Produced by Matchlight, (C) Matchlight, 2011
Written and presented by John Humphrys
First broadcast October 27th 2011, BBC Two at 9.00pm
In February 2011 UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced a welfare reform bill he described as "the most fundamental, ambitious and radical reforms to the benefit system since it began." The benefit bill, he said, had gone up by nearly sixty billion pounds in the last decade alone. Its critics say that the Welfare State is in crisis. And yet at the same time, there's resounding support among the British public for the idea of a safety net. In an Ipsos MORI poll commissioned for this programme 92% of adults agreed with the statement "it is important to have a benefits system to provide a safety net for anyone that needs it. In The Future State of Welfare John Humphrys travels the country to talk to the people with the most to lose as the Government tries to reform the benefit system - people on incapacity benefit; the long-term unemployed; people on housing benefit; lone parents. Are they prepared for the harsher future ahead? Is Britain really ready for the future state of welfare? John returns to the area where he was born - Splott in Cardiff - to show how attitudes to work and welfare have changed over his lifetime. When he was growing up, the man on his street, who didn't work was regarded as a pariah; today one in four of the working aged population in Splott is on some form of benefit. John also visits America where fifteen years ago they embarked on what has been called a 'welfare revolution.' Is this more punitive model where we are heading? And he looks at the specific reforms the Government have in mind, or are already underway.
The Daily Telegraph: "This was a serious programme about an important subject with a fundamental question at its heart: how did the great ambitions of William Beveridge to banish the Five Evils of Want, Ignorance, Squalor, Disease and Idleness produce a society in which hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, choose to live off their fellow taxpayers and consider that they are entitled to do so? … Humphrys brought his interrogative skills to bear on a subject that we too often tiptoe around in this country, though not in America where welfare recipients are expected to work for their assistance or lose it. … Humphrys postulated the existence of a new evil spawned by the welfare state - an age of entitlement that in some communities has seen two or even three generations of a single family spend their entire lives on benefits. The Coalition has set out a strategy for ending it; judging by this documentary it has a monumental task ahead."