Welfare cuts aren’t a punishment

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I question the use of the word ‘punish’ in a letter I read – ‘Welfare Cuts are Punishing the Poor’ (Gazette, May 26).

I find peculiar the suggestion that Conservative policy punishes people, as if Conservatives have something of a vendetta against those less well off.

And I think it speaks of a profound misunderstanding of the purpose of reducing welfare payments.

Iain Duncan Smith is in the process of making a series of ambitious reforms to our welfare system.

They bear comparison to Thatcher’s great economic reforms because they involve a recasting of the relationship between the individual and the state.

At the heart of Mr Smith’s programme is a profound moral vision that contrasts sharply not only with the automatic state worship of the Brownite Labour Party, but also the stark individualism favoured by UKIP.

The moral danger embedded at the heart of the noble idea of a welfare state has become a serious problem.

The system has come to reward fecklessness and irresponsibility.

It has distorted decision-making and prevented people from taking responsibility for themselves.

The last Labour government deliberately encouraged some of this.

Gordon Brown extended the scope of the benefits system way beyond anything envisaged at the founding of the welfare state.

After 13 years of New Labour, people earning well over the national average wage were dependent on state benefits.

That is why this argument over the welfare state is so divisive.

We are talking about two contrasting philosophies.

Conservatives want men and women to stand on their own two feet, and therefore support the strong institutions (family, church, school) that enable them to do so.

Labour yearns to use the state to mould individual conduct to fit officially sponsored social norms.

All of Mr Smith’s changes, and above all Universal Credit, reflect a determination to enable everyone to live free and morally autonomous lives (and the fact a million people are now off benefits and in work vindicated that).

Craig Robinson,

Harton House Road,

South Shields.