THE BLOG
30/06/2015 13:50 BST | Updated 30/06/2016 06:59 BST

An Open Letter to IDS and George Osborne - Let's Create a New Industrial Revolution to Benefit Britain, NOT Keep Britain on Benefits

The continuing misuse of benefit is a human rights abuse where recipients are walled off from democracy and opportunity. But ministers, please reflect on where this culture arose; in the corridors of power itself. And the cure is to be found in work that finally gives this blighted sector of society the chance to catch up on lost time spent in the miasma of benefit.

I read with interest your joint article in the Sunday Times of 21 June. It seems that the £12billion cut that was proposed as roughly a 5% saving on the £220billion welfare bill is to be fast tracked. As you know many people were hoping to see a slowing of the timetable of this saving. People are concerned at the damage done to individual lives, suggesting that cuts will throw up countless tragedies.

Since the days of Margaret Thatcher the welfare budget has been used as a place to warehouse people laid off from work. Thatcher herself, as you may recall, was addressed by Lord Willie Whitelaw, secretary to the cabinet at the time, about this. According to Whitelaw's diary he asked Thatcher what she intended doing with nearly one million workers once she had removed state subsidies from Britain's decaying state-sponsored industries. "Let them have benefit", Whitelaw tells us she replied, thus changing radically the social security system.

Once a careful, painstaking system for making sure that, in the words of co-creator Sir Ernest Beveridge, it was not used to encourage idleness, benefit, as well as doing a sterling job for those who were unable to help themselves, became notorious as the ever-growing dumping ground for those for whom society had no further use.

As a recipient of benefit in the late 1960s I can confirm that getting it was like pulling teeth. Three weeks and that was about it. I was pursued for years for an over-payment of £70, so draconian was the system. Yet by the time Thatcher left office it was one of the easiest things to do to just sign on.

I labour these points because I want to emphasise the point that benefit suddenly became a life choice because of government policy. And when one talks about getting people out of a benefit culture we must see this culture as state created.

There should be little ire directed at people who were doing little more than following a government policy that had given up on policing benefit, with officials uncaring of the damage done to society by worklessness.

I think there are two anomalies that need to be addressed in order to make benefit work better. One is to change the emphasis on why able-bodied people need to be moved out of dependency on state support. We should be driving home the lack of full membership of society that goes first with poverty and secondly with benefit receipt.

By constantly emphasising the cost saving aspect of these cuts you miss the chance of driving home how bad life is for those on benefit.

That life expectancy is shorter on benefits. That you are very, very unlikely to see your children in any form of higher education. That you are more likely to be using palliatives such as cigarettes and alcohol. That obesity is much more likely to occur with poorer people eating cheap foods doused in sugar.

And that with 80% of the prison population made up of people from a non-working benefits background the predictability of failure becomes increased.

Such changes that you plan cannot be achieved without creating deep uncertainties in peoples lives, people who have had a number of governments since Thatcher's time making it difficult to get off benefit.

This relates to my second point. Mixing up of the old and the disabled along with the able-bodied means that the whole project sows seeds of confusion in the public mind. I meet so many enemies of any change who are convinced that old and disabled people are being targeted because of this lumping together of all in the popular consciousness.

There must be a clearer way for the public to understand those you are targeting and those you are not.

Emphasise the damage of social security to people's ability to make the most of their lives. And separate out those you are actually trying to get into work.

We have to restore social security to its intended purposes of helping those unable to help themselves. But at the same time we also need to recognise that there are some deep anomalies in what work is actually out there and available for those moved on from benefit.

When you hear the alarming fact that under 20% of money lent by banks is going to businesses then you can see the problem. Eighty per cent goes on the private purchase of property. This can't be healthy. It does not build a work creating economy that will provide work for former benefit recipients.

Without serious investment in new businesses that create new jobs then the recovery becomes paper-thin. And the jobs for ex-benefits recipients become scarce, or at best skill dead-ends.

Our country needs a new industrial revolution. A revolution that creates new work for those previously deprived of the enhancing effects of work. Not through the polluting mess of the past - a mess that we are still suffering from and living amongst. The scar tissue is evident in many northern towns of dirty technology's legacy. Rather through cleaner technologies and skill enhancing jobs.

In 2010 David Cameron promised green jobs, clean jobs, jobs that our laid off and warehoused poor benefit recipients could take up and thrive on. As of yet that promise has not been actualised. Britain, though, could lead the way in the building of wealth-creating industries that don't damage the planet.

If our prosperity is based on property price hikes then the corollary will be more charity shops, more pound shops and less true prosperity.

Welfare spending will only come down when the British economy embraces new jobs that are skill-increasing, transferable, and capable of creating renewal in the lives of people who have been dumped by successive government in a workless world.

The continuing misuse of benefit is a human rights abuse where recipients are walled off from democracy and opportunity.

But ministers, please reflect on where this culture arose; in the corridors of power itself. And the cure is to be found in work that finally gives this blighted sector of society the chance to catch up on lost time spent in the miasma of benefit.

Let the poorest, as in earlier times, be the harbingers of new forms of labour; but this time without the toxic exploitation.

Clean technology and green jobs as a spur for social justice can afford us the great joy of seeing some of our most disadvantaged people at last getting the chance to fulfil their full potential.

Pound jobs don't quite fit the bill.