members of a separate caste.  You don’t need a moral consensus when there is a clear link between what you pay in and what you get out. But social security in Britain has become increasingly ‘non-contributory’: paid for out of general taxation. This has happened at a time of declining trust between citizens and relatively open borders.
When life experiences and values become more diverse, it becomes harder to assume that other people will have the same attitudes to work and welfare that you do. People want a system that rewards work, saving and honesty about financial circumstances and think we are a long way from achieving it. (Although outright welfare fraud is not significant, the extent to which people change their behaviour to maximise their returns from the system is quite widespread.)
Modern national welfare states are inevitably, in John Milbank’s phrase, a ‘unilateral gift from nowhere.’ And as I argued above several features of the British social security system are making it harder to sustain: 
The crisis of participation in British democracy is often exaggerated by liberal baby boomers who see politics as a form of self-expression.

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