• Date and time: Thursday 20 November 2014, 6.00pm to 7.30pm
  • Location: Room P/X001, Physics
  • Admission: is by free ticket only. Please book below.

Event details

York Union event

Benefits will be one of the most defining issues of the forthcoming British general election. With the Conservatives presenting themselves as the hard-nosed and dispassionate "reformers", pledging to bring down the £26k welfare cap to £23k for example, and Labour "standing up" for the "weak and vulnerable" with their proposed bedroom tax repeal policy, The York Union are hosting a headline debate on the role of the benefits system. Has it created an underclass who have been seen as "beyond help" (and languishing) for decades, as the coalition government and much of the commentariat currently suggest? Or have we seen that state support, in the way of welfare handouts, unlock opportunities for the most deprived?

Speaking in favour of the motion: 

  • John Bird, self-made man, social entrepreneur and Big Issue founder
  • Camilla Goodwin of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a much esteemed London-based free-market think tank.


  • Patrick Butler, social policy editor of The Guardian
  • Mark Ferguson, editor of the influential LabourList site 

Join the debate before and during the event on Twitter @YorkUnion #BenefitsYork.

Before entering the debating chamber, audience members will cast a ballot either for, against or abstaining from the motion. After the formal addresses, an audience-led debate will take place. Following this, audience members will cast a second ballot to decide which side has won the day by changing the most minds.

To cover the expenses of hosting the event, we have a suggested donation of £2 from students and £4 from members of the public. The York Union is a strictly not-for-profit organisation.

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