Niall Cooper: Reclaiming welfare
I’m proud to live in a country which can count the creation of the modern welfare state as one of its finest achievements, and one of its key founding principles in 1945 was to establish a safety net to end the “giant evil” of want (or hunger).
For the past 70 years, most of us have grown up with the assumption that if we fall on hard times, the welfare safety net will provide a cushion to prevent us becoming hungry or destitute. While the Department for Work and Pensions continues to assert that the benefits system provides a “safety net for essentials such as food”, the evidence increasingly fails to support this claim. Sadly, for tens of thousands of UK citizens, that safety net is no longer in place. As a consequence, food poverty and increasing hunger are having a devastating impact on low-income families and individuals in the UK.
As someone who gave evidence to the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission last year said: “I have to cut down on basic living expenses as it is. I stay in bed to keep warm, especially in winter as I can’t afford to put the heating on. The bleakness of this week to week is having an impact on my mental/physical health. … I have had to get occasional food parcels from the food and support drop in service.” …
Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty and convenor of the Inner Manchester Mission Network of the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from the October 2013 edition of Reform.
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