NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Britain Plans Welfare To Work Interviews

February 11, 1999

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is taking steps to overhaul what he calls the "something-for-nothing welfare state." He introduced legislation yesterday that would require most of Britain's welfare recipients to attend regular interviews to discuss job opportunities.

He hastened to add, however, that it would not threaten most people with the loss of benefits if they fail or refuse to find jobs. But he would require recipients to make a determined effort to enter the job market.

  • Britain's social welfare now costs $157 billion a year.
  • The government's bill -- which is to be voted on by Parliament later this year -- also attacks the country's program of providing so-called incapacity benefits to people with long-term illnesses, which Blair says has "drifted out of control," as more and more people use it to take early retirement and never seek work again.
  • Tightening requirements for the program and reducing payments to some recipients could result in about 170,000 people losing their benefits, for a savings of some $1.2 billion a year, by some estimates.
  • The interviews -- which would be scheduled periodically for people receiving benefits -- would require welfare recipients to discuss their reasons for not working and help them explore ways of finding work.

Die-hard Laborites called the proposal "harassment" and said the requirements would "be oppressive to people."

Source: Sarah Lyall, "Britain Plans New Effort to Whittle Welfare Rolls," New York Times, February 11, 1999.


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