On welfare dependency, bishops are out of step with the British people  and with reality, yet they are the very people that should be championing Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms. Sitting in the Lords, they have the ability to provide an important function, advocating for those who often can’t advocate for themselves. They have a responsibility to consider this issue thoughtfully, looking at the evidence and considering the long-term impact of their decisions. They should do this, instead of buying into the ignorant and damaging rhetoric of Left-wing lobby groups.
All major faiths have an anthropological understanding that people are far more than the sum of their parts. They start from the point that there is a mystery and quality to life which is irreducible, hence why church leaders are the first to critique, rightly, the materialism of our current age. It is time though that they applied some consistency here. If anyone can understand the deeply dehumanising effect of long-term intergenerational welfare dependency, it should be church leaders.
The current benefits system is fiendishly complicated. But at the heart of this debate are simply three key facts which we must keep coming back to: the working poor have to make tough decisions; getting people into work is the only effective way to tackle poverty; and the public want proper welfare reform. As they sit with responsibility in the Lords, the bishops would do well to remember these points, rather than attacking welfare reforms which have the potential to turn around the lives of those they serve.
First, the reality of the decisions most families have to make. The bottom 10 per cent of workers earns less than £15,000 a year. The median income is around £26,000 a year. These are modest sums. They mean many people have to make decisions about where to live and as their circumstances change they have to move; relocating children to new schools, moving away from family and into cheaper areas, often with less parkland and higher crime rates. These are not easy decisions, but they are real decisions – the day-to-day decisions for many in Britain. And people get on with it. They exhibit strength and resilience and grow through the process, developing tenacity and often building stronger communities and links where they move because of their need to connect with people for the practicalities of life. It is not the end of the world having to move.
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