Thursday 4 April 2013

All Changes To Benefits Are Wrong

It depends on what you mean by “wrong”.  At the risk of being historical again down the ages and eras humanity, one way or another, has had to deal with those in their respective groupings who have needed continuing care and support.

There are some scholars now of the opinion that in the deep past while much of life was nasty, brutish and short peoples amongst their own kin, extended families and close others very often there were real attempts to sustain those who could not help themselves.

Our own history during the last millenia has been extensively covered by historians etc. of one stripe or another.  Clearly there were times and places where not a lot was done or could be done but on the whole there was the intent among most groups.

Things fell apart during periods of disruption, whether because of wars, severe weather problems, famine, epidemics and mass population movements.  As many of these were characteristic in the 19th Century when in many places welfare was hard to find.

Despite this there was always a strong motivation among many to do something in one way or another.  To many of us today that was provided looks very rough and ready and lacking in many respects.  It did take a long time to raise standards and hopes for a better future.

The difficulty was who paid, how they paid, who provided, how it was organised, who had the first line of responsibility, how “lost” or “discarded” individuals could be dealt with and how it all might be managed. 

The hope was that some day it might be possible to have a population that was balanced in age groups, eating sound healthy diets, with moderation in drinking, educated enough to take responsibility for themselves and families and capable of managing at local community level the complex of activity needed to deal with the poor and the casualties of life.

In the 1930’s these aims proved hard to achieve and to reconcile the large scale extensive systems, often with conflicting aims and to achieve some sort of rational equality across the national.  

One serious issue here was the division between areas which were significantly poorer and harder hit than the richer and within all these the income disparities between classes.  There was also a wish to mitigate the economic and personal disasters that followed severe and disabling illnesses.

By the 1960’s Health and Welfare had moved to the foreground of the general political debate and both the major parties had to compete for votes by making promises. 

At the same time the pace of medical and technological advances was transforming provision across the board at an ever increasing rate and beyond the capacity and the capability of the managing structures. 

The way forward too often and too easily was seen to be reorganisation and the application of management theories and structures that were out of date on the day they were implemented.

The effect of the increased centralisation and highly complicated systems was to make both a highly bureaucratic, expensive and difficult to control monolith in both health and welfare forms of provision that increasing both fell behind reality and required ever increasing spending.

So now we are all paying, more or less and almost all benefiting.  But the fond hopes of ever increasing resources are now at an end.  Somehow or another politicians have to square the circle, put on the extras, and pay up for the extraordinarily expensive provision they have made.

They are now doing this with an ageing population among whom are very many whose income in real terms is declining, a wealth sector largely avoiding or evading tax and communities increasingly fragmented and with fractured family structures, all of which add to the demands.

Whatever any government does someone is going to have to pay.  Even if the money is borrowed someone has to find the credit and it will add to the bills.  At the same time any readjustments in any form inevitably will adversely affect some people.

If our governments are not careful they could finish up with a population where, because of the economic and government spending requirements almost all the population is on welfare and free provision if not state employed as well with no hope of finding the money to keep the show on the road.

What we have to worry about is the lessons of history.  Notably if there is a major disruption then there could be a series of at least partial collapses and at worst a major one.

It has happened before and can or will happen again.

No comments:

Post a Comment