QUAKERS will today complete a 50-mile walk from Sedbergh to Barrow as they protest against government cuts in a spirit of pilgrimage.

The participants in the four-day "Walking for Welfare for All" hike have come from all over the country with some of them travelling from as far afield as Nottingham.

Step by step they wanted to draw attention to the plight of the welfare state, the cuts made to social care and 'the ever-present funding crisis' in the NHS.

"We have had an incredibly diverse group of people walking with us, with many of them working in the front line of education and social care that are most affected by the cuts," said Hilary Southall, a member of the Kendal Quakers. "The pilgrimage has been an incredibly positive experience, with the positive energy and encouragement that comes with walking with people and sharing your stories on the way.

"I would like to thank everyone who has sent messages of support, spoken to us on the way and offered their hospitality."

The walk started on Monday at Briggflatts Meeting House, near Sedbergh, and continued to Kendal Meeting House, then to Rookhow in the Rusland Valley before visiting Swarthmoor and finally Barrow Town Hall today [Thursday].

The walk is following a long tradition with Quakers of challenging social injustices, from opposing slavery to seeking prison reform.

A spokesperson for the organisers of the walk said: “We are walking to give witness to our support for our welfare system, to assert, contrary to the present popular narrative, that we can afford to care. If we don’t, injustice results.

“The Welfare State grew out of a vision 75 years ago to reduce poverty, disease and lack of education and provide care for each of us when ill or unemployed or old. Our welfare system protects all of us against life’s contingencies. Despite the debts after the Second World War we chose to afford it. We believe we can choose to afford it now and we must. The social cost of not affording it is incalculable.”

“We should not stand by and watch the most vulnerable suffering, and our most valuable social asset, our welfare system, admired throughout the world, being dismantled. We have a moral responsibility to uphold it."

At Barrow local people will be welcoming the walkers and their supporters and there will be a gathering in a silent collective witness at 4pm for anyone who shares their concern.