Reforming welfare: moving beyond the austerity mentality

Bernadette Meaden


Changes to the welfare system carried out by the 2010-2015 coalition government have had an enormous impact on some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people across Britain. We do not know yet what the long-term societal effects will be, but in the USA, where welfare reform was implemented in the late 1990’s, and where the architects of UK welfare reform found their inspiration, evidence has been emerging in recent months and years that there has been an increase in extreme poverty and a decreased life expectancy for claimants. In this research paper, Bernadette Meaden looks at the transatlantic anti-welfare ideology that has shaped responses in the UK, and sets out a detailed critique of current policies and assumptions. Reforming Welfare ends with a civic and Christian examination of an alternative approach which rejects punitive models in favour of an aspiration that all should 'fare well'.


1. Introduction: On not putting people first – p2.
2. Transatlantic ideology an an engineered crisis for welfare – p2.
3. Ian Duncan Smith and the developing anti-welfare agenda – p4.
4. The contradictions of ‘welfare reform’ – p5.
5. The corrosive consequences of welfare reform in the USA – p6.
6. Welfare reform as implemented in the UK – p7.
- a) Universal Credit and its problems – p7.
- b) The use of sanctions – p12.
- c) Mistreatment of sick and disabled people – p14.
- d) An unjust Bedroom Tax – p15.
e) A punitive benefits cap – p17.
7. New directions: from shrunken welfare to ‘faring well’ for all – p18.
Further Reading – p19.
The author – p20.
Endnotes and References – p20.
About Ekklesia – p26.

"Ekklesia argues that punitive ‘welfare’ for a huge swathe of people increasingly cut adrift by huge concentrations of wealth and inequality needs to give way to an integrated and publicly funded system of social and economic security which aims to support all citizens to ‘fare well’. Likewise, ‘reform’ should not be used as a cipher for cuts that hit the most vulnerable, or for sweeping away social protection. For some this is a matter of life and death.

"The welfare state was in part inspired by Christian thinkers who believed, on the basis of the gospel’s message of universal love, that no-one should end up dependent on charity (including the charity of religious bodies), but rather that social and economic justice founded on sharing, equality, solidarity and a commitment to community well-being required a moral society to organise collectively towards those ends."

Read and download the full paper (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document, 26pp, 12.5k words) here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/sites/ekklesia.co.uk/files/welfare_reform_beyo...