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Dear Iain Duncan Smith
I believe you live in a beautiful house – a 16th century Tudor farmhouse which belongs to your father-in-law. Perhaps you'll expect me to be angry or envious. But I'm not. It's natural for people to want to help their children and the more you have, the more you can give.
But when you have been so very fortunate, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask you to spend a little time reflecting on the experience of others for whom life is much harder.
From this month, you are going to cut the 13 week rent protection for people who have lost their job. You've been made redundant in the past. When you lost your job as the marketing director of house-builders Bellwinch, you said: "It was a shock - absolutely awful. I felt pathetic. I remember telling my wife. We looked at each other and she said: 'God, what are we going to do for money?'"
At that shattering moment of loss – no job, no money, loss of identity, wrenching anxiety and total shock – the last thing anyone needs is to face the imminent fear of losing their home. The 13 weeks of protection took that pressure off people at a time of real strain. In giving a little breathing space, it also made it more likely that a job search could be undertaken with a clearer mind and that more time could be devoted to this demanding task – one which benefit sanctions have already made even more difficult.
Moving home is acknowledged to be one of life's most stressful experiences, coming in the same bracket as bereavement and divorce. It's hard enough when you have chosen to move. It is devastating when the move is enforced at a time of deep distress. It may bring disruption to children's education; it may place a dfiicult distance between a family and their caring responsibilities. It is likely to break up circles of support and friendship. All decisions which relate to such life-changes should be be taken as calmly as possible. We can't be protected from loss and grief, but it is inhumane to add to distress by such harsh legislation.
As as child, I understood “charity begins at home” to mean that the home is where we first learn of, and practise caritas. In the words of our Quaker Faith and Practice it is: “A place of friendliness, refreshment and peace.” Our homes, however simple they may be, are so much more than shelter from the elements.
When you relax in your beautiful home, in a place of security, love and nourishing memories, please reflect. If the voters of Chingford and Woodford Green (where you also own a house) were to make you redundant in 2015, not only would you not lose this sanctuary, you would receive a 're-settlement allowance' of between 50-100 percent of your annual salary, of which the first £30,000 would be tax free.
You are often described as a 'man of faith'. You will recollect that the Poor Man of Nazareth taught us: “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.” It is fair to say that you are in that category.
And not one of us is exempt from this teaching: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpenTweet