Social enterprise is a great idea, but still will not, and cannot, replace state social welfare programs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against social enterprise. Indeed, I have worked for social enterprises all my working life and I champion the causes across the University of Northampton in the UK, where I now work. I have started, stopped, advised, been a director of, researched and published about, social enterprises over the last twenty years.
Not only does Benefits Street propagate the myth of the work-shy, morally reprehensible benefits scrounger, it also neglects the majority of benefits claimants. Contrary to popular belief, most are not on unemployment benefits. In fact, the largest part of the welfare bill is spent on state pensions, with disability benefits and family benefits also coming in costing substantially more than unemployment.
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self- sufficient. But our systems of state charity - aka welfare - have too frequently had the opposite effect: they have actually created dependency. It is time to re-think the way we help people.
We need a party that will stand by trade unions, not cut them adrift as they face yet another damaging setback for workers' rights at Grangemouth. We need a socialist party, a party that will fight as vigorously to defend the rights of the oppressed as the Tories do to defend the pockets of the privileged. Labour used to be these things, but no more.
The attacks on the poor, working poor and disabled under the guise of "Welfare Reform" by the Tory-led Government has caused untold damage to households and families up and down the country. It would appear that the Government believes that welfare claimants should pay the most for the mistakes of the financial sector.
The benefit cap is now in place across the country. This means that benefit claims are limited to a fair level, a maximum of the average working household income of £500 a week. The taxpayer who funds the welfare state has the assurance that someone in receipt of benefits no longer has an income that's beyond the reach of the average working family.
The biggest challenge facing most European governments is how to put their countries' finances back on an even keel. In Britain, so much of our government budget goes on welfare that clawing the country out of debt will inevitably involve cutting back more of the welfare state while continuing to protect those most in need.