For a few weeks I’ve been trying to write a general critique of welfare reform, addressing each policy point by point, looking at the assumptions on which it was based, what it aimed to achieve, and the effect it has had in practise. It’s been a disturbing and depressing experience.
People often suspect that the purpose of recent welfare reforms was not to make the system more efficient or more fair, but to make the system so hostile, punitive and humiliating that people would be deterred from claiming. A decision by the DWP has just fuelled this suspicion.
Today (20th January 2015), MPs will debate the future of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. Those who speak in favour of renewing Trident, at a cost of almost £100 billion, will no doubt say Trident is essential to protect UK citizens at some point in the future. Yet last week, those same MPs voted to commit the next Parliament to austerity, which is killing UK citizens here and now.
Asked to review a Citizens’s Advice Bureau (CAB) report on how Universal Credit will affect disabled people, I did not expect to find it encouraging. But what the report reveals was even worse than I feared. You can read the full review on the Think Tank Review website, but here is just a flavour of what Universal Credit will mean for some disabled people.
As Iain Duncan Smith was being lauded at the Conservative Party Conference for ending ‘a culture of dependency’ through welfare reform, one wondered how many people present knew or cared about one significant but unmentioned fact.
When I was young, my father often used to repeat a saying his mother had told him, “To whom much is given, of them much is expected.” It was long time before I realised that this early version of “check out your privilege” was in fact quoting Jesus in the Bible (Luke 12:48), but I have never forgotten it, and I always try to live by it.
Stealing is a crime, but is it always a sin? Christian teaching over many centuries has said that to steal to meet an essential need is not in fact a sin, and that the real sin lies in the human systems and values that create such need.
For people at the sharp end, the poorest and those most dependent on public services, it sometimes feels as if the Coalition has spent the last four years steadily unpicking the very fabric of our society. For a long time this process has been under-reported by the media, but gradually the results are becoming impossible to ignore.
In politics it is more constructive to focus on policies and ideas than on individuals, says Bernadette Meaden. She suggests, however, that a politician may become so wedded to a policy that their personal reputation and the credibility of the policy become inextricably linked. She argues that this is now the case with Iain Duncan Smith.