Over the past few weeks we have witnessed a condensed version over the debate which has rumbled on for decades. It is an argument that always makes me feel uneasy, it never satisfies and I have never felt a home in either ‘camp’.
No matter where you stand politically you cannot deny that for the vast majority the welfare payments received are a serious assistance in helping go towards the day-to-day cost of living in Britain.
Because of this the debate focuses around the question ‘how much is enough’ vs ‘how long is enough’ – both are about securing a system which provides ‘enough’ to those receiving the state welfare. But this, to me, seems such an uninspired place to focus the debate.
This weeks Spectator (6 April) issued an impassioned call to recognise the fact that ‘at no point were fewer than five million working-age people on out-of-work benefits. This was not just a waste of money, but a criminal waste of human potential’.
Something that the Welfare debate misses so often is that many of those talked about abjectly on the copy churning out from Fleet Street and on the paragraphs in hansard is that these are men and women, children and families, who have aspirations and dreams.
For most they are full and brimming with life but for others trapped on welfare there is real genuine need – not just for sustenance but also for relationship. Our needs are more than food to eat and shelter from a storm (no matter how important they are!) we are created for relationship
Scion of the famous mustard dynasty,
ice cream salesman, political anorak
The relationship we have been created for cannot be filled by ‘stuff’. This is why the church is uniquely placed to breathe truth and life into this dead carcass of a debate. It can say that this is not about money or wealth. It is not about how much you have and how much is enough. It transcends ‘stuff’ and is uniquely about the relationships you hold and the worth that you feel through these relationships. It is about feeling a sense of ownership and belonging to your community and society at large.
What breaks my heart is that waste of human potential.
Human potential can be found in being gainfully employed, accepted in your community and knowing you bring something uniquely valuable and positive to the society you belong to. However I am yet to see the welfare debate couched in these terms.
Perhaps, no matter what party or politics you side with, we can share this common ground of the debate and bring a little bit of perspective and see about an end to this waste of potential.