The Centre for Social Justice has announced the publication of a new report, Signed on – written off, with a press release that says:
- Benefit ghettos of Britain exposed by CSJ in major new inquiry into welfare state
- Total spending on social security in the five years of this Parliament will top £1 trillion
- CSJ says these areas represent the tragedy of wasted human potential
I can’t comment on the report itself, because it’s not been released yet, but I can comment on the press release. The first point, which I can’t disagree with, is that some wards in some cities have more than half the households where people are out of work. That’s what happens during a slump in the economy. Nor is it in dispute that “Across the country, 6.8 million people are living in a home where no one has a job.” What I can dispute is the assumption that the first statement is a reason for the second. It’s the other way round. If lots of people are out of work, and the distribution varies between areas in any way, then there must be some areas where even more people are out of work.
The report’s other main contention is that the concentration of workless people is somehow the reason for the rise in the benefits bill. Benefits will indeed cost £1 trillion over five years, if we include HMRC benefits and benefits for working families in the figures; but even with that inclusion, more than half of the cost is down to pensioners. That raises the horrifying spectre of the ‘benefit ghetto’, a sea of grey heads trapped in a cycle of tea dances and complaining about the younger generation. The Royal Geographical Society’s resources for schools, Where is Granny Going?, reveals the truth: some places have becomer ‘retirement towns’ and pensioners are increasingly blowing their idle savings on beauty, fashion and electrical goods. Watch out, Worthing: the CSJ is coming for you.