‘A welfare system that recognises work is the best route out of poverty.’
‘The best route out of poverty is through work.’
Almost 20 years separate these statements from two prime ministers from Labour (Tony Blair in 1997) and Conservative (Theresa May in 2017) governments. This is a message that has been repeatedly reinforced over the years: work is best, work is good for you, work will make you happier and healthier, as well as financially better off. Promoting and sustaining high levels of employment has been one of the most enduring themes in British social policy over that time. Welfare-to-work provisions have promoted, encouraged and increasingly compelled more and more people to seek work. Tax credits have provided financial support and incentives to work, supplementing wages for low-paid and for part-time workers. Jane Millar and Tess Ridge report from some of the families who have been on the receiving end.