Tuesday, 8 March 2011

It is no sin to be dependent

The Welfare Reform Bill is one of the UK Government’s flagship policies, and its impact will affect all of us. It begins being debated in Westminster tomorrow, when it has its 2nd Reading debate in the House of Commons.

I’ve written before about my concern about the language and rhetoric that politicians have used in this debate. It is good therefore that there has been a shift in some of the thinking and words used by Ministers, such as Iain Duncan Smith’s responses to the Work and Pensions Select Committee last month when he said:

"If it’s of any use, it also helps politically to tone the rhetoric down quite a bit. We can turn the knob down on this. There is always this "fraud, fraud, fraud" and everyone wagging their finger at everyone else, bit the truth is that quite a lot of we hear about politically and constantly as fraud is often complexity error. It is very easy for us to say it is fraud, and people feel quite stigmatised by that. The truth is that quite often it has nothing to do with them; it is simply that the system itself means that they did not understand what they were meant to be doing, yet they are apparently committing a fraud. A lot of them did not know that that was the case. We hope that, politically, this will tone some of the rhetoric down and basically stop people being accused of something that, frankly, is partly because of the system and has nothing to do with them."

The Church of Scotland, with our partners in Faith in Community Scotland, have written to all MPs representing Scottish constituencies about the Bill and the debate tomorrow.

In the briefing we outline some of our beliefs about the principle of the welfare system:

Our nation comprises of people who care for one another.

It is important to remember what the welfare system is intended to achieve. It is the means by which we, as a nation, pool our resources to support the most vulnerable members of our society and ensure that everyone has access to adequate resources to live a dignified and healthy life.

Change should not be about cutting costs, but making the system work better and for more people.

The goal of welfare reform has to be to make the lives of people who need help easier and we urge the Government to seek to take steps through its planned reforms of the welfare system to seek to reduce the levels of inequality in our country – an inequality which we believe damages all parts of society.

Dependency is not a sin for which requires penance in order to spur people into laying it aside.

Dependency is a fact of life, for us all; we depend on each other, rich and poor, disabled or able‐bodied. This is what makes us human. Perpetuating the myth that only those in receipt of benefits are dependent – and using that as a basis for policy – is divisive and undermines the social cohesion which the Government seeks to foster.

The goal of welfare reform must not be to reduce the cost of the welfare system or to reduce dependency but to enable all members of society to contribute as they are most able.


  1. Teejay DyslExiC KiD15 March 2011 at 18:35

    Thank you for adding to this debate, there must come a time when the cost in monetary terms but especially in human misery and the cruelty inflicted on very vunerable people outweights the 'savings' made on fraud.

  2. Thank you for your very wise words


Thank you for commenting. Your comment will be moderated according to my Netiquette statement. The comments posted by readers of the blog are not necessarily the opinion of, or endorsed by The Church of Scotland.