Something strange is happening. After 10 years of a Labour government which created the notion that you could get something for nothing and the State would pick up your bill, times are changing.
To be blunt, too many expect to be able to rely on benefits and those who are hard at work are starting to get the hump. They feel, as belts are starting to tighten, they are being unfairly asked to pay for those who do not work or do not try to work. This is an enormous task for any government to take on – and will need more than one term in power to make generational changes. Sticking our heads in the sand is not an option. It will be interesting to see if France and Greece, in weeks and months to come, are able to sustain their plan to ignore austerity and continue to build debt at the expense of their taxpayers and financial credibility.
Here in the UK, we need reforms to help business to develop faster and employ more people – too many regulations under Labour make it harder for companies, (especially SME’s) to hire staff. This Government has already had the courage that Labour failed to show. Its effort to deal with this issue may not be popular (after all, who thanks a government for taking away their benefits or expecting more of them?) but it is making the decisions that are right for our country. I firmly believe this to be the case, despite the local election results recently. These decisions are right for our long-term prosperity and right for those who do put in the hours of hard work to make our country better and to provide for themselves and their families.
Some movements will take what seems like forever but elsewhere we have already seen changes. There are half a million more people in work than at the time of the last General Election; we have just seen the first drop in unemployment for some time and a drop in youth unemployment. The rebalance of our economy that is so vital for our recovery is beginning.
It is easy to call us harsh, out of touch politicians. Surely only nasty people can back such reforms? Not so – the sign of a compassionate country and a modern democracy is how it cares for those who are most vulnerable.
This Government is treating people as individuals, noting that circumstances can change and that lives are complicated. There are, for able people, a whole range of programmes designed to give maximum chance to get back into the workplace and contribute to society. It’s not just those who are in full time work that are valued by this Government – we are also working to deliver more options for mothers who are able to choose to stay at home and provide for their families, a very important factor in a stable, balanced family life.
We need to get the message across that the Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, is on the side of hard working people. It has at its core a belief that it should always pay to work – something Iain Duncan Smith has been quietly getting on with since 2010. Stand back and look at the facts – this is a Government delivering some of the most radical Conservative reforms ever seen.
Just look at what Michael Gove is delivering – much needed educational reforms providing future workers with skills to match our economic needs.
The re-balance of society is taking place. This Government is rewarding those who work, showing that benefits are there to support the most vulnerable and not to subsidise the lazy, and providing those who are out of work the support they need to develop the skills to get them back on their feet.
Those who complain about all the different schemes to assist people to get back to work clearly are not prepared to do the hard graft and are doing a disservice to the hard working majority who are keen to use every opportunity to get back to work. Chris Grayling is forging ahead with a determination to ensure everyone who applies themselves will have a chance, which is a key factor in inspiring aspiration. We need to do everything in our grasp to ensure that it is our children who are being employed, instead of cheaper labour from elsewhere.
Welfare is the most vital area of reform this Government has undertaken. It is vital we get this right and continue to deliver on the good work already being done. The costs are too large to ignore, both to the taxpayer and to British society.