A rethink on welfare is essential

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Commenting on the House of Commons debate on the Welfare Reform Bill, scheduled for 1 February 2012, Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, which has been deeply involved in the deliberations, said:

"Morally, practically and economically the government's current welfare reform programme is hugely flawed and has therefore drawn an unprecedented level of opposition from charities, churches, experts, parliamentarians across the spectrum and, most importantly, disadvantaged, disabled and sick people themselves.

"It would be extremely unwise of the coalition to go on trying to ignore this weight of opinion, concern and detailed, well-substantiated evidence.

"The use of whips and financial privilege can force the Welfare Reform Bill through mathematically, but the legal and political resistance will continue as the government discovers that the true cost of the challenges it is not properly facing, and the problems it is storing up, are measured in human lives, not just misconstrued statistics.

"Welfare does need reforming in Britain. There is no doubt about that. But it needs reforming with, not against, the vulnerable. And it needs doing on the basis of strengthening communities and households so that they can survive, flourish and find a fulfilling place in society.

"That is why a policy rethink is both advisable and necessary.

"Trying to solve the debt crisis by making those who are least able to pay suffer is wrong in principle as well as practice, many are saying. Rightly so."

* More on the WRB from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/welfarereformbill