The recently leaked letter from the office of Eric Pickles (the full letter is available at http://www.bradfordspeakout.org/documents/LeakedletterfromEricPickles.pdf ) has certainly caused lots of questions to be asked regarding the predicted knock on effects of the ‘Benefits Cap’. Whilst being seen as a good thing for ‘fairness’ it is feared that the measure will cause an additional 40,000 homeless families (those families with dependent children being most likely to be capped). The letter also expresses concern that the measures will be a cost to the treasury rather than a saving.
I think the point here is that the concept of fairness is being sold to us as a constant, when it is actually purely subjective. It seems that the people who are likely to be in receipt of benefits that need to be capped (are above average earnings) are those with more children. So the elephant in the room in this debate is a very old question indeed – should those who are reliant on state benefits have the number of children they are allowed to have capped? Almost a hundred years ago there was a serious lobby for a eugenics programme to ensure this didn’t happen (more specifically ‘negative eugenics’ – sterilisation to prevent reproduction- aimed at ‘criminals, paupers and undesirables), and now we are simply trying to price people out of having ‘too many kids’. Is that change good progress, bad progress or simply staying the same?
My concern in all of this is that if we continually try to deal with these kinds of issues by capping, restricting and finger wagging types of strategies, attitudes simply stay the same or become compounded. Surely we need to find ways of breaking cycles not repeating them. If poor kids keep getting poorer the numbers at risk of severe social problems will keep getting worse and we’ll keep seeing a high number of adults with horrific backgrounds.