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Oliver Letwin column: An example of welfare & volunteers
10:00am Saturday 19th October 2013 in News
On Friday, I handed over the keys of a new car to a constituent. What, you may ask, is the local MP doing handing over keys to cars?
Was this some new way to try and attract voters? Or designed to highlight new technology? The answer to both of these questions is no. Election law very properly prevents MPs from seeking to maximise votes by giving their constituents cars, even if they had the desire to do so. And the car in question did not, so far as I am aware, contain any particularly new technology.
The reason for handing over the keys of this particular car to this particular constituent was to mark the fact that more than 600,000 cars have been provided for disabled people by Motability, several hundred of them in West Dorset alone, over the past 35 years.
Motability is a not-for-profit organisation, which enables people who are disabled to get and run a suitably adapted car using the benefits that are available for those who are severely disabled – with only the petrol left to pay for. This is a splendid example of a way in which it is possible to combine taxpayer-funded welfare for those who really do need a helping hand with ‘Big Society’ endeavour to reduce the cost of providing what is needed.
We are sometimes told that the benefit system doesn’t do enough for people who are severely disabled. And we are sometimes told that the welfare state ‘crowds out’ voluntary effort. But what this example shows very clearly is that welfare directed to those who most need it can work with, rather than against, voluntary effort – and the two put together can provide a marvellous, low-cost way of improving life for people who have suffered misfortune.
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