I can be critical of the church, religion etc, but give them their due, the four churches who came out against the government’s welfare cuts really did a national service in the process, and did the exact sort of things religious institutions should be doing in times such as these.
Of course Mr Duncan Smith couldn’t take that lying down and is back on the offensive claiming the welfare cuts are ‘fair’. Now, ‘fair’ is an oft bandied around word and probably has had more connotations attached to it than it’s meaning probably deserves, but I can’t possibly think of any definition of the word would be a fitting adjective for the reforms the government have in store.
The bedroom tax for example; Mr Duncan Smith alleges “People are subsided to live in houses where there are spare bedrooms”. Now, the obvious answer to that point would be ‘so build more smaller houses’ and subsidise them to live there. That would seem the ‘fair’ thing to do if your issue is with the size of the house. Of course, that isn’t the issue.
The bedroom tax is so aptly named, because the policy has nothing to do with assigning appropriately sized houses to people and everything to do with cutting the amount of money poor people get. Given a large number of people hit by the bedroom tax have nowhere smaller to move to, and have no other way of keeping a roof over their head than to rely on housing benefit, it is, to all intensive purposes, a tax.
The second point he makes is the old mantra of ‘making work pay’. Again, if this was to be done in a fair manner, the solution would seem to be to give more money to those in low paid work… this government’s solution of course is to take money away from anyone and everyone they can who are poor enough to not be able to stop them. A welfare system that isn’t means tested to death would be able to offer just as much money to people on low wages as those out of work and so make work genuinely pay more. But as the government means test even more benefits and reduce those for those actually in work they instead make work less and less fruitful for those wanting to work.
And let’s not forget the fact that the majority of people in poverty in Britain today ARE EMPLOYED. Make work pay should mean precisely that. It should not be a euphemism for cutting welfare.
Worst of all though, it’s what IDS fails to talk about that is most telling. The main point that has been made by welfare campaigners, charities and churches is that the overall perception of those in poverty of lazy, workshy, welfare scroungers is false. But more than that – it is a false perception that the government have been all to happy to promote.
As a man who confronted IDS on the Today programme pointed out, working 50+ hours a week still doesn’t provide him with enough money to live off and the government’s latest cuts are hitting him hard. Those who need benefits the most are very often those working the hardest and for least and these are the people the government are most neglecting.
Make work pay – don’t say it, do it.