Prime Minister David Cameron has set out his vision for welfare.
Speaking at Bluewater in Kent, David Cameron said: "I am exploring these issues not just as a leader of a coalition but as a leader of the Conservative Party who is looking ahead to the programme we will set out to the country at the next election."
In his speech, he said it was time to address the welfare gap and to reverse the culture of entitlement which has led to resentment amongst those who were paying into the system but were seeing others take out, without contributing.
To address this welfare gap, David Cameron said it was time to ask some serious questions about the signals we send out through the benefits system. "The time has come to go back to first principles and to have a real national debate and ask some fundamental questions about working-age welfare, what it is actually for, who should receive it, what the limits to the of state provision should be and what kind of contribution we should expect from those receiving benefits."
He affirmed that welfare which benefited those who had no other means of support or had fallen on hard times would remain a priority but also said that not everyone who received welfare fell into these categories. For example, there are currently 210,000 people, aged 16-24, who are social housing tenants and the state spends almost £2billion a year on housing benefit for under-25s. Many of these will have nowhere else to go but many of them will have other options. Whilst, at the same time, almost 3million people, aged 20-34, were living at home because they can't afford to save up for their own place.
"If you are a single parent living outside London, if you have four children and you're renting a house on housing benefit, then you can claim almost £25,000 a year. That is more than the average take home pay of a farm worker and a nursery nurse put together...when so many people are struggling, isn't it right that we ask whether those in the welfare system are faced with the same kind of decisions that working people have to wrestle with then they have a child?"
David Cameron ended his speech on his vision for welfare by affirming that extra benefits for pensioners should not be means-tested. "Two years ago I made a promise to the elderly of this country and I am keeping it. I was elected on a mandate to protect those benefits - so that is what we have done."
Read the Prime Minister's speech here.