Doesn’t the Archbishop believe in the virtue of work?

By Janet Daley, Telegraph

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a pronouncement on welfare reform which is both factually unsound and morally disturbing.

Does Dr Rowan Williams really believe that compelling the long-term unemployed to perform socially useful work in the community will drive them to “despair”? Never mind that benefit dependency is itself the greatest cause of social exclusion, helplessness and despair: this statement suggests that work should be seen as a form of punishment – which is precisely the attitude that we are all hoping to correct, isn’t it? And, if I may say so, it seems a very strange view for a Christian authority to hold.

What can the Archbishop possibly mean by saying that this approach to welfare reform risks “demonising and demoralising” claimants? Is it demonic to be asked to give something back to the society which is supporting you? Is it demoralising to grow accustomed to getting up in the morning with a place to go, and constructive duties to fulfil: to grow accustomed to the daily routine that makes for a useful and self-respecting role in life? Of course it is true that some people have been so victimised by misfortune that they are incapable of work but does the head of the Church of England really believe that the huge number of long-term welfare claimants (which grew even during a period of unprecedented economic boom) all come into that category? Or that even some of those who do might not be helped by being given an introduction to working life?

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Read also:  ‘The political imperative of Archbishop Rowan Williams’ from Cranmer

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