I wrote this reflection in December 2012, and posted it on Facebook, so apologies if you’ve seen it before. But following a comment on my “Hard-working Taxpayers” post, I thought it was worth repeating. Sadly it still feels just as relevant, more than 6 months on.
I’m shocked by the ruthless way people on low-incomes have been treated by this Government, including in yesterday’s Autumn Statement. I’m even more shocked that so many ordinary working people think that Government action to cut away welfare support is a good idea. This view is summed up by the comments of Conservative MP Kris Hopkins: “There are a lot of people out there working very hard who are annoyed that there are other people who are not working and could be.”
At this point, I would like make a few observations. Firstly, the New Statesman points out that “sixty per cent of the real-terms cut to benefits (they will rise by just 1 per cent for three years) falls on working households. A working family on £20,000 with children will lose £279 a year from next April.” Secondly, as pointed out in a letter from church leaders in the north to the government “structural unemployment makes it impossible for many to get the jobs they need for themselves and their families.” And thirdly, according to the Office for National Statistics, 10.5% of those who are working would like more hours but can’t get them. That is, 3.05 million people, a rise of nearly 1 million people since 2008.
People on benefits are not a drain on our society. They are workers, often public sector workers looking after our health or our children, or people who would like to be, but there are not enough jobs. The welfare system is meant to be social security, security for our society so that those in need will be taken care of. We all provide for this safety net, and we may all one day be in need of it. Our stretched economic resources means that, “most of us are only one or two pay packets away from having no money”, a comment repeated here by Carol Midgley from The Times following her interview with food bank organiser Julie-Anne Wanless.
Let’s treat the fellow members of our society with respect, and trust that when the time comes, and you need it, the safety net of the welfare system is still big enough to support you.