Welfare Reform affects all of us

I was delighted to return to BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics this week as a commentator. The debate was wide-ranging, but amid many bizarre things (little gets more bizarre than Basil McCrea’s inability to rule out polygamy after all) was the notion expressed by my fellow commentator Fionnuala O Connor that welfare reform only affects some people.

This is an alarmingly nonsensical position adopted by the Hard Left to deny reality. The welfare system – adopted by a Labour Government on the back of a report by a Liberal – was specifically designed to be universal.

The whole point of the system is that we all pay into it (in National Insurance) and we all get out of it (through various measures such as child benefit but also through the safety net of benefits provided if, for example, we are ill or lose our job).

Therefore, what the Hard Left is advocating in its opposition to Welfare Reform is not a welfare system at all. What they are advocating is the permanent division of society into “contributors” on one hand, and “recipients” on the other – which I refer to as bizarre, because it is precisely what has happened in the United States, hardly a beacon of Social Justice and Equality!

This is why the Hard Left needs to be dismissed as a serious contributor to the debate. The “contributor” and “recipient” society they advocate is a truly appalling one, where poor people are essentially labelled “helpless” and thus left to subsist as clients of the State, utterly dependent on hand outs (essentially on taxpayers’ charity). This shows zero understanding of the nature of poverty and inequality and it condemns vast sections of society to the scrap heap.

The advocates of this Hard Left nonsense are, of course, for the most part middle class. They are as guilty as any of forcing their view of a solution to a problem into the public discourse, without beforehand having taken even a second to research and understand the very problem they are trying to solve.

Many aspects of Welfare Reform are legitimately questionable. But to dismiss it all, on the spurious grounds that somehow a universal system doesn’t affect the people who pay into it and shouldn’t help people become independent of it, is in fact to promote a one-way ticket to an uncaring and divided society.

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