People in the UK who, for whatever reason, cannot find work, are typically reliant on state benefits.
It is very hard to manage on the resources provided, and some people resort to informal paid work simply in order to be able to afford simple things, such as birthday presents for their children. This puts them into the category of being a ‘benefit cheat’, making them liable to court appearance and punishment.
There are many reasons for objecting to such a state of affairs: it criminalises a group of people who are already deeply disadvantaged, and in doing so may well cause stress-related health conditions.
In this lecture, Jonathan Wolff considers, in outline, ways of reforming welfare systems to avoid a situation that criminalises ordinary people who are simply trying their best to get by.
Jonathan Wolff is the Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy and Governing Body Fellow at Wolfson College. He has had a long-standing interest in health and health promotion, including questions of justice in health care resource allocation, the social determinants of health, and incentives and health behaviour. He writes a regular column on higher education for The Guardian.