Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Happy Beneficiary Christmas!

I'm one of those dinosaurs who was in Christian Social Services at the time of the Woodhouse Report and the Social Welfare reforms that followed it in the early 1970s.
Hearing of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots this morning reminded me of the innovative principle behind those reforms. It was that people on benefits and their children should be able to enjoy a "reasonable quality of life" not just a meagre existence.
One of the "reforms" was the institution of an extra two weeks' benefit, paid in mid-December, to provide a contribution towards the cost of Christmas celebrations and holidays. It wasn't a fortune but it was an imaginative and compassionate way of emphasising that the little extras that most of us take for granted should be available to people who have to be supported by the State.
Alas, all that compassion went out in later "reforms" and now the word is taking on a quite different meaning that suggests further savaging of the standard of living of people and their children at the bottom of the heap.
It's really gratifying to hear that the OECD has drawn attention to the widening gap in Godzone. But will those newly installed in power hear the message, never mind understand the issues and do something about them...?

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