Always good to make politicians uncomfortable at Easter; and the message from the Baptists and Methodists certainly did that. There is mounting evidence that the welfare changes will have significant impact on the most vulnerable. It is simply not good enough for the bluster around needing to make work pay. The coalition agreement promised that their policies would be fair. But some - like the changes to benefits for carers and disabled people - do not look that way at all. It would be good if the concerns being raised were tackled in a sensible way, rather than simply being dismissed, or worse, attacked in the way we have seen recently.
I was speaking to ACEVO member Tim Bissett who runs the Church Urban Fund. He has been spearheading a number of significant projects to support and help the most vulnerable in our communities. I met the folk who are running "One Nottingham" recently and met the vicar who is running "One Liverpool" when I was in Knowsley. The Churches are providing magnificent leadership. Long may they continue to speak out.
The CUF website has some very practical information on the effects of the new welfare rules. Worth reading their research papers. See here.
And the counter attack has begun. The Chancellor today attacks "vested interests" by whom he means the Churches and charities who have been highlighting problems. We can expect more of this. The age old response of politicians who like to shoot the messenger rather than address the problems of their policies. Of course it is true, many charities are vested interests; of the very disabled people who are affected for example. And the problem with that is what exactly?
Any Government needs to tackle the growth of the welfare budget and there is much consensus that reform is needed . But a sensible Government also designs its policies to protect the most vulnerable. The welfare state is a fine creation designed to protect the most vulnerable. Change is needed as we know in health and social care for example. But reform must ensure that the most at risk continue to be protected by that welfare safety net.
We must guard against the attack on that welfare net, as the Churches Easter message said. Some of the press has been rabid in their attacks- prize of place goes to the Mail which rarely fails to highlight some abuse or other; always ignoring the other side of the story in the despair and hopelessness some of these changes are causing.
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