We should do away with benefits altogether, not because people don’t need the money but because they do not solve the problem. The idea that society’s philanthropy will look after those less well off has served its time. It harks back to a time of the poor house and debtor’s prison.
By their very nature, being on benefit implies that you are unable to look after yourself and the state has had to take over. If you are on benefit then you should be grateful for what the state has bestowed upon you and be happy with what the state has decided is your need. But the people in need never get the chance to determine what is needed and those in authority look upon benefits as a tool to engineer poor people’s behaviour.
There is a belief that if the state is too generous then people will not work but this is not true. Most people will work anyway. Indeed many retired people or those who are rich enough to stop working keep going. There is also a belief that there is a difference between poor and the well off. To get the poor to work you need to cut their money until they squeal whereas with the wealthy you have to incentivise them with more reward.
The only real difference between poor people and rich people, those on benefits and those that are not is that they lack money.
The answer is to pay everyone a universal basic income. Everyone from the day they are eighteen until the day they die. An amount that makes a real difference to people, say £1000 per month. Now before you explode, I understand that this is a huge amount of money, probably around £600 billion a year, around a quarter of GDP and almost the whole amount of tax raised in a year but hear me out.
The tax code will be adjusted to compensate, with anything over the universal basic income taxed at a higher rate to recoup the money, with the aim that it costs around the same amount as the welfare system, including all benefits and pensions etc.
There is a huge amount of thinking to be done around this. Any transition will not be simple and there will be a lot of vested interest but a universal basic income would be far simpler, cheaper to administer and better for society as anti-social behaviour reduces.
It will also remove the stigma of being on benefit. Everyone will be a contributing member of society.