Monday 28 September 2015, 12.45-2.30pm
St Pauls Church, West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RQ
This event is hosted by Christians on the Left in partnership with the Resurgo Trust
In addition to economic competence and leadership, welfare was a key concern at the last election and one on which Labour did not earn the trust of most voters. Welfare reform will be at the heart of the new parliamentary term. The budget of July 2015 has once again raised some fundamental questions about the purpose of welfare policy – an individual right or a reward for contribution? Underpinning these positions are debates about ethical principles such as compassion, mutual help, individual virtue and responsibility alongside public honour and realistic generosity.
Welfare also concerns the purpose of the state and the market. From the Poor Law system via the nineteenth-century Speenhamland legislation to the 1948 National Assistance Act, central government gradually increased its power and reach while both workers and employers saw their autonomy decline. Arguably this has undermined individual work ethic and the social purpose of business. With fiscal discipline here to stay, welfare reform has the potential to empower individuals, families and communities. This opens up new opportunities for the churches and social enterprise to work with government and the private sector.
As Labour thinkers such as Jon Cruddas MP, Frank Field MP and Maurice Glasman remind us, the Labour Party grew out of worker self-organisation, starting with burial societies to honour the dead and cooperatives and mutuals to honour communities composed of believers and non-believers alike. Along with many others in the Labour movement, they seek to renew this tradition of solidarity and cooperation together with the idea that Labour needs to rediscover its roots as a popular movement of self-help and self-improvement.
They urge the Labour Party to abandon its comfort zones and recover its founding ethos of work, saving, caring and honesty. It has worked closely with the churches and various faith communities on the ‘living wage’ and caps on usurious interest rates. A conversation on the future of welfare can build on past cooperation and make a vital contribution to political debate and policy-making.