People who are unable to work need to be cared for properly and not be accused of being work-shy, the Archbishop of Wales said last night (31 October 2010).
Dr Barry Morgan, head of the Anglican Church in Wales, said that the mark of a civilised society was the way it cared for its worst-off members.
He was speaking at a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tonypandy Riots.
The Tonypandy Riots of 1910/11 (sometimes collectively known as the Rhondda Riots) were a series of confrontations between coal miners and police which took place at mines of the Cambrian Combine, a business network of mining companies formed to regulate prices and wages in south Wales.
Archbishop Morgan declared: "This Government talks about benefit frauds, as if the country is full of people who are out to milk the system. There are people who genuinely cannot work and if the State cannot take care of them in a proper way, then the whole society is damaged and diminished."
He continued: "There are enough psychological effects of not going to work every day, of not being able to provide for your children, without being accused as well, of being people who are work-shy."
Dr Morgan warned that the worst of the benefit cuts were yet to be seen and that job losses were inevitable.
He said the 1910 strike had reinforced the community spirit of the Rhondda and demonstrated the importance of standing together through difficult times.
"One of the great characteristics of the mining communities was that they did care for the less fortunate - they made sure that widows and orphans had enough to eat and coal to heat their homes. They knew what it meant to be members of one society. The Big Society concept would not have been strange to them - they implemented it long before this Government thought of it," said the Archbishop.
He added: "All this reminds us of the importance of community, the importance of working together, the importance of looking after one another, of the essential dignity of being able to work."
The ecumenical service, at St Andrew's Church, Tonypandy, marked the beginning of a week of events remembering the centenary of the riots.
More than 150 people filled the small church. They included civic leaders and political representatives. The service was led by Revd Philip Leyshon, vicar of Tonypandy with Clydach Vale.
More about the Church in Wales: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/