Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Less Attacks on Poor, My Lord - Feb 2012

I rarely take on Archbishops, even ex-Archbishops, despite my Honours Degree in Religion, but the tone and content of the intervention in the welfare debate made by Lord Carey, an ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, worries me greatly.

The Government aims to cut £18 billion from the benefits bill.  They have bombarded the airwaves and newspaper columns, trying to persuade us the huge benefits bill was created by lead-swinging, feckless individuals enjoying lavish lifestyles at the expense of decent, hard-working families.

The former Archbishop is another social commentator who supports this notion; a mood-setting, “moralistic” voice, whose compassion and comprehension of the real issues are, sadly, in short supply.

I agree that the benefits bill is too high, but I want to tackle the root causes – housing benefit and housing supply.

The cost of housing is ridiculous.  Rising housing benefit fuels the growing benefits bill.

The money doesn’t go to feckless, workless families living in mansions, but into the pockets of private sector landlords.  And, let’s face it; too many private lets are sub-standard and overcrowded.

It’s true, one in eight people who receive housing benefit is unemployed.

Remember, though, the overwhelming majority of claimants are pensioners, hard-working people on low incomes, disabled people, or those caring for sick or disabled relatives.

Please, do not be fooled.  This welfare reform isn’t about hitting the 297,000 people in households that have never worked.  Oh, no.  It will hit hard-working low paid families, disabled adults and children, cancer patients, and single parents.  Make no mistake.  It will bring real hardship to hundreds of thousands of struggling families, living their lives in difficult circumstances.

So, my noble Lord, please let’s have less smug rhetoric attacking the ‘feckless poor’ and more understanding of the real havoc and hardship this Government’s welfare measures will wreak in our communities.

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