Friday, 13 January 2012

IDS reforms start to show cracks

IDS' much vaunted Welfare reforms have always been regarded with huge disappointment by this blog. With all the best intentions, he has merely replaced a centralist, bureaucratically moribund, top heavy, expensive and inefficient system with an alternative centralist, bureaucratically moribund, top heavy, expensive and inefficient system. Like a Great War general, Duncan-Smith has sacrificed billions for an advance of a few inches. 


Toynbee almost tells the truth this morning when she states "Voters think two sensible things about benefits: citizens needing help should be well cared-for and the healthy should be deterred from malingering". You just need to modify the word 'well' to 'adequately'. The cracks appearing in IDS' reforms result from a sensible assessment that they will achieve neither aim. 


You simply cannot design a universal Welfare system from the top, as IDS has tried to do. You can't do it. 


Welfare, above all things, must be local. IDS would have done better to throw the 10,000 page benefits manuals out of the window and simply allocate the entire benefits budgets to local offices with total discretion to distribute it as they thought fit. Seriously. Welfare recipients also need to be more 'visible'. Currently, the person who gives them money is a vague 'they' completely unconnected with their neighbours, their local traders or the driver of the bus that takes them to the Post Office. Administering Welfare payments and benefits at the most local level would target resources to those truly in need, be flexible enough to vary with changing circumstances and above all eliminate free riders. A fraudulent IB claimant may fool the benefits assessors but they can't kid their neighbours for very long. 


IDS had his chance and he blew it. 

13 comments:

WitteringsfromWitney said...

"Welfare, above all things, must be local."

'A la' direct democracy.....!

Actually as with education, health, law & order, etc.

right_writes said...

I blame it on Charles Dickens meself…

He gave being "on the parish" a really bad name.

On a slightly different tack, my old dad talks about "HIS" local hospital when he was a poor kid in Plumstead… St. Nick's.

No one was ever refused treatment, it was funded by flag days and local bigwigs, and it was there to serve everyone. It was run by a matron and a 'lady armanour' (whatever that was).

In the local area, there were 18 hospitals of this type, there is now one, which has a terrible reputation.

As WfW says…

Just sayin'.

Raedwald said...

RW - spot on. The 'Lady Almoner' got a bad rep because she decided who got Alms and this was thought to be a 'bad thing'. No hospitals survive today, but the few Almshouses that have survived offer a better, cheaper and fairer care system for the old than anything the central State can provide.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

@right_writes: the word is "almoner" which is an ancient and honourable profession - one such appears in The Canterbury Tales, for instance.

It's absolutely a common experience for the NHS to take over treasured local institutions and either trash them or simply close them down, delivering the service instead from some "efficient" central hospital which just happens to be forty miles away. So useful for the old, the halt, the lame, and the sick.

Such a common experience in fact, that it can stand as a metaphor for the state's crushing of all initiative and responsibility, with results we see all around us every day.

sbo said...

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right_writes said...

OK thanks Raedwald, I was getting that title from my dad's "estuary English'… Probably why I couldn't find it anywhere on the net.

Nick Drew said...

... local offices with total discretion to distribute it as they thought fit. Seriously ...

we have a long-standing philosophical (temperamental ? experiential ?) disagreement going here, R: wrong-but-romantic vs right-but-repulsive, I fear

I don't doubt you can cite wonderful examples of how it could work, probably based on a history that is no longer how multi-culti UK operates

but I have seen cases of appalling cronyism, nigh-on corruption, when local authorities (which at least have legal standing, professional officers and electoral accountability) and bodies even lower down the chain have been given pots of money to distribute with lots of discretion as to how they do it

(I could tell you, over a beer, of a case resulting in a particularly colourful murder)

imagine giving the whole of London's welfare £££ to Livingstone; or all of Liverpool's to Degsy; or that of a particular Ward in Tower Hamlets to the imam ... however low (= near to the recipients) you propose to go in the level at which it is to be administered, someone local strongman will seize de facto control of the £££ with great gusto and within days be using it in ways you recoil from so strongly, you'll be undoing it as fast as you can

but if your first opportunity to let 'accountability' kick in is a local election 4 years hence - well just see what outrages can be perpetrated in that 4 years

and if you are relying on some local 'strong feelings' to police the fairness of the system rather more promptly than that, well, there could be some rather uncomfortable experiences down that route also

remember, a fixed pot of money with a lot of claimants on that pot engenders a pure win-lose situation; you get more means I get less

and when those claimants can literally get their hands on the people deciding who receives what, the fur really starts to fly

TrT said...

Nothings more local than the individual.
The welfare, health and pension budgets works out at about £5000 per person per year.

write cheques, post them out, job done.

Anonymous said...

They won't do it of course.
We are going of the economic precipice.
All the way down.
Still, rock bottom is what we need. People i'm afraid will have to go through the coming reality check.

Anonymous said...

How do you decide how much money to give to each local office?

Does Middlesbrough get more than Bournemouth?

DC

Span Ows said...

Trt, nice one...and imagine how all that spending of cheques will help the economy...job done twice-fold!

Anonymous said...

Weekend Yachtsman: "It's absolutely a common experience for the NHS to take over treasured local institutions and either trash them or simply close them down, delivering the service instead from some "efficient" central hospital which just happens to be forty miles away."

Thank you Edward Heath. Filth.

When I have time, I'm gonna visit his last resting place and water the plants growing there.

John Smith said...

"You simply cannot design a universal Welfare system from the top, as IDS has tried to do. You can't do it. "

I'd almost think they know full well you can't and that is why they keep trying.

The existing lump of claimants presents a problem. Cut benefits and they lose out and you'd get a lot of resistance from politicians on that score.

They could sidestep that problem by introducing a new benefits system of restricted means for new claimants. Draw a line under the present system and prevent the problem from being maintained - it would shrink over time.

The pantomime they have been going through for a decade or more is a false choice between not touching it (which allows the problem to get bigger and bigger) or blast it apart (which they will never do).