Ending Dependency: Lessons from Welfare Reform in the USA

By Douglas J Besharov, Peter Germanis, Jay
Hein, Donald K Jonas and Amy L Sherman.
Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society
ISBN: 1 903 386 12 8

essential message of this collection of essays is that welfare reform in the UK
is failing. In particular, recent reforms designed to "encourage"
lone parents into employment have failed because they don’t include any
compulsion to work. The authors contrast this with the US, where cash benefits
are limited to just two years in any one spell, and to a total of five years
during a lifetime.

system, introduced in 1997, is credited with forcing down the number on welfare
rolls across the USA by 49 per cent, although the authors peripherally
acknowledge the role of a prolonged economic boom, the introduction of a
minimum wage and tax credits for workers.

authors conclude that such welfare reform is also needed in the UK. The book is
therefore rather seductive in tone, due in part to its selectivity. There is
only passing reference for example to the views of the people affected by the

the central message will no doubt be studied in Downing Street, and seen as a
possible element in the strategy to end child poverty, even if the methods would
provoke alarm in the UK.

Vaux is head of money advice, Hertfordshire Council.

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