I applaud the 27 bishops of the Church of England for drawing attention to the phenomenon of hunger. Churches and clergy are present in all communities throughout the land and observe at first hand the plight of families facing shortages of money and food. They are right in describing a serious problem but only partially correct in their analysis. It is much too simplistic to blame these problems on cutbacks to welfare and “failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions”.
The problems relate to a great variety of factors, including the loss of essential family networks in which basic skills such as cooking, household management and budgeting are no longer passed down the generations. The welfare system is being asked to replace kinship and neighbourliness and, in contrast to these, it is never going to pass muster as the ideal vehicle to deliver aid to those in greatest need when they most need it.
There is something Canute-like about resistance to welfare cuts. All three political parties acknowledge the need for reductions to welfare spending, wastage and fraud in the system and have all talked about the dangers of welfare dependency and the need to get people into work. They are not agreed on precisely where the axe should fall,…
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