Our welfare works

By Bernadette Meaden
March 28, 2013

For all who care about social justice, the last few years have been dreadful. To see the incomes of the poorest people cut, and to see those cuts justified by inaccurate and divisive ‘scroungers’ rhetoric has been depressing. For those at the receiving end it has been very painful.

Constantly trying to point out the inaccuracies, to debunk the myths, can be wearing and frustrating. It can’t be good for the soul to feel that one always has to take the oppositional stance, always be challenging a version of reality that is almost totally false, but widely accepted to be true.

Now, thankfully, there is a campaign with a difference. Just in time for Easter the Unite union has launched ‘Our Welfare Works’, with the very positive slogan, ‘Welfare isn't about being on the take; it’s about being a civilised society’.

Organisers say, "We are proud to live in a caring society, where everyone has a safety net they can rely on in tough times. And we reckon there are millions of people like us out there who feel the same. That’s why we’ve set up this campaign."

The campaign plans to celebrate welfare, showing how providing a decent safety net makes society better for all of us. It is also challenging the myths that have been peddled, beginning today with this on Twitter.

I think we can all speculate what the answer to that question will be, but I’m sure it won’t be poor people.

Anyone can sign up for this campaign. And as for the usual arguments, that ‘We have to cut welfare because there’s no money left, Labour spent it all, welfare spending is out of control’, please consider this.

In 2007 George Osborne said that if the Conservatives were in government they would match Labour’s spending plans for the next three years. It was a global banking crisis which caused our economic problems, and they are now being exacerbated by austerity. Welfare spending is not out of control. People on benefits did not cause our economic problems, and they should not be impoverished to pay for them. Welfare cuts are ideological, something the Conservatives have long wanted to do, and they believe the banking crisis has given them the perfect cover.

If we allow the government to deceive us into thinking welfare spending is a problem, and allow our social safety net to be destroyed, we will all live to regret it.


© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor.

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