Committed to tackling a culture of entitlement

Cheryl was lucky enough to sit next to 1980s pop star Sinitta, pictured here at a previous event   Picture: PA

CHERYL GIBBS: An embarrassing moment at a celebrity shindig with Sinitta

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The Mick Philpott case has led to a great deal of talk about the so-called benefits culture in this country.

Some say that he is a monster created by a corrupted system. Others that he is, at least in some way, a victim of it.

My view is that Philpott’s actions were his and his alone and that he should be held to account for them whatever his background.

That said, he lived off the benefits system in the UK to the tune of more than £42,000 a year – a system which did nothing to challenge his lifestyle.

But this culture of entitlement is now being tackled by the coalition and I believe it has the broad support of voters.

So what is being changed? Despite what some on the left might like to let us think, there is nothing compassionate about leaving people to a perpetual life on benefits.

It is bad for people’s self-esteem, for their sense of empowerment and it stifles ambition, diminishes self-reliance and infantilises the recipients.

The principal problem before the coalition started to tackle this thorny issue was that someone could work for 15 hours and lose very little in benefits.

But after those 15 hours, benefits were withdrawn at a rate that could be as high as 90p for every extra pound earned. So who would do the extra time when it didn’t pay?

This problem is now at the heart of what the government seeks to change: to make work, not benefits, pay.

The new Universal Credit is, I firmly believe, a good deal of the answer. It has rolled six benefits into one and will mean an enormous reduction in form-filling and, crucially, ensure that every extra hour of work pays.

But there is also a stick to this carrot. Those who don’t want to work can now see their benefits lost for three months, then six months, and finally for three years if they don’t play ball and get into work.

That’s because this government is committed to dealing with this problem through tough initiatives.