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April 10, 2013

Shifting our relationship with the state

As welfare reforms begin to take effect, the notion that society should provide a safety net of care for all of its citizens from the cradle to the grave seems consigned to history. There is now an open debate about where the balance of responsibility should lie between the state, the individual and community. In its report, Control Shift, think tank Demos suggests that we embrace some new ideas that would rebalance the individual’s relationship with the state.


To read full report click here : Control Shift

We live in a society that has become used to nationalising risk– be it through the welfare state, the NHS or the expansion of universal public services. This shift from the personal and civic to the national has mostly been welcomed by a society that recognises its obligations to other citizens. But recent social attitudes surveys – and a growing political consensus –contribute to an impression that personal and local responsibility and agency are insufficiently rewarded. At a time of austerity, and with demographic changes leading to greater demand on the public purse, a new settlement between the state, the individual and communities is needed.

Control Shift is the final output of a project which was designed to reach some consensus over what ‘responsibility’means in terms of policy – based on a series of expert roundtables, analysis of public polling and attitudinal research. It looks at what levels of personal and civic responsibility people yearn for, where such reciprocity throws up political discomfort and what might be achievable in terms of rebalancing the individual’s relationship with the state.

This report makes the case for embracing so-called ‘nudge-plus’ proposals, incentivising healthy behaviour and making it easier for people to make informed decisions and take greater responsibility. By implementing ideas such as creating an independent Risk Commission, making better use of data and rewarding proactive local authorities with a community cashback scheme, the report argues that the Government can support individuals, families and communities in making better choices without being heavy-handed.