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Letter: Welfare victims

Sir: The Prime Minister is right to pursue a radical overhaul of our welfare provisions (reports, 14 January). I was a member of the Social Justice Commission whose report began the process of fresh thinking. The Government needs to be supported in tackling this task.

Far too many people have for too long been locked in dependency of state benefits. The debilitating effect this can have on the dignity of both the adults and children caught in this system is manifest to all who have to deal with the bizarre world of the present benefits culture. The central and sole aim of all reform must be to improve the quality of life of the individuals and families dependent on the current arrangements by rescuing them from this bondage. All other conditions, including financial ones coming from the Treasury, must be subsidiary.

The damage done to generations by the present system cannot be undone overnight. Recovering people's self-worth and confidence in their ability to contribute to their families, to the community and at work requires investment of resources and skill. Above all it requires a change of culture.

If the Government can make significant steps towards this end it will, in terms fitted for the 21st century, have made sense of the principles set out by William Beveridge. It was he who saw welfare as enabling people to return to work. It is in the interests of the whole community that the Prime Minister succeeds.

The Right Rev JOHN


Bishop of Guildford