I'm currently struggling with (that means 'for') someone who having been hospitalised for over six week now finds themselves in the situation where benefits have ceased and every day means that they are clocking up debt because certain things will not be paid.
Now this is not (as some kind and cheery soul implied) 'another one of the long-term scroungers' but an honest person who through a combination of things (none of them of their own making) find themselves in a position where work is never really going to be an option. The biggest area of concern probably resides in the 'spare room' tax area and this is the last coin in the paper boat of life that sinks it!
Today I have been hearing about the 'two year' rule, that piece of thinking that is designed to give people who have been out of the workplace for two years or more some experience, getting them to do 'community service'. The first problem is that for most 'community service' is what is doled out (excuse the unintended pun) to those who have fallen foul of the law; for community service is a punishment. Thus it would seem that the answer to the question: 'What's in a name?' has to be (as ever) lots!
I will have to admit that I'm confused by the 'No to work' position as it appeared weak and unfocussed but I am also confused by the, 'They should be sent out to sweep the streets for nothing or pick up leave,' brigade - for it sounds good but what of those who are employed to clean streets and manage our parklands, wouldn't that merely make them unemployed too?
The quick, or vote-winning, response is rarely either and, according to the National Audit Office (NAO), the new 'Universal Credit' does no one any credit and costs the taxpayer dearly. Whilst I applaud the harmonising of information systems such that there is but one, as a former IT person I can see this is a route fraught with difficulties and one that is destined to be what my Mum used to refer to as a 'lazy man's load' (meaning you work hard to ensure that there's little to do at some stage - problem is the easy part is rarely ever reached).
Being in an estate church / urban priority area I see many who are struggling more than they used to. Some are in debt because benefits that were payed directly to the right body are now paid to the claimant who has to pass them on - and some are poor at managing their finances to the extent that they don't have it to pass on because of other needs (food, children's clothing and the like). These are not the people the Daily Fascist and other rags would have us believe spend it all on booze, fags and drugs but are merely decent and honest people who for a multitude of reasons (circumstance, education, health and folly) are struggling. Jobs are difficult to come by and skill sets are changing (would you like to make that a large?) and we are struggling to maintain our welfare state and the health service, education and so many other areas we (especially the middle class we) assume are doing the job.
So a plea:
Please find out what's happening where you live and make sure that you and those you know are engaged and understanding the realities, the needs and the excesses that are occurring across the board. I don't care about party politics but I do care that people are afforded the respect and the support that is right and properly theirs through our social, health and welfare system.
Please look to see how you can become engaged in supporting those who have needs through drop-ins, FoodBank, mental health care, old age clubs and the like.
Where you see a need - meet it.
Where you see a wrong - right it.
Where you see poor practice and wrong policies - campaign and act against them.
And pray - for prayer is effective and vitally important
And as you do, remember that prayer without works is impotent and not what, or who, we are called to be.