Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Welfare system has us all caught in a trap

I WAS baffled the other day by a commentator's suggestion that, although the principles of welfare reform are supported by the general populace, they are not supported by "those it affects". This simply does not follow – it affects all of us.

The comment is, in itself, the perfect demonstration that the current welfare system does not achieve what it is supposed to.

Far from providing a safety net for those who fall on hard times, it in fact divides society into providers of welfare money and recipients of it. Mobility between the two has all but ceased, as the system in fact traps vast numbers of people by making it financially unviable for them to work.

Caught in the middle of this is the so-called "squeezed middle" – working families who struggle to cover the costs of childcare, mortgages, electricity, taxes and national insurance.

If this welfare system were actually supporting people out of poverty and demonstrably bringing down long-term unemployment, this may still be regarded as reasonable.

But it is totally unreasonable to ask working families whose wage rises do not match inflation to pay for a welfare system which has fundamentally failed us.

It is our welfare system – that means it must work for all of us.

None of us can afford the current system, which traps increasing numbers of us permanently into "contributor", or "recipient", camps.

IAN JAMES PARSLEY

Newtownabbey, Co Antrim

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